Get back up to 50% of your wasted time every day.
CEOs are busy. Every CEO has time limitations, but some are far more efficient than others. What separates CEOs that are efficient from those who are wasting time that impacts the business?
We will explore the possibilities here about a variety of CEOs and how they may waste time. I am positive some CEOs would say they have to do these things at some point, but I would argue that in most cases you don’t have to. I will provide recommendations and tips to be more efficient.
The overall message: UNSUBSCRIBE! Not just from newsletters, but emails, meetings, and unproductive policies and processes. I will describe it in more detail. Clearly, you can’t unsubscribe from meetings and business processes that drive the company forward, but you can optimize. We will discuss some ideas that have worked for many others and some that have failed.
As you all know too well, the CEO role is extremely complex, and few others appreciate the complexity and loneliness that the CEO experiences. Just consider the responsibilities that the CEO owns:
- Business model and path to profitability
- Executive team
- Company structure and efficiency
- Partners, including supply chain and channel
- P&L (Profit and Loss)
There are many details, interruptions, day-to-day situational issues, people, competitive environment, market dynamics, and on and on. If you are a CEO, you know this all too well and you know how crazy your days can get but you also know that you are the most powerful person in the company and every employee is watching and listening to your every word.
The Business Model
I like to view each individual employee’s role as a business model. Not to be confused with the financial business model. This section is the CEO business model. To bring clarity and efficiency to your time demands, knowing and understanding each connection point to your personal suppliers and personal customers is paramount. I like to diagram this model as follows:
You can quickly see the number of connection points that the CEO juggles minute to minute, day-to-day, week-to-week, and on an ongoing basis. You can easily see how the CEO may have blind spots in various places, which can be detrimental to the business.
The objective of this post is to help the CEO “Unsubscribe” from everything that does not move the company forward, wastes time where the CEO is not adding value, wastes time when the functional or group leader is already leading a meeting or project, and anything that can be optimized for efficiency. I have discussed this with many CEOs I have worked with, and many get overwhelmed by the minutia and cannot easily get out of their rut. My goal is to help facilitate a solution, even if it takes time to execute.
4 Steps to Unsubscribe
Let us break this listicle down into smaller chunks. The CEO should unsubscribe to or refine their process for the following:
Nearly everyone spends far too much time on email. The most successful CEOs and senior executives schedule email time typically early morning and later in the afternoon or evening. This prevents wasting time being interrupted all day and tempting you to respond immediately. Scheduling email time can be calendared (blocked time) and allows time to reflect and think about responding.
Unsubscribe from most newsletters. They tend to be a waste of time. Most CEOs do have their favorite newsletters, often a paid subscription service that provides value-add to their life, career, and their thirst for learning. Keep the special newsletters but unsubscribe to all others.
Delete any emails on which you are cc’d – if you are simply copied, as a “CYA” by other leadership team members or employees, delete. If you have an executive assistant or admin that supports you as CEO, they can pre-screen and delete all cc: as well as newsletters.
CEOs spend a significant amount of time daily/weekly/monthly in meetings, many of which are not necessary. I have worked with CEOs who have attempted to create meeting policies that speed up meetings, but they still attend. These include:
- Locking the office or meeting room door at meeting start time, or in today’s world, it is not allowing new attendees to join the group call after its start time.
- Stand-up meetings to keep the meetings to 15 minutes maximum.
- Ask to be invited as an “optional attendee” for all meetings.
- Delegate meeting chair with specific instructions and clarity.
- Always require an agenda prior to the meeting.
Other meeting policies can be created that optimize attendees, reduce the number of meetings, and can be built into the culture.
This has been a uniquely different situation in every company I have worked in. Some CEOs do not share or open their calendar to anyone and do not allow scheduling a meeting with the CEO without first talking to the CEO’s assistant. In more open-minded companies, CEOs have an open door and meeting policy that enables anyone to schedule a meeting with the CEO at any time, but this can be a time-waster if not managed properly. If a CEO likes to do this, schedule a block of time to do this monthly and build into the culture.
Ideally, the CEO blocks his/her calendar times for email, scheduled calls with investors, customers, media, or partners. This eliminates interruptions and facilitates productivity for the CEO. I do support, however, the ability for the CEO’s direct reports to see their calendars and schedule a meeting no longer than 15 to 30 minutes to resolve issues that the CEO may add value or facilitates decision-making priorities.
Decline any meeting request that does not include details of the meeting purpose or an agenda. Some CEOs require prep materials for any meeting 24-48 hours or about 2 working days in advance.
Never fail to realize as the CEO, you are the most powerful voice in the company, everyone listens to every word you say, and that they hear and analyze these words. CEO behavior matters. If you choose to take personal time off during office hours, and employees know it, then allow all employees to do the same. CEOs drive the culture. In my book, “The Rookie CEO, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!,” I cover how corporate cultures emerge under CEO leadership and is the result of the CEO’s background, philosophies, and leadership styles.
To gain time back in the personal category, my recommendations fall into the health and wellness category, identified in the business model above. The CEO must remain sharp, eat well, exercise, and get a good night’s sleep. Lead a balanced life as much as possible, and if you do experience stress and being overwhelmed, get help from a coach, or find an activity that neutralizes the stress. Do not feel like you have failed, realize it happens all the time and a coach can help you work through the issues.
All CEOs experience day-to-day interruptions, timewasters, and various activities that can derail their schedules and efficiency of operating. Consider what methodologies might work for you to optimize your day, but without question, utilize this article as a starting point.
Thank you for stopping by the CEO Insights blog, and I hope you return soon!