Time Planning: The Difference between Being a Reactive or Proactive CEO

As you advance to senior levels in the organisation time planning and management becomes more crucial. Your responsibilities change significantly. Your decisions and actions impact the organisation and no longer just a department or business unit. More is expected of you to positively impact the bottom-line. You need to increase productivity and efficiency levels, and reduce overhead costs. Your role shifts significantly from an operational to strategic focus. Working long hours will only create stress for your family and with your health.

The core detractors at CEO level is: people, unproductive meetings and being pulled in to operational issues.

There is quite a difference in the time planning and management of CEO’s of large institutions versus CEO’s of start-ups. The latter have a much more flexible approach to their work than their corporate counterparts. So it would be good to read up further depending on the category into which you fall.

Assertive Personal Assistant

Make sure that you have an assertive and decisive PA. She will shield you from drop-in colleagues or unnecessary appointments. We have all had the experience of a PA that just refuses you access to her boss! Your PA will happily take on the role of vetting all your appointments. Many do not mind being the “iron lady” if it protects you and makes your life easier.

Time Planning

With the assistance of your PA, schedule time slots in your diary for planning. Ideally at the beginning of the year you will schedule those fixed events such as planning conferences, board meetings, trips to clients or regions, monthly operations meetings, your annual vacation, etc. Include any fixed annual, monthly or weekly activities. Your time planning needs to include monthly and weekly periods in your diary in which you plan your activities for the short term.

Schedule any projects or tasks that you personally need to complete into your diary.  A managing director has a three page list of “Things to Do”. He is extremely stressed as it feels as if he is not making any progress. If he systematically scheduled the major activities into his monthly schedule he would feel more relaxed and achieve more.

Social Media

With social media you are available to anybody anytime if they have your contact details. So you need to work out a system that is helpful for you: who can contact you and at what hours. Some people are very good at setting clear boundaries. Others give off a very clear message that they are not to be disturbed unless it really is urgent. Then of course, there are those who allow everyone to have direct access to them.

It is important for your own productivity and well-being to set yourself some guidelines concerning social media. Some people make it very clear that they access emails only once a day. Does this work for you or do you need to be more flexible? Either way, work out what works best for you and communicate this to your team so that they know what is expected of them.


Increase your use of time dramatically through time planning and management around meetings.

Ask participants for their agenda items well before the meeting. Review the items and decide whether they necessitate discussion at a meeting. Some could easily be resolved through email communication or a quick discussion. One client believes very strongly in five minute “conversations”. He literally talks to his colleagues or business unit clients casually and resolves matters within a few minutes. He sees meetings as a waste of time. According to him many people feel they need to use up the full hour’s appointment time when an issue can often be resolved much quicker.

Ensure that agenda items are pertinent to the purpose of the meeting. Avoid having an agenda item for General. The latter wastes time and is a catch-all for all kinds of unnecessary points.

Insist that your managers prepare for meetings so that you can focus on making decisions. Some managers only think once they are in a meeting!  A retired managing director commented that he prepared thoroughly for meetings. As a result this drastically reduced the length of his meetings.

A management consultant strongly recommends that his clients focus on decisions in meetings as opposed to discussions. He finds many of his clients become caught up in endless discussions that waste a great deal of time and add no value. So if you are the chairperson of a meeting you can ensure that everyone keeps to the agenda. Manage the meeting in a focussed way. Where people veer off and become side tracked with issues, pull them back to the main topic and required outcome.

At your level you need to ensure that time is spent on the priority issues. Discuss strategic and operational issues in separate meetings.

Operational issues

In many organisations seniors spend a large percentage of their time on operational issues.  As CEO your focus shifts from operational to strategic business issues. Make a conscious effort to leave operational issues to those who are in charge and closer to the coal face.

The reality is that operational performance and making strategic decisions are very different activities. They each need different modes of discussion and different mind-sets. Operational issues are inward focussed, often around productivity and efficiency factors. Strategic issues are outward focussed: where you are taking your business and what your competitors are doing.

Time planning and management enables you to work more cost effectively. It also enables you to spend your time on critical issues that contribute to the on-going success of your business.

You would benefit from business coaching if you are working extended hours and  feel you are not achieving your business goals in a cost effective way.

Posted in CEO.