Demands on business leaders’ time today might be greater than ever before. Meetings, calls, emails, travel, hiring and motivating staff, attending functions, and who knows what else can easily eat up days, weeks, months, and even years in what seems like the blink of an eye. And that’s before a busy CEO factors in time for family, friends and leisure.
Last fall, CNN reported that the average CEO works 62.5 hours a week as well as putting in time most weekends and each day while on vacation, according to a long-term study by the Harvard Business School’s Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness. While that may sound extreme, that is what it takes to run a company. Whether it’s a billion-dollar-plus enterprise like those led by the CEOs the researchers studied, or a startup that’s building business and planning for growth, time is difficult to manage across the board.
Every business leader gets the same 24 hours each day, and it can be a real challenge to figure out how to use that time most effectively. Because time management is such a personal thing, different CEOs find different ways to deal with it.
Scheduling Time Wisely
Who hasn’t heard the oft-repeated Time Management 101 tip to, “Plan your work and work your plan?” Maybe you already do this, checking off items as you’ve completed them. But we all know that making lists and planning schedules takes time, too. When is the best time to spend time planning your week’s work?
For Ariana Ayu, CEO of Ayutopia, it’s Monday. The corporate culture developer writes that, “Monday is my admin and business-building day–it makes it easy for me to know where I need to focus and what is most critical for me to do that day. I don’t have to think about it, or wonder when I’ll get other things done. They all have their places in my business and in my week.”
Writing It Down
The more ventures in which you take part, it naturally follows that more demands are placed on your time. It can easily become life in the fast lane when you’re trying to keep up with everything. This is when it’s important to create detailed notes. Business leader Brian Paes-Braga wears numerous hats on a daily basis; he serves as principal and head of merchant banking at SAF Group, sits on the board of Thunderbird Entertainment, and runs his nonprofit Quiet Cove Foundation.
In Brian’s case, he developed excellent time management habits as a byproduct of spending an extensive amount of time with his friend and mentor, Canadian business leader Frank Giustra, with whom he founded and managed, then sold, Lithium X at a substantial profit.
For those who don’t have a similar role model, fortunately there are lots of tools to help keep track of time and use it more wisely. Some leaders like the familiar Day Timer planners or Franklin-Covey calendars. There are now also a litany of apps that can be downloaded to your desktop, laptop, or mobile devices all in the name of helping you stick to your schedule.
Reduce Meeting Time
So you plan your day or your week and things are moving at a decent clip. It’s all good until you find yourself in a meeting that won’t end. Meetings are a huge time drain. According to a study by Harvard Business School, CEOs spend 72% of their time in meetings.
In truth, most meetings are generally necessary. But they can be managed as well. One business leader demands that anyone scheduling a meeting with him provide a specific agenda in advance that defines the scope of the meeting and keeps time spent to a minimum. Another, former U.S. Army Captain Gary A. McCullough, who now serves as CEO of Career Education Corporation, reduces time requested for meetings in half. In other words, if someone asks for an hour, he gives them 30 minutes, which forces them to use the time more efficiently. He says that this approach is a winner for him.
“By doing that, I am able to cram a number of things in the day and move people in and out more effectively and more efficiently,” he says. People generally don’t need as much time as they ask for. Meetings are time vampires. Be ruthless in managing this endemic productivity drain so you can focus on high value tasks.
Clearly, time management is an issue that every business leader needs to consider, evaluate and adapt to his or her own style. A Google search for “time management” yields well in excess of five billion results. Most CEOs agree that, regardless of what works for you, it’s important to stick with an effective plan. Things aren’t going to get any easier!