Looking to utilize your time at work a little more efficiently? These top CEOs have all the life hacks you need to effectively manage your time.
1. Divide your Days
When you’re as busy as one of the world’s top CEOs, you have to take organization to the next level. Chief Executive Officer of VMWare, Patrick Gelsinger, colour codes his schedule so he can see exactly how he’s managing his time; turquoise for customer or partner meetings, purple with media and investors and yellow for strategy reviews. Another way to effectively divide your time is to make like Twitter chairman and Square CEO, Jack Dorsey, and theme your days, devoting each day to a different type of work; management Mondays, product-focused Tuesdays, marketing Wednesdays etc to avoid distraction and promote productivity.
2. Don’t Work on Planes
Flying frequently is often part and parcel of running a successful business but, by making travel part of your down time, you can use it as a time to refresh, rather than catch up on work. Phil Libin, cofounder and former CEO of Evernote says he makes it a non-negotiable to never work on a plane. “Like everyone else, I used to just work on airplanes – I’d use that time to catch up on things. And I stopped. I basically said when I’m on a plane I won’t work. I’ll read, I’ll play video games, I’ll sleep, I’ll watch movies, but I don’t work. It makes me look forward to flying. I can get off a long flight and actually be kind of relaxed,” he says.
3. Book in Family Time
Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group takes a holistic approach to his work life balance, seeing them both as elements worthy of the same focus. “When you’re facing an avalanche of appointments, book time to spend with your family – put it in your work diary,” he says. “Rather than thinking of these two aspects as antagonistic, why not combine them? As I’ve often said, I don’t divide work and play; it’s all living”.
4. Completely Disconnect on Holidays
Ex President and CEO of Ebay, John Donahoe swore by disconnecting entirely when on holiday “In today’s 24/7 work culture, I believe the notion that business leaders need to be connected warriors every day of the year is mistaken. I am very connected 50 weeks of the year, but I try to completely disconnect for 2 weeks,” he says. “I admit that the process of cutting off from email and the internet is frequently stressful in the beginning, but it quickly becomes a very liberating experience. Without a constant barrage of work issues to respond to, I find that my mind calms down and my intuition begins to come alive. I am able to see things through a more creative lens and new ideas often emerge from my ‘time off’.”
5. Workout Regularly
Putting in the hours at the office is all very well, but sometimes a little time out and self care is what you need to push things forward. Director of Product Management at Google, Mike Cassidy, says making time for a daily workout is essential to reducing stress and keeping him on the ball. “With the exception of one or two days a year, I work out every single day,” he says. “Fitting a workout into the work day reduces stress, keeps you healthy, and is great for getting ‘alone time’ to work out business and personal problems. When someone asks for a non work-related meeting, see if they are up for doing the meeting while running or biking together. Work out at lunchtime and then eat at your desk.”
6. Schedule Creativity
Sitting staring out the window isn’t a luxury most CEOs can afford but, according to ex leader of social innovation at Twitter, Claire Diaz-Ortiz, scheduling time to be creative is as important as time spent in meetings. “Sure, creation time may not have the deadline that a 4pm meeting does, but it is likely far more important to your long-term goals,” she says. “Go ahead and schedule your creation time into your day. Block it off, guard it well, and do everything you can to keep others from encroaching upon it.” It’s a strategy Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn uses, too. “If you were to see my calendar, you’d probably notice a host of time slots greyed out but with no indication of what’s going on. The grey sections reflect ‘buffers,’ or time periods I’ve purposely kept clear of meetings. I schedule between 90 minutes and two hours of these buffers every day. It’s a system I developed in response to a schedule that was becoming so jammed with back-to-back meetings that I had little time left to process what was going on around me or just think.
7. Manage your Emails
Emails can be one of the biggest distractions at work, so putting in place measures to manage them is one of the best time saving hacks in your management toolkit. Birchbox co-founder, Katia Beauchamp encourages her employees to incorporate a deadline for response in all of their emails, “It makes prioritization so much faster,” she says. Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, says he organizes his overwhelming inbox by only dealing with emails from the day before, rather than that day’s emails, so you know at the start of the day exactly how many you have to get through. “If it can wait 48 hours without causing harm, then you are not allowed to respond to any emails that come in today, even if it’s a simple one-word reply. You need to psychologically train yourself to not worry about emails that are coming in. Your focus today is just on clearing out yesterday’s inbox.”
8. Add Notes to your Address Book
Networking is part and parcel of the job when you run a business, but meeting so many people can get confusing. Etsy CEO, Chad Dickerson, tries to combat the problem by putting notes in his address book documenting where he met the person and what they talked about so, if and when he contacts them in the future, he can use that information as a starting point for a new conversation.
9. Plan Far in Advance
When you’re the CEO of Renault, Nissan and the Chairman of AvtoVAZ, you learn a thing or two about time management. Carlos Ghosn says he makes the best of his time by planning as far in advance as possible – over a year in advance, in fact. “I know exactly where I’m going to be, what I’m going to be doing for the next 15 months,” he said. “It’s not only for me, it’s mainly for the people working for me. They know when I’m going to be in Tokyo, when I’m going to be in Paris, when I’m going to be in New York, so they can organize themselves.”
10. Break up your Week
Facebook co-founder, Dustin Moskovitz has a ‘no meeting Wednesdays’ rule. “With very few exceptions, everyone’s calendar is completely clear at least one day out of the week. This is an invaluable tool for ensuring you have some contiguous space to do project work. For me personally, it is often the one day each week I get to code.” CEO co-founder Bryan Halligan, has a similar approach, opting to work at home from Wednesdays. “One of my hacks is that every Wednesday is my work-from-home day, so if I’m not traveling in a given week, or even if I am traveling, I keep Wednesday open and that’s the day that I can just think and get stuff done,” he says.