Being a CEO brings added pressure to day-to-day challenges, such as the task of “time management.” Can anyone really “manage” time? You may be able to “stop the clock,” but time marches on, regardless! The only control one has is deciding where to place your attention, i.e. YOUR PRIORITIES.

Everything competes for a leader’s time. CEOs don’t have a “business” life and a “personal” life; just one very busy life that requires dynamic balance to manage. To stay balanced, CEOs must set those priorities, and make decisions about how to accomplish them.

These are the top perspectives I’ve encountered on tackling “time” management at the executive level.

1. “CEO Primary Responsibilities”

During 25+ years in this work, “somewhere, someone” identified four priorities upon which CEOs should focus. I would give credit if I knew! They have been timeless and provided clarity for all the CEOs with whom I’ve worked.

  1. Setting and communicating the Values, Mission, and Vision of the Organization

  2. Establishing and Maintaining Key Relationships

  3. Developing Direct Reports

  4. Holding people accountable to the Culture, Objectives, and Goals of the Organization

This is what Michael Gerber in his book, The E-Myth, means by working ON the business, rather than IN the business. We hire others to work IN the business!

In the first item, the CEO must set the foundation and direction for the company. Once clarified, s/he must constantly communicate, to the team, the vision and passion that will drive the organization forward.

Second, the CEO must “own” the business’s critical relationships. It’s easy to become bogged down or distracted and defer to your managers to deal with top clients, suppliers, and other executives. Making time for these people is essential. Your attention is valuable to them.

The third item, like the second, is about relationships and valuing the team that supports you. Your direct reports are like the roots and branches of your organization. Help them stretch and grow. This is your leverage point!

Finally, accountability: Protect the culture, and use your authority to make sure all are held accountable for actions and results.

2. Walt Sutton’s “Nine Core Tasks of a CEO”

Walt Sutton, Vistage speaker and author of Leap of Strength offers us a more specific list of jobs for which a CEO is responsible. Suttons states:

  1. Survive

  2. Make the Deals

  3. Find and Navigate the River of Cash

  4. Bear Debt and Allocate Profit

  5. Discover the Nature of the Secret and Use It

  6. Apply the Rule of Entrepreneurs and Managers

  7. Build a Society and Define the Seasons

  8. Acquire and Exercise Vision

  9. Live a Life

This direct, focused list helps a CEO pare down the daily to-dos and, in the case of Sutton’s list, #1 is #1. Nothing else matters if your business doesn’t survive!! Subsequently, remember that careful attention to the remaining eight tasks makes survival itself more attainable. I will expand on each of these in a future article or you can “jump ahead” and purchase Walt’s book.

This brings us to the third perspective on time management, which is brief but to the point.

3. “You should only do, only that, which only you can do.”

From the author of the acclaimed book, Time Tactics of Very Successful People, Eugene Griessman has an in-depth understanding of time management and professional success. If there was a way to summarize the process in a single line, the above sentence does just that. If someone else can do it, let them!! This is called… delegation! Do not confuse delegation and abdication. Abdication is when only you can do “it” yet you ask, or tell, someone else to do “it.”

I’ll now play “Doctor” and give you a prescription.

“Take point #3 and apply liberally to points #1 and #2… daily!”

As you consider your own time management strategies, include these perspectives in your research. I can guarantee it will be time well spent.