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The balancing act of time management

  • What is one of the most critical characteristics of successful CEOs? Charisma? Intelligence? Perseverance? Actually, according to a recent Harvard Business Review study, it is something much more mundane.

    Effective CEOs are excellent time managers. More than anyone in an organization, they confront a daily assault on their most precious resource: time. How a leader allocates this resource sends a powerful message to the rest of the organization. Brandon Frere, CEO of Ameritech Financial and other ventures, recommends that business leaders consider time to be at least as important a resource as money.

    "For me, I need to be completely in the moment, so in one sense, time is limitless," Frere said. "But I also know that there are only so many hours in the day, so the areas I give my time to need to be chosen efficiently and with purpose."

    The study revealed that CEOs work nearly 10 hours per day on weekdays, about four hours per day on weekends and 2.4 hours each vacation day, working on average about 62 hours per week. CEOs are in demand because they need to communicate with every constituency associated with the company. But, according to the study, they also make time for their well-being, sleeping nearly seven hours per night and exercising for about 45 minutes per day. On weekdays, they have six non-working, non-sleeping hours in which they spend three hours with family and just over two hours on leisure activities.

    At the office, the lure of emails is powerful, yet CEOs in the study group spent 61 percent of their time at work in face-to-face interactions and less than a quarter of their time on electronic communications. In fact, balancing the need to respond to emails and avoiding the creation of a cascading avalanche of unnecessary communication was a top concern for these business leaders.

    The study suggests that the way in which CEOs spend their time determines what gets done and also determines the culture of an organization. CEOs who spend too much time in direct decision making can gradually destroy employee initiative, while CEOs who don't spend enough time with their staff are at risk of being considered uninterested and uninvolved, extinguishing staff energy and passion.

    "Like everything else, time management is a balancing act between what needs to get done and creating the time and space for innovative and imaginative solutions," said Frere. "I never set my alarm clock and I take care of myself by working out and riding my dirt bike. But I still prioritize the rest of my time to make sure that I am present for my family, my clients and my employees."

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