CEOs have an incredibly demanding job. As the highest-ranking executive in a company, they are responsible for making major corporate decisions. They also lead the development and execution of long-term strategies, maintain daily business operations, keep in touch with their employees, and act as the main point of communication for the board of directors. With so much on their plate, it’s clear what CEOs value the most: time.
Having great time management skills is key to being an effective leader. Without it, you risk juggling between ‘filler’ tasks, and losing focus of your primary business objectives. With it, you become a more productive and efficient leader, and also gain a huge competitive advantage in your field.
Not all CEOs have mastered the art of time management. But, through persistence and determination, old habits can be discarded in favour of new ones. Let’s take a look at some of the most effective productivity ‘hacks’ as touted by successful CEOs.
1. Slash time staring at the inbox
In theory, email is supposed to be used to save time on phone calls and face-to-face meetings and therefore boosts productivity. The reality is that email has a way of digging into precious time throughout the day. How bad is it? According to a report from McKinsey, the average professional spends 28% of the work day reading and answering emails. Yes, that goes for CEOs too.
Fortunately, modern email platforms offer a number of time-saving features. Both Gmail and Outlook and more let you break down respondents into categories. At a glance, you can see whether the email notification is from a friend, colleague or client, and then respond straight away or later.
Custom add-ons can also help streamline your email communications. With Gmail, you can integrate a range of official add-ons to improve workflow. You can quickly start or schedule a Zoom video chat, add Dropbox files to an email, or create a custom To Do List. The possibilities are virtually endless.
2. Gently say ‘No’
Steve Jobs once famously said, “Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”
On one hand, Steve had a point. Say ‘Yes’ to every little request or suggestion, then your productivity will suffer. On the other hand, if you constantly say ‘No’ then you may come across as self-important and unapproachable.
Saying Yes to many things will also make it tight on your schedule. Instead of having people coming to you with great ideas, make sure to ask them to come up with a solid plan instead to see if the project can be success or not right away.
If you cannot spare any time or are concentrated in other projects, instead of saying ‘Yes’, let the other person know when you can listen to their request and why.
By giving a reason, the person is less likely to feel rejected, and you still leave the door open to future ideas and suggestions.
3. Plan your day in advance the night before
After a long day, the last thing you probably want to do is to plan the next one. But hang on. What if doing so only took 15-minutes of your time, and it drastically improves your productivity? That’s exactly what the Ivy Lee Method is about.
Created by productivity consultant Ivy Lee back in 1918, the Ivy Lee Method works like this. Every night, once your duties are done, sit down with a pen and paper and jot down the five to six most important tasks you want to accomplish the next day. If desired, you can list the tasks in order from most to least important.
From there, focus on each individual task the next day. And, if there’s any unfinished business, simply transfer the unfinished task to the following day’s list.
How effective is this method? Many CEOs and productivity experts claim the method has stood the test of time for over 100 years1. James Clear, author of ‘Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good habits and Break Bad Ones,’ states the method forces you to make tough decisions and ignore less important tasks, until your core duties are achieved.
4. Keep meetings short and sweet
Research has shown that CEOs can spend up to 72% of their day in meetings. Worse still, most CEOs agree that 1 hour meetings can be shortened to 30 minutes or even 15 minutes. Aside from wasting a CEOs time, meetings can leave staff feeling frustrated and mentally fatigued.
Fortunately, there are ways to slash meeting times.
One is to plan the topics of interest in advance. Give all participants a chance to put in writing the topics they’d like to raise. If there’s a common topic the respondents want to discuss, you can raise it at the meeting. If there’s a less serious (but still worthwhile) topic raised, you can put it in the ‘maybe’ pile for that meeting. If time doesn’t allow for it, make it a priority at the next meeting.
5. Set aside time for friends, family and being alone
For most CEOs, time for leisure is as valuable as gold in Fort Knox. Unfortunately, poor self-care can lead to serious mental stress, burnout, and reduced productivity. That’s why it’s so important for CEOs to take care of themselves – even if it means sacrificing a few extra gains for their business.
There are many ways to take care of yourself as a CEO. Allocate brief 10 to 15 minute windows of free time throughout the day. Make sure you get a consistently good night’s sleep. And, give yourself a clear cut-off point – where you say goodbye to work phones, messages, and other duties – each day of the week.
Finally, minimise the amount of time spent on work during weekends and vacation.
Whether you’re an employer, team leader, or manager, these time management tips are a great way to increase your motivation and productivity.
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