As a CEO, there’s no such thing as having too much time on your hands. Because you have so much to manage, you’re always busy; when you aren’t, you’re on call and ready to swing into action, which can make work/life balance a challenge. From CEOs of Fortune 500 companies to owners of smaller start-ups to successful self-employed entrepreneurs, finding more time and becoming more effective at budgeting it is a top priority. Short of moving to another planet where days are naturally longer, you can’t fit more hours in a day. With these tips, however, you will be able to fit more into each hour while minimizing stress.
Develop a System
Whether you’re organizing a closet or a corporation’s business cycles, taking a systematic approach helps you stay on track. By reducing time spent shuffling through your schedule to find your next meeting, create a color code and group by colors to make the most efficient use of your time. You might assign purple to partner meetings, blue to marketing and media, red for customers, and green for finance and budget sessions. Once you have your color code in place, pay attention to how you work best – do you prefer to group similar categories together, or does variety keep you sharp? If you prefer extended focus, block out a red morning and a green afternoon. If you thrive on variety, arrange your schedule to include as many colors as possible.
It’s tempting to block out every minute of your day in productive activity, but as many CEOs discover, this habit gives you no room to grow. Your vision guides the company, yet if you never look up from your desk or computer screen, how can you sharpen the foresight needed to bring long-range visions into focus? Build in time to brainstorm, concentrate, or talk with staff members about something other than a pressing project. If you travel frequently, opt out of work when you fly so you can set your imagination free at 30,000 feet.
One of the greatest boons to business communication is email, but it’s also a surprising time-sink. You may spend only two minutes checking your email and deciding what to do with the new batch, but repeating this process multiple times a day can eat up the better part of an hour – more, if you’ve developed a checking habit. If you catch yourself checking email or a favorite news feed while you’re in the middle of compiling a report, writing a memo, or fact-finding, you may be using these frequent checks as a sort of mental mini-vacation. Instead, confine your email checks to particular times of day or only after uninterrupted work sessions of a length that’s convenient for you.
To break a particularly stubborn checking habit that takes up too much time, you may want to take your email management a step farther and declare today’s mail off-limits entirely as in our next efficiency tip.
Respond to Yesterday’s News
It may seem counter-intuitive in a business environment that prioritizes up-to-the-minute information, but some CEOs find they work best when they answer yesterday’s mail instead of looking for the latest. Routing all your email for the day to its own folder that you then respond to first thing in the morning lets you know exactly how much time you’ll be spending on answering messages and puts a hard cap on how long you’ll deal with correspondence today. Another advantage of this tactic is that you establish a routine with regular correspondents. They know that writing you in the afternoon on Monday will result in a response first thing Tuesday morning and can then use their own time more efficiently instead of checking and re-checking for your answer.