No Time? No Problem.


You can’t make more time, but you can make the most of it.

At one point or another, we’ve probably all felt like we didn’t have enough time to do everything. Unfortunately, time is the one resource we can’t create more of. We can only learn how to use it better.

Managing time well, it turns out, is one of the hallmarks of successful leaders. In a recent Harvard University study of how CEOs used their time, researchers found that they were on the job an average of 62.5 hours a week. They worked nearly 10 hours per weekday, and even clocked hours during four out of five weekends.

Effective leaders know their time must be carefully allocated. Where they invest their time and attention could determine the direction of the entire organisation. Executives also need time parameters around work to create space for a personal life.

We at Kenyans Come Home reviewed the Harvard study and the work of other experts to find these top recommendations for managing your schedule like a boss:

Minimise your e-mail. Today, CEOs can spend as much as a quarter of their time on e-mail. Since the most important and effective interactions happen face-to-face, this is usually not a good use of time.

Elaine Harman, founder of The Time Clinic in South Africa, recommends checking e-mail only at certain times of the day—ideally once every 2.5 hours. To minimise emails, be clear with your team when you do not need to be cc’d on e-mail discussions. You can also take advantage of other resources, like an executive assistant or automated programme, to help you filter emails so you only spend your time on the essential ones.

Know your priorities and focus on those. As you plan your meetings and activities for the week, a clear agenda will help you decide what to put on the calendar. Will meeting with this person or engaging in this project help further your priorities?

According to the Harvard researchers, “an explicit agenda is one of the CEO’s most important tools for making progress on multiple work streams simultaneously, addressing differences in the rate of progress across priorities, and using time effectively.” The CEOs they studied also said that they felt better about their workload and productivity when they remained focused on their agenda.

Block your schedule and build in gaps of unscheduled time. We are most effective when we can focus on one activity, or a category of activities, at a time. Savvy CEOs often set certain days of the week as meeting days, and then do not schedule meetings on other days. They block out significant chunks of alone time when they can strategize, plan, or make key decisions.

Because as much as one-third of an executive’s time is spent having spontaneous interactions or reacting to unexpected events, it’s also wise to allow for gaps of unscheduled time that will give you flexibility to respond as needed.

Delegate as much as possible. Because CEOs are responsible for the performance of the whole organisation, they can easily get pulled into operational details or routine duties that someone else could manage. If you find yourself doing some of these activities, it may be time to review those carefully and hand off any responsibilities that are not essential.

Delegating well also means building strong relationships with fellow executives and direct reports. Among time spent with team members, CEOs tend to spend about half of it with direct reports; this ensures trust, communication, and consistency in leadership. The more robust these relationships, the easier it will be for you to share the workload with others.

These approaches can help you manage the many responsibilities you have within the limited hours of the day. And hopefully, you’ll have some precious time left to invest in your family, your health, and your hobbies, which can all help make you a more balanced and effective leader.