Do you ever feel like there aren't enough hours in the day?

    If you run your own business, that feeling can be constant.

    With that in mind, have you ever wondered what it might be like to run a massive global corporation?

    The chief executives of these huge companies are running far more complex businesses, yet they still have to sleep every day, see their families, try to keep fit and healthy, and get some alone time to stay sane.

    How do they do it?

    How CEOs manage time

    Michael Porter and Nitin Nohria have been studying this precise issue and in a recent Harvard Business Review article, How CEOs manage time, they’ve shared their findings.

    Here are some of their opening comments:

    “While CEOs are the ultimate power in their companies, they face challenges and constraints that few others recognise.

    "Running a large global company is an exceedingly complex job. The scope of the organisation’s managerial work is vast… It also involves a wide array of constituencies — shareholders, customers, employees, the board, the media, government, community organisations and more. Unlike any other executive, the CEO has to engage with them all. 

    "On top of that, the CEO must be the internal and external face of the organisation through good times and bad.

    "CEOs, of course, have a great deal of help and resources at their disposal. However they, more than anyone else in the organisation, confront an acute scarcity of one resource. 

    "That resource is time. There is never enough time to do everything that a CEO is responsible for. Despite this, CEOs remain accountable for all the work of their organisations.”

    One of the key observations from the authors is that: “Where and how CEOs are involved, determines what gets done and signals priorities for others.”

    While your business will be several orders of magnitude simpler than a large public company, the same principle applies.

    So where do you spend your time?

    And more importantly, does your allocation of time align with the priorities and objectives you’ve mapped out in your business plan?

    The capacity calculator

    Dominika Sieradzka, an experienced business and operations consultant who deals with all things team and back office, has been helping some clients build what she calls a capacity calculator. It helps them work out where their time goes and to plan ahead more effectively.

    I tried this exercise for myself at the beginning of 2018 using the following process and got these answers:

    Step one: How many days have I actually got for work?
    • There are 365 days in the year
    • Subtract my holidays for the year (7 weeks = 35 work days)
    • Subtract any weekends for the year (104 days)
    • Subtract any public holidays (8 days)

    Total: 218 days left for working.

    Step two: How many days have I already committed to doing?
    • Add in all the days you know you already have scheduled to work.

    Total: In my case that came to 161 days of work.

    Step three: What do I want to focus on this year?
    • Special projects (32 days)
    • Speaking engagements (6 days)
    • Attend Insiders Forum Conference in San Diego (7 days)

    Total: 45 days of work.

    Total free days for new work this year: 12.

    The reality is it took me several rounds of working out this exercise in a spreadsheet to get to this level of clarity.

    In the first draft or two, I couldn’t see how I was going to get it all done and had a bit of a panic. Then I sat with my team, got some input from them on what was important this year, and refined my capacity calculator until it worked.

    If I allow for a few bad days, illness, or unexpected challenges that could come from my personal or professional life, there’s not much slack. I also want to have some availability for exciting new projects that might come my way during the year. So it’s very tight.

    What I see with my clients who’ve done the capacity calculator work with Dominika is that once all the core activities are added in, they’re tight too. Things like:

    • Annual review meetings with clients
    • New client meeting slots
    • Second and third (and occasionally more) meeting slots with new clients that move ahead
    • Weekly level 10 meetings
    • Team meetings
    • Business planning time
    • Attending conferences
    • Reading time
    • Management tasks
    • Free space available for your team to get access to you
    • Mentoring and developing key team members

    I’m sure you can think of loads more.

    When you put it all down in a spreadsheet you can see why you have so little time.

    That’s a powerful realisation to have. You can’t do it all.

    The question then becomes, “What will I spend my limited time on this year?”

    That’s when you take control of your business and your life. How you manage your time tells you and your team about what your priorities are.

    Working to the plan

    Having worked out where you want to spend your time, I recommend getting it all into your diary at the start of the year.

    It’s important to enter it all in, even if you have to make some assumptions about what days might be allocated to different tasks.

    You can always move days around if a client wants to see you on a day you've allocated for something else. However, by already allocating the day you don’t double up, or overcommit yourself inadvertently.

    Having planned your time deliberately and consciously in advance, the only thing to do now is work to your plan.

    Every couple of weeks I recommend looking at the next six weeks in your diary, and making sure that everything in there is in line with your plans for the year. This needs constant vigilance.

    I have an amazing virtual assistant, Emma, who keeps everything organised. However, every two or three weeks we will have a quick look at what’s coming up in the diary for the next six weeks. This helps to ensure I’m spending my time on the things that matter; not the things that might be screaming the loudest.

    I recommend you do the same.

    If you're not 100 per cent sure of how you're performing in this area, go back through your diary for the last three months and do a quick analysis of where you actually spent your time.

    Doing some capacity planning ensures your business is moving forward with your hands on the reins.

    Anything less and you run the risk of being on the horse, but not in control of its direction. In that situation, running faster might actually be taking you away from your stated objectives.

    What do you spend your time on?

    Let me know how you go.

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