As the top decision-makers, CEOs have access to all the resources at their companies.   The one resource always in short supply: time. It is critical for company’s success that CEOs use their time wisely.

A Harvard study found that CEOs work relentlessly. On average, a CEO spends some time every single day in work-related endeavors.

  • 7 hours work on weekdays
  • 9 hours on weekends
  • 4 hours on vacation days

John Kepley, co-founder of GS&A and founder of 4 other companies, takes an intentional approach toward directing his time, rather than managing his time. In order to  balance multiple interests, maintain personal health and have time for family, Kepley prioritizes where his time goes. While there are plenty of lists of time management tips out there, Kepley recommends weighing what is most important, scheduling activities that focus on the most important and saying “No” to just about everything else.

“You are given 168 hours every week, and there are 5 large buckets,” he said. “There is sleep, there is health, there is work, there is family, there are friends. For the most part, those are the 5 things where someone can spend their time. You can have 3 of those 5 every day.”

Researcher/consultant Jim Collins plans his day with a stopwatch. The author of the best-sellers “Built to Last,” “Good to Great” and “Great by Choice” divides his life into blocks — 50% creative time, 30% teaching time, and 20% “random things that just need to get done.”

Collins creates what he calls “white space,” long stretches of time where he can do high-quality creative thinking. He blocks out the morning, from 8 a.m. to noon, just to think, read and write. After lunch he spends the afternoon with his researchers or clients, then a long run or rock climb in the late afternoon to clear his mind. Then dinner, maybe more writing, and bed.

He tracks the quality of his days on a three-column spreadsheet, making sure he is working 1,000 creative hours in every 365 day block and scoring the quality of his days in real-time.

What works for these remarkable men may not work for you. Here are some tips to get started.

Tips for Time Efficiency

CEOs oversee all aspects of the business and are also accountable to numerous stakeholders – including employees, customers, and their board. Ways CEOs can be more productive include:

Shorter, more effective meetings

  • Keep your meetings focused by requiring an agenda for every meeting and limiting the number of participants to 5 or fewer, most often one-on-one.

Delegate decision-making

  • CEOs can delegate but cannot hand off everything.
  • Through professional development and by designing processes that inform, support, enable, and integrate the work of others, people can make good choices on their own.

Make an explicit agenda

  • Kepley makes it a practice to spend Sunday night planning his week.
  • Because he prioritizes where his time goes, he can weigh them against potential opportunities against that arise.

In addition to scheduling meetings and work tasks, be sure to schedule some downtime – including buffers between meetings and 10-minute breaks to catch your breath.

Overlooked Key to Success

The most successful people are able to track their activities and decide if they have used their resources for the most return on investment.  Time is no different.  Like Collins and Kepley, you have to evaluate how you have used your time and always look for ways to sharpen your time management skills.


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