What Becoming a CEO Taught Me About Time Management
All of us start every week with the same number of hours – 168. What we do with those 168 hours will determine how successfully we manage our personal and professional lives. I depend on my calendar and plan out my week every Sunday evening. As the week progresses, I may edit and change things but this gives me the general framework I need to maximize my 168 hours. After that, I rely on a few time-tested methods to keep me on track throughout the week.
Write everything down
“I’ll remember it” is a risky phrase when it comes to time management. Seemingly easy-to-remember details can get lost in the shuffle when other projects come along. That forces you to waste time hunting down information instead of focusing on the task at hand. To avoid that, I use a master task list. My task list includes everything I will need to know about the project or task, as well as space for further notes.
Paper and digital methods both work, but make sure there is a place to add notes that clearly correlate to a specific task. It’s too easy to take notes in a different place, only to lose or forget about them when it comes time to work on the task. Keeping all your project information in one place helps you get things done faster and more accurately.
Allocate time to work on each task
I get my work done between full days of meetings and phone calls. But if I wait until those blocks of free time to decide what to work on, I have already wasted valuable time. Without a plan, it’s also easy to waste time checking on the news, emails, and other distractions.
To avoid that, I like to take a few minutes each morning to plan what I’m going to work on between each meeting or phone call. I start by looking at tasks that have the highest priority or the most imminent deadlines and go from there. However, if you’re like me and spend a lot of time answering emails, remember to block that out too. Answering emails is a deceptively simple task that can consume entire days if you’re not careful.
Streamline your email process
Keeping my inbox under control takes up more of my time than any other task, but it also presents opportunities for better time management. The first thing I do is fight clutter. A cluttered inbox does more than waste time—it can obscure important emails.
I start by deleting emails I don’t need. Keeping emails for documentation is a good practice, but there are always emails that can go. For the emails I do need to archive, I use a series of organized folders. That keeps my inbox as a place for emails that actually need my attention.
When employees, teammates, and clients rely on you, it’s easy to work yourself to the point of burnout. However, spending too many late nights answering emails has taught me that good time management also means knowing when not to work. You can’t give your best anywhere if you are burned out, sick, or facing an unhappy family. Having a meaningful life outside of work is just as important as being productive at work.