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How Should CEOs Spend Their Time

Covey's First things First time management matrix

As CEO nobody tells you how to do your job, so how do you maximize your performance?

One way is to identify the types of activities that bring true value to the organization and ensure that you are spending more time doing those things than on activities that bring less value.

If you are CEO of a small company that role will look different than the CEO of a global company… but whichever type of CEO you are, you have to understand what those high return activities are and be as ruthless as possible in keeping your focus there.

“Don’t spend a dollar’s worth of time on a ten cent decision.” Peter Turla 

Here are some questions that CEOs of smaller companies might ask themselves to ensure they are spending time in the right places.

1. Am I spending the right amount of time ON my business versus IN my business?

2. Is my time going to result in direct (measurable?) positive impact on the business?

3. Am I spending enough time with clients and prospective clients?

4. Am I delegating work efficiently?

5. Am I out of my office with the employees enough? Talking about the vision, talking about the goals and successes and encouraging success?

6. Am I supporting my direct team enough? That might include knocking down barriers to their success, coaching and mentoring, guiding and encouraging them towards their goals… and yes, delivering the hard messages when necessary.

7. Am I spending the right amount of time on raising the company’s visibility, championing the brand and being publicly visible?

8. Am I spending my time the way my board would like me to be spending my time?

9. Are my feet on the ground? Am I stroking my ego with some of the activity I am involved with?

10. Are the meetings I attend all needed and efficient?

11. Am I listening to my people enough? Do I ask enough questions and really listen to what I am hearing? Am I asking the same people all the time or do I get other input? Do I have my finger on the pulse?

12. Do I find time to really think, to strategise, to analyse and to think beyond the immediate future?

13. Would my direct reports think that I was focused on the right things?

14. Am I micro managing my people or am I allowing them enough leeway to do their jobs?

15. Do I look back at my week and my month and feel I was really productive… my time was spent on activities that truly were high value?

Of course you can fool yourself into thinking that the activity you like to do is actually really important to the company, but if you are honest with yourself these questions will force you to look hard at how you spend your time. There are no guarantees of success but your chances improve greatly if you are spending your time on the right things.

“Everything requires time. It is the only truly universal condition. All work takes place in time and uses up time. Yet most people take for granted this unique, irreplaceable, and necessary resource. Nothing else, perhaps, distinguishes effective executives as much as their tender loving care of time.” Peter F. Drucker