Tips for Time Management for CEOs
Tips for time management for CEOs who want to reclaim their time.
When you’re the leader of a growing company, it can sometimes feel like you don’t have time to breathe. And when you’re just trying to keep your head above water, it can feel impossible to find the time to think through better time management strategies. This playbook is here to help. With practical and easy-to-action tips and tricks, we’re providing our best advice and tips for time management.
Play 1: Access your current time spend.
The first step in reclaiming your time is understanding where it’s currently going. To start, you should look over your calendar and see what’s taking up the most time.
- Evaluate your calendar. Take a look at the past few weeks on your calendar and identify the things you spent the most time on. This can give you a sense of where your time is going and if there are areas you could tighten up. You should aim to focus the majority of your time on your priorities (check out our prioritization playbook for more on that topic), as this will ensure that you’re working on the most critical tasks for your business.
- Identify your time sucks. You should also take a look at what unimportant tasks are eating up a lot of your time. Email is often a big time suck, and meetings can be another (see play 2). Identify any tasks that are low-value but high-effort so you can start proactively shifting your attention away from them.
Play 2: Rethink your approach to meetings.
One of the biggest time sucks for many founders and CEOs is meetings. While it’s hard to do away with meetings entirely, there are some quick and easy things that you can do to reclaim some time from them.
- Decline extraneous meetings, and cut the rest in half. Seriously. Start by removing any low-value meetings from your calendar, and then trim the rest by 50%. Make your hour-long meetings 30-minutes, and your 30-minute meetings just 15 minutes. Fearless Founder and CEO Delali Dzirasa did exactly this, and he hasn’t looked back since. You’ll be surprised at how much everyone can accomplish in a short amount of time when they put their minds to it.
- Maximize your meeting time. To make the most out of your shorter meetings, our friends at Unison have some helpful advice. First, make sure that every meeting has a clearly defined purpose. If a topic comes up that isn’t aligned with that purpose, table it. You’ll also want to make sure that everyone understands what they’re bringing to the conversation and avoid inviting people who won’t play an active role. You should define the purpose and roles for any meetings you’re running, but also get comfortable asking for these things when you’re just an invitee. That can give you a better sense of if you actually need to attend the meetings you’re invited to.
Play 3: Dream up your ideal calendar.
Once you’ve gotten a handle on where your time is going and some time back from your meetings, you can start to think about what you’d like your days to look like. At this point, you should start thinking about your dream calendar.
- Think about your ideal ratio of meetings to working blocks. What this looks like will depend on your working style, so ask yourself questions that will help you figure out what an ideal day or week would look like for you. Do you like to have large chunks of uninterrupted work time? Or does breaking up the day with meetings help you keep your focus? There’s no wrong answer here; it’s all about identifying the balance that works best for you.
- Create quotas and caps for how much time you’ll put towards different tasks. To help ensure that the majority of your time is going towards your priorities, it can help to come up with some metrics that you can track. You might want to target 20% of your time towards building relationships with a high-priority customer, for example, or make sure that you’re spending no more than 5% of your time on emails. Set target quotas for different kinds of tasks, test them out and iterate as needed.
Play 4: Bring in help to enforce your ideal calendar.
Now that you have a sense of what your ideal calendar is, you’ll want to work on making your actual calendar match this as closely as possible. And to do this effectively, you’ll need some help.
- Hire an assistant (if you don’t already have one). While you may be able to manage your calendar on your own if your business is in its early stages, this can be a big time suck, and your calendar will only get busier as you grow. That’s why we recommend bringing on an assistant now to start managing your calendar and protecting your time.
- Work with your assistant to create (and enforce) your rules of engagement. Start by figuring out what guardrails you’d like to have your assistant put in place around your time. If your working blocks are sacred to you, have them auto-reject meetings requested during these blocks. Or if you find yourself writing the same email over and over, have them take this on. Define those expectations early so your assistant can start protecting your time as quickly and easily as possible.
Play 5: Don’t bend your schedule to meet someone else’s needs.
Once your ideal calendar is in place and you’ve set up your assistant to enforce it, you’ll be in good shape. But there will always be exceptions that you’ll be tempted to make. An old business associate will call you for advice or you’ll be asked to speak at an event that’s important to you. That’s why it can be helpful to define when and why you might not follow the rules you’ve put in place.
- Bend the rules of your calendar for things that are important to you. When something comes up that’s critically important for your business or that’s personally meaningful to you, that’s when you might want to consider bending the rules that you’ve put in place. If an opportunity comes up for you to meet a hero of yours, by all means, take it! Just don’t feel the need to rearrange your schedule for things that aren’t a priority for you.
- Don’t rework your calendar to meet someone else’s needs. When someone wants to meet with you for their own sake, you shouldn’t feel the need to change up your working style to accommodate them. If you’ve set aside Fridays as your heads-down day, don’t feel pressured to change this just because someone has asked you for a favor that day. When someone is asking something of you, it’s up to them to bend their schedule to meet your needs. If it’s important enough to them, they’ll find a way to make it work.