Evan Schmidt, CEO of Valley Vision, spends about six hours a day in meetings but tries to reserve Fridays for planning time. (Photo by Wes Davis)

Work It: Evan Schmidt

A glimpse into the daily life of Valley Vision CEO Evan Schmidt

Back Article Apr 5, 2022 By Jeff Wilser

This story is part of our April 2022 print issue. To subscribe, click here.


Think of the biggest problems facing the Capital Region. Maybe it’s social equity? Environmental sustainability? Income equality? Evan Schmidt thinks of these problems all day, every day, because as the CEO of Valley Vision, a nonprofit civic leadership organization, it’s her job to help solve them.

The 15-person organization does this through research and policy proposals to “catalyze action on pressing issues,” says Schmidt, such as the recent Sacramento Region Food System Action Plan (published in late 2021), a roadmap for improving the region’s food access.

Because of all the collaboration with community partners, Schmidt spends a lot of time in meetings. “I spend about six hours a day in mostly virtual meetings,” says Schmidt. “I try to reserve Fridays as minimal meeting days. For internal meetings we do 50 minutes or 20 minutes to create some buffer times. I like meetings to be human connected and purpose driven.” Here’s how she gets it done.

5:45AM - Alarm goes off. The first thing she does is drink coffee (her husband delivers it bedside while she’s sleeping). The second thing she does is start working. “I don’t know how much I want this in there, but I actually just sit up in bed and work on my laptop,” says Schmidt, laughing.

7AM – 30-minute cardio/weight class with two friends at Iggy Training in Davis. “I love it because it isn’t too early and it’s short: Get in and get out!”

7:30AM – Preps for the day and gets her two children (Isis, her 15-year-old daughter and Ambrose, her 11-year-old son) ready for school, making breakfast and helping with lunches. 

Schmidt likes to optimize her time by listening to podcasts or audio books on her commutes, and by taking one of the day’s meeting on the phone as a walking meeting.

8AM – For in-office days she drives to Sacramento from her home in Davis. Listens to podcasts (such as Harvard Business Review’s “IdeaCast” and “The Anxious Achiever”) and audio books (such as “Atomic Habits” by James Clear).

8:30AM – Meetings. Schmidt tries to cluster internal meetings on Monday (one-on-ones with her five direct reports) and externals on Wednesdays and Thursdays, such as meeting with community partners to discuss food system resilience. 

11AM – More meetings; each day she’ll try to take one on the phone as a walking meeting.

12PM – She eats leftovers for lunch, while catching up on email and to-dos from the morning meetings.

1PM – More meetings. For Zoom meetings, she has a surprising trick for staying focused: fidget toys. “I’ve always had a lot of fidgety energy and usually while on Zoom meetings have a fidget toy (off screen) in hand.” Her desk also has some magnetic blocks, Lego and 3D printed dynamic toys.

2PM – A mix of work and meetings. Much of her work is “product creation,” such as thinking about the big picture concept for a fund development opportunity that she can then pass off to a project leader. 

Schmidt’s work days consist of purpose-driven meetings, product creation, workouts, inbox-taming and family time.

4PM – More work. Often reviewing agendas of future meetings, coordinating with the staff, reviewing grant proposals or reviewing background research.

5PM – At the end of each day she finishes to-dos and tames her inbox. 

5:30PM – Commutes back to Davis. 

6PM – Twice a week she has after-work meetings, connecting with community partners and leaders. “These are usually more informal, like a happy hour or coffee.” 

7:30PM - Family dinner. “My husband is an excellent cook and makes dinner almost every night.” 

8:30PM - Downtime. “The day feels long to the whole family,” Schmidt says. “Usually, we’re tired and watch a couple of TV shows together,” like Marvel shows or “Modern Family” reruns.

9PM – Helps get the kids to bed, finishes cleaning the dishes. She spends at least 10 quality minutes with her kids before bedtime, talking about their days. “It’s a time of true connection that I try to never miss.” 

10:30PM – Finally, a “blissful” 45 minutes of quiet time before bed, either watching a show (currently “Dickinson” on AppleTV) or lost in a book (Louise Erdrich’s “The Night Watchman”).

Tricks for staying focused:

“I block meeting-free times on my calendar and have one day a month where I’m ‘out of the office,’ or working on focused tasks, offline and mostly unavailable.” 

Hack for challenging herself:

“For years I’ve blocked time on my calendar labeled ‘Do the things I don’t want to do,’ so that I will reflect on what is challenging me and push myself to address it. This is often the most important breakthrough work.”

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