Thursday, September 24, 2020

Executive Education

The Executive’s Guide to Shaving Hours Off the Typical Workday

It turns out that having a healthy work/life balance is very good for business. The problem is that too many executives try to burn their candles at both ends, and sadly, as a result, not as much gets done as they would like.

While it is said that time is your most treasured asset, it’s the way you use your time that lends it the most value. Saving time, on the other hand, isn’t easy, particularly for busy executives, who tend to be the ones who want to wear all the hats themselves.

All hope is not lost, however. Here is how to save time, and make the most use of it, as you go about your business aiming for success.

Be Deadline Driven – Or Recruit Someone to Hold You Accountable

Perfectionism and fear of the unknown are typically the most significant causes of procrastination. The executive may put projects off because he fears they won’t be perfect. Or, she doesn’t have all the necessary information to do a worthwhile job.

Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg wrote, “Done is better than perfect.” In other words, don’t let your perfectionism get the better of you. The key is to dive in and just get started. Sometimes, you have to force yourself.

Before you begin a project, set a shorter deadline than you think you can handle; and stick to it! The quicker the deadlines approach, the better, as you will have to force yourself to take action.

If you don’t think you’ll stick to the deadlines you establish, recruit an associate, friend, or family member to check in with you daily, weekly, or even hourly if need be. Whatever it takes, set deadlines and follow through consistently.

That project that would have taken you a week to complete might only take a couple of days —or mere hours.

Forget Multi-Tasking

Study after study shows that multitasking isn’t as efficient as everyone thinks. Focus on one thing at a time until the project is complete. Even if you have to take small breaks in between, you’ll get more done, and do a better-quality job, than if you were to move from one project to the other throughout the day.

Delegate What You Can  

As an executive reaching for the stars, you would be wise to do away with any activities that aren’t profitable. Those small administrative actions that take up half your morning? They can be divvied up to virtual assistants or other freelancers to free up your time for more important things, like tackling those projects that will contribute to your bottom line.

Don’t know which activities to delegate? Make a list of all the actions you take as an executive during your typical day. All those little tasks that you don’t necessarily care to do or that are beyond the realms of your expertise should go to more available and knowledgeable personnel.

Surround Yourself with Greatness

Henry Ford was famous for surrounding himself with smarter people who were far more capable than he was. That’s the foundation that helped him build his car empire that millions of Ford drivers enjoy today.

If you hope to follow in Ford’s footsteps, staff the best and brightest, and never settle. The more time you waste micro-managing team members, the less time you’ll have for what matters most —tending to business.

Even if the sorting process is grueling, make sure you hire the smartest, best, and fastest team members you can find. The right people can make your organization run like a finely-tuned machine, saving valuable time while yielding incredible results.

Schedule Your Days

If you try to wing-it every day, you might waste time on the dumbest things — like answering a surprise email from a long, lost associate or friend. Instead, pick an “Admin” day and schedule the next few days or the entire week. For instance, you might pick each Monday as your “Planning” day to sketch out the entire week.

How you plan your days is up to you, but WMWare CEO Patrick Gelsinger recommends that you color-code every minute of the day. For instance, he marks meetings in turquoise if they are with customers or partners, and purple if he’s meeting with media or investors. He then uses yellow for strategy reviews.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recommends you choose a theme for each day, much like picking an “Admin” or “Planning” day. You may work on client work one day, admin work the next, bookkeeping the third, and so on. Only you know how you work best. The best approach is to try different scheduling options to determine what’s most effective for you and your situation.

Make Use of Time-Saving Technology

The best executives have a stack of technology that helps to keep them on track. They may use the Chrome extension Strict Workflow, which makes use of the Pomodoro Technique. Here’s how it works: A tomato icon, once clicked, starts a 25-minute timer. You work diligently during that time until the alarm sounds, whereby the tomato icon will turn green. Click the icon again, and a 5-minute break timer starts. That’s one Pomodoro. After four Pomodoros, you take a 30-minute break; then rinse and repeat.

Other time savers include using cloud-based storage, so files are always at hand, like Dropbox, and software to clip and save online documents, like Evernote.

Wunderlist is an online to-do list that can follow you across every device, and Trello can help you keep projects straight with drag-and-drop functionality.

For sales and marketing executives, marketing automation software has been shown to not only save time but also leads to more productivity and sales.


An entire book could be filled with tips and tactics for saving time by top CEOs and executives past and present. Get up earlier, block out distractions, and outsource, outsource, outsources, would be common themes of the day. But setting short deadlines, focusing on one project at a time, delegating small tasks to others, and scheduling your days will save you tremendous amounts of time, money, and frustration. Finally, make use of relevant technology, and you’ll have all the hours you need to achieve executive greatness.

Ryan Gould
Ryan is the Vice President of Strategy and Marketing Services at Elevation Marketing, a B2B marketing agency. Ryan helps medium and large brands improve sales and market share by developing integrated marketing experiences distinguished by research, storytelling, engagement and conversion.