Until technology lets us do away with time-consuming activities such as sleeping and eating, we only have a certain number of hours to devote to a busy work week. For CEOs, finding time to handle everything on their increasingly crowded plates is especially challenging. While no one can yet give you more hours in the day, these five tips help you fit more value into each hour.
Develop a Color Code
Organization becomes simpler when you can do it at a glance. Come up with a color code that applies to the most common ways you spend your time, and you’ll eliminate the need to check your phone or calendar frequently. That may not seem like much of a time-saver, but the average person now checks his or her phone more than 50 times a day. Color coding lets you cut out most of that wasted effort and streamline your day. You’ll also be better prepared for meetings when you can see with a single look whether your day is filled with blue for investors or yellow for partners.
Block in some Down Time
Don’t forget to reserve one of your color codes for free time. It might seem counterintuitive, but you’ll be able to work more effectively and get more done if you leave some blocks of time open. Studies have shown that willpower and attention are finite resources; after we deplete them, we need to recharge in some way before we’re able to apply them again. Your decision-making power needs to be as sharp as possible, and that only happens when you give yourself enough of a break to refresh your mind. If possible, take a walk, nap, or daydream during these intervals. By stepping outside your work routine and getting away from your office for a bit, you’re able to return to your desk ready to tackle any problem that comes your way.
Make Email Time-Sensitive
One of the biggest time-sinks in the office today is checking up on and chasing down email responses. Email has a time stamp on when it’s sent, but relatively few people include a deadline for responses. Leaving email response times open-ended means correspondence sometimes drags out to multiple replies. If you’re also using reply-to-all tags, the potential to waste time grows exponentially. Instead, make it your policy to set a deadline for replies. The few extra seconds you spend to type “Please respond by tomorrow morning” can save you an hour or two of crossed wires and miscommunications.
Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh relies on his email in-box to set his to-do list for the day. His system’s simple: Don’t respond to your email today. Instead, make it the first thing you do tomorrow morning. Because you don’t spend your day dealing with email as it comes in and can handle it in a single block of time, you aren’t trying to multi-task when you need focus. Your email becomes a static list rather than a constant flow of demands for your attention.
Defend Your Boundaries
“No” is an immensely powerful word. Executives need to know when to say it and how to make it final – not the beginning of negotiations, but the conclusion of a conversation. Being able to say no to demands on your time ensures you keep more of it for yourself, so don’t be reluctant to turn down offers you don’t need or reroute concerns to others who can handle them in your stead.