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Founder of two billion-dollar start-ups uses this ritual to make 'critical decisions'

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Jeff Raider during a panel discussion at the CNBC Evolve New York event on June 19, 2019.
Astrid Stawiarz | CNBC

Billionaire Jack Ma has said that getting sleep is the best way for him to make decisions in the face of a problem. "If I don't sleep well, the problem will still be there," he said at the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos. "If I sleep, I have a better chance to fight it."

Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, moves at a faster pace. In a 2016 letter to shareholders, Bezos wrote that he makes "high-quality, high-velocity decisions," meaning he makes choices quickly to avoid stagnation. This approach has allowed him to keep a beginner's mindset, he said.

But this founder of two billion-dollar start-ups has a different approach when it comes to big decisions. Jeff Raider, the co-founder and co-CEO of Harry's and co-founder of Warby Parker, likes to walk when he needs to think or get some head space.

"For me, it's sacred time when I can reflect, clear my head or formulate an opinion on a critical decision," Raider tells CNBC Make It. "On most days, I'm in back to back meetings, and my walk is one of the only times when I can take a step back and think creatively about what's best for Harry's."

Science is on Raider's side: Studies suggest that walking can improve your cognitive functioning, and boost creativity. Everyone from Sen. Elizabeth Warren to Gwyneth Paltrow swears by the habit for the physical and mental benefits.

In Raider's case he walks his commute to his office in New York City, which takes about 20 minutes. "But I usually extend it a little bit by grabbing a cup of coffee on the way," he says.

While many people listen to music or podcasts on their commute, Raider intentionally does not. "Instead, I either use the time to think through the day ahead, what are the most important things I need to focus on and who on our team I want to be sure to spend time with," he tells CNBC Make It.

Sometimes Raider will have people join him, so his first meeting of the day can be a "walk and talk." (This is something that Steve Jobs, the late Apple founder, would do when he needed to brainstorm or discuss a serious topic.)

"Either way, I'm using the time to hash out a problem or open myself up to guidance," Raider says.

In 2010, when Raider was still in business school at Wharton, he founded the direct-to-consumer eyeglasses company, Warby Parker, with his classmates Neil Blumenthal, Dave Gilboa and Andy Hunt. Then in 2013, he co-founded the shaving brand Harry's with Andy Katz-Mayfield.

As of March 2018, Warby Parker was valued at $1.75 billion, after raising $300 million in funding, the New York Times reported. And in May 2019, Edgewell Personal Care (which owns Schick) bought Harry's for $1.37 billion.

As the co-founder of two unicorn start-ups, "you've got to be all in, and you've got to love it," Raider told the New York Times in November 2018. Finding small ways to prioritize work-life balance is very important to Raider, who has three young children.

"Life is the thing I get to schedule. Work is something I fit around life," Raider said at a talk in 2019 as part of the More Than Ever tour.

For example, Raider has a "no before yes" policy for scheduling plans after work hours. "It's simple: say no more often than saying yes," he wrote in a 2017 article for LinkedIn. "And when you can, say no. I've found that you can always go back to someone and say, 'That event you mentioned; is it okay if I swing by after all?' much more comfortably than bailing on something at the last minute."

Raider also tries to walk home in time to read a book and listen to a song with his kids before they go to bed. If someone needs his attention at work, he'll ask them if he can call them in an hour.

These strategies work well for Raider's position and lifestyle. Of course, "being a founder gives me flexibility other parents might not have," he wrote.

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