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You may have heard the saying that it isn’t time management we have trouble with — it’s choice management.
We all have the same amount of time in a day. So if we aren’t getting things done, the problem isn’t that we don’t have enough time. The problem is that we aren’t making good choices about how to spend our time. Keeping that in mind, I thought I’d share some tips that I’ve picked up from the CEOs I engage with on a daily basis. If you really want to create the best schedule to maximize efficiency, you’ll want to do the following.
Stick to a routine
Every high-yield CEO I know has a set routine. They go to bed at the same time; they wake up at the same time. They start and finish work around the same time. Yes, you want to be flexible enough that you can disrupt your routine when necessary, but generally, the best way to manage work so that things don’t become chaotic is to have a fairly predictable schedule.
Schedule out your week as much as possible
A Harvard Business Review (HBR) study concluded that 75% of a CEO’s time is scheduled in advance. And CEOs scheduled over half of those events themselves. It may sound tedious — coming up with a routine and planning out almost every hour of the day — but if you want to be efficient, you don’t want to spend a decent chunk of the day wondering what you should tackle next. You already know.
Leave room for flexibility
As the HBR study noted, CEOs still have a quarter of their time that isn’t planned out. You need that for spontaneous interaction. Meetings run over. Problems can pop up. Opportunities arise. If you’re overscheduled, you arguably don’t have time to actually run your business; your business instead is running you. You need to leave room every week to brainstorm and innovate or to read an interesting article and do things that move your business forward, such as connecting and collaborating with colleagues and mentors.
We’ve all had times where, thanks to a chance encounter, we learn of new business opportunities or strategies. Those encounters won’t happen, though, if you don’t give them a chance to.
Surround yourself with a good team
Obvious advice, but I would be remiss not to mention it. You want to be able to delegate as much of your work as you can to your team so you can handle the sorts of tasks that nobody else can — or should — do.
Set good habits
Another trait I’ve noticed among successful CEOs is that they are very disciplined and generally well-rounded. Some leaders, of course, are all work and no play. But the best of them get a full night’s sleep, eat nutritious foods, exercise, read, take vacations and, again, experience life and talk to a wide range of people.
All of these “rules” are connected. When you have a subpar team, you’re going to create more work for yourself — and your entire company. By ignoring your health, eventually poor health decisions that you’ve made day after day, year after year, will catch up to you, and you’ll have to designate all of your work to everyone else. If you ignore your family life for your work, you’ll realize one day that you’ve lost something you can never get back. If you don’t come to resent the business you’re so proud of, your family will.
The way to be the best CEO you can be is to get a handle on your schedule and create the healthiest work-life balance possible. Meanwhile, if you can’t fit into your time things you know are important, like cultivating connections with other people or getting that good night’s sleep or taking an occasional vacation with your family, you’re probably not as well positioned for success as you could be.
True, we all have our limits, and the perfect work-life balance isn’t possible all the time. You may have an aging parent to take care of, or a sick child, or a giant project with your company that’s going to demand all of your attention and spare time. When those things happen, don’t beat yourself up. Do the best you can. Things will work out eventually.
But when life is less hectic, the best way to get the most out of yourself is to treat your schedule like an employee. Be disciplined and make sure your schedule is working for you the way it should.