The Secret to CEO Time Management
By Don Schiavone
At work, everything is busy. CEO time management is one of the most difficult skills to master.
Step away from your desk for a few minutes and a hundred different emails and pings pile in. There’s reports to file, decisions to make, and meetings to attend. The average executive spends 23 hours a week in meetings…but meetings don’t always mean work. In fact, 65% of respondents to a Harvard Business School survey said that meetings actively prevent them from doing their jobs. So why have them in the first place?
We’ve been conditioned to associate the trappings of busyness with success. We all do this, even subconsciously. But as CEO, it’s your job to filter out that noise and focus on the key activities that drive the company forward.
Today, I’m going to walk you through one of my favorite tools we use here at CEO Coaching International: Stop-Start-Continue. This three-step framework can help you reclaim your time so you can focus on what matters. Here’s how it works:
Calendars Don’t Lie
When I first go into a client engagement, I always ask them, “What’s the number one thing you want to be doing as CEO?” They always say the right things — vision, cash, the right people in the right jobs, key relationships, or learning — but then lament that they don’t feel like they have time to do them.
If you feel like there’s never enough time, chances are, you’re missing focus. As CEO, time management matters.
Think about your calendar for a minute. How do you spend your time, day to day? How many meetings do you have? With whom? Stop reading this article for a minute and check out your calendar for the last few weeks. The calendar doesn’t lie. Are you actually spending time working toward your goals and objectives?
Yeah, it happens to the best of us.
The first step in reclaiming your time is identifying what you need to stop doing. Which activities are taking up your time, but they’re not leading to the outcomes you want to achieve?
Delegate as Much as Possible
It may be that the activity is still worth doing — but just not by you. That’s why delegation is so important for CEO time management.
You have to be willing to let go. To truly delegate means you have to get out of a workflow completely. That means no dropping in on meetings, no poking around project management tools, no late-night pings with your “quick thoughts” and absolutely no obligatory cc’ing.
Why? The death of delegation comes from the cc. You’re not truly delegating if you have the opportunity to weigh in on details.
If you’re going to delegate, delegate.
You’ll be able to catch up with your team on 1:1s and team meetings to hear the high-level progress and offer any guidance as needed. But if you’ve hired your team for a reason — you’ve got to trust them.
Be Intentional About What You Will Do
Once you’ve offloaded these busy activities, space opens up to do the real work.
Go back to your goals. Let’s say you want to work more on key relationships. As you think about the activities you want to start, be specific. For example, say, “I will make three calls to our top revenue customers,” instead of “I will work on key relationships.” See the difference?
But we all know that if you don’t carve out time on your calendar, it won’t get done. So make sure you’re taking the step to make these goals become reality. I call these “Power Hours.” If you want to work more on vision, block off your calendar two hours a week to read through team feedback, talk to an expert, or think more deeply about your plan.
Then, hold yourself accountable and hold the time. These are the core activities that will deliver the most results. That’s what you want to spend your time doing.
Continue to Do What’s Working
Finally, you want to identify the activities that fall outside of your key areas of focus that are still worth doing. These are the more intangible leadership tasks. For example, you’re not going to give up 1:1s with your immediate team or prepping for your next board meeting.
Evaluate these activities every month. If they’re getting in the way of what matters, or if you’re able to delegate them, do it.
Apply the Stop-Start-Continue to Your CEO Time Management
Use this tool to start spending 90% of your time on the 10% of activities that lead to your highest results. What I love about it is that it’s such a simple way to adjust your mindset and get serious about proactively managing your time. This can help make sure you’re focusing on the right activities at the right time to create the most value — so that you’re productive, not busy.
Ready to make BIG happen? Download Stop-Start-Continue and the rest of our free tools here >