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What are the biggest time wasters for CEOs?


A study of tech CEOs recently found that roughly 30% of their time is wasted on emails and another 30% is lost in meetings. That’s a lot of time that could be dedicated to far more productive activities.

So, how can CEOs become more efficient? Eliminating or minimising these four time wasters is a good place to start.

1. Meetings

CEOs spent the vast majority of their day in meetings. While some meetings are valuable to move the business forward, many do not require CEO involvement. So how can CEOs improve the efficiency of meetings or avoid them all together?

It sounds obvious, but just say no. A simple, respectful “Sorry I cannot attend” to a meeting will not only free up your time, but also encourage the meeting organiser to think twice in the future about inviting you. Encourage your employees to think critically about whether your attendance is required, and if not, leave you off the invite.

If you must attend the meeting, make sure there is an agenda to ensure the meeting stays on track. Suggest to the meeting organiser that you can only attend for the first fifteen minutes. This will tell the organiser that anything you need to address needs to be dealt with at the start of the meeting.

2. Emails

Most people have their emails open all day meaning they receive notifications when a new message comes in. This reduces productivity as you are taken out of your project and forced to focus on something else everytime you’re notified about a new email. Even if only for a short time, the few minutes you take to read the email and respond is taken from the project at hand. So, how can you be more efficient with your emails?

Batch your emails or block out time to answer them. Rather than sending instant responses, batch the emails so you respond in blocks of time. This means that emails become a project or task that you can dedicate time to focus on.

Don’t request to be CCed or BCCed on every email communication. Reading conversations that don’t require your input simply wastes time. Be clear with your employees that you only want to be CCed or BCCed on emails when your input is expressly required.

If you have a PA or EA, involve them in responding to and filtering your email messages so only the most important emails remain for you to respond to.

3. Miscommunications and employee conflicts

All too often CEOs are forced to deal with employee conflict or miscommunication. While miscommunication can have a profound effect on those involved and may impact your business, it is not just the role of the CEO to iron these problems out.

To reduce your engagement in employee issues and miscommunication you could engage a communication or HR specialist who can mediate between employees during time of conflict and take the time to understand and solve the problem at hand. It also makes sense to make middle management accountable for these issues to save you time and contribute to their development.

4. Constant interruptions and technology problems

When things don’t go to plan and your technology breaks down it can be a lengthy and infuriating process that stops you achieving tasks for the day. The same goes for constant interruptions. While each interruption may only take a few minutes, this adds up and stops productivity and creativity. So how do you avoid this?

With technology problems, leverage your team. Communicate to your team what the problem is, empower them to take action to solve the problem and request an estimate on when you can expect things to be fixed. Then, if possible, reschedule your day to avoid technology while the fix is occurring.

With constant interruptions, implement an open/closed door policy and clearly communicate this to all employees. If your door is shut, do not interrupt. This closed door time will give you free air to focus on your projects.

While this list is not exhaustive, it gives insight into some of the most commonly experienced time wasters faced by CEOs. By employing these techniques you can gain back some of the wasted time in your day to increase productivity and make progress on what you need to achieve.

About Ilona Vass'

Ilona Vass is the Director and Founder of Dancing With the Dragons. Ilona is a licenced and certified practitioner of PCM and LOD systems, and results coach, and has a Certificate in human resources and organisational development. Dancing with the Dragons assists companies and their leadership teams to develop a passionate a supportive team, ensuring that company culture equals a profitable business.

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