I’m Michelle Chaffee, Founder & CEO of Alska, And This Is How I Work



Thanks to Fueled Collective for underwriting our How I Work series!

Michelle Chaffee is the founder and CEO of Alska, a local healthtech startup for reducing rebound admissions and improving communication among care teams.

What one word best describes how you work?


What is your current device/hardware/office setup?

MacBook at home (and everywhere), Mac mini at the office with dual monitors, iPhone 6s. I’m secretly hoping one of the mystery perks at Station F is an iPhone X.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Outlook calendar, Minneapolis Parking app, Calendly, Audible, Daily Goals, Mailchimp, Hubspot, Zendesk and lately with so much travel, Babbel and Oanda currency converter.

What your sleep schedule like in terms of hours/wake-up and the morning routine?

I sleep about 5-6 hours per night. I get up at 4:30 am, drink coffee then meditate for 20 minutes before checking emails. I used to go right into the emails but would get sucked in for hours so had to change up the routine and get my intention set for the day. After about 1 hour of answering emails I take the dogs for a walk/run, shower and head out to the office or to meetings.

Is there a method to how you schedule your days?

I just started using Calendly to help me schedule days for working without meetings. I try to allow 2 full days a week for work in the office to keep caught up.

How much time do you spend in vs. out of the office?

It is probably around 40% in office and 60% out doing presentations, meeting with people that don’t want to make the trek to downtown Excelsior or are out of the country. I have had a lot of international travel lately.

Where is the office?

Downtown Excelsior

What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?

Turning off notifications. I turned off notifications for everything except calendar reminders and I am stingy with setting those. No notification from any app is an emergency and most likely it’s a distraction. I hate having meetings with people who are constantly looking at their dinging phone every 2 minutes. Every email doesn’t need to be answered within 30 seconds. If there is a real emergency, people can call me.

What is that one thing you have to do, no matter what, every day?

Check in with my husband and daughters. Things are so crazy and when I get home, I still usually have work to do but I make a point to spend time talking about my day and listening to how theirs went.

What is your preferred form of communication and why?

It depends. Usually email but some communication requires a phone call or even a face to face meeting. A great deal can be lost or misinterpreted in an email or text and in business, a misunderstood communication can be disastrous.

On average, how many hours a day do you spend in meetings?

4-5 hours.

When, where and what do you typically eat for lunch?

If it’s an office day, I usually bring a salad or leftovers from dinner the night before. If I’m out running around to meetings, I don’t always eat lunch but I try to keep some almonds and Kind bars in my car. I have yogurt and cheese in the refrigerator at the office I can grab too.

How many hours a week do you work on average and do you work in the evenings and/or weekends?

I work almost all of the time unless I make myself stop. Realistically, it’s about 16 hours a day. I usually get home around 4 or 5, have dinner with my family and check in with them. Then after they go to bed, I keep working. I try to keep it to under 2 hours but sometimes I am up until midnight or later. I try to set one day on the weekend where I don’t do any work but it almost never happens.

What is the best advice you ever received, accepted, and applied?

When I was in college one of my friends told me “everybody has an agenda.” At the time, I thought that was sad and cynical but it’s an important truth in business and life. It doesn’t mean the agenda is nefarious or in contradiction to yours but you need to know what everyone wants whether it’s an investor, a customer, an employee or anyone you interact with.

You can’t assume and finding out what everyone wants makes sales, collaboration or negotiation much easier and more successful. I have become much more comfortable asking people what outcome they desire or what their assumptions are. It saves a ton of time and headache down the road.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see James Jones Jr from Minnesota’s tech industry answer these same questions.



  • Tara D

    Michelle: everyone has an agenda is soooo true but why does it seem like Minnesota people are afraid to ask and admit this??? Thanks for the reminder!!