As part of my job, I talk to hundreds of CEOs every year trying to identify the elements that separates great leaders from average ones. One thing that all great CEOs have in common is that they have control over their calendar.
To put that another way, the great CEOs take control of their schedules rather than allowing their schedules to take control of them. That’s how they make sure they have enough time to refresh their brains while also making sure they are ready to take on new opportunities when they arrive. They do all of this while focusing on a limited set of things that truly make a difference. Average CEOs, on the other hand, get consumed by their day-to-day schedules and fail to pursue the kinds of new challenges that can actually push their business forward and within their time allocation, they are not focused.
Do you have control over your calendar? If you’re not sure, ask yourself the following questions to find out:
1. Are you working more than 60 hours a week? If you are, that means you’re putting in 12-hour workdays. And when you add in the time you spend traveling, eating and sleeping, you’re left with absolutely no time to mentally recover. You’ve also allowed yourself to become so booked, you can’t fit any new opportunities into your day–such as thinking about making a new acquisition or having lunch with a promising new hire. You’re super busy–but not in a good way. You’re burning yourself out. When a CEO tells me they are working 80 hours a week, it’s pretty clear that they don’t control their calendar.
2. Are you constantly rearranging your schedule? If you find that your calendar is so booked that any small change in your day leads to a ripple of cancellation and reschedule–that means you are overbooked. Just because you have every day scheduled down to the minute isn’t really a good thing because, if you want to add something new, it means that you might need to rearrange your day or even your week to make it happen. You need more flexibility than that.
3. Do you always eat lunch at your desk? If you’re too busy to take a break for lunch so you spend it eating and working inside your office, then you’ve lost control over your schedule. You need to make time to step away, get some fresh air and meet some new people. It sends a really poor message to the rest of the company when the boss is always holed up in his or her office all the time. A productive use of the time is to bring someone along with you, that way you can do some work and get away from the office for a little.
4. Can you commit to a meeting several months in advance? What happens when someone offers you the chance to attend a conference two months out? Do you immediately realize you’re already booked even that far ahead? If so, you’ve lost control over your schedule. The corollary to this is that you commit, but tell them it is in pencil because–things might change.
5. Do you travel more than 50% of the time? Travel is an essential part of doing business. But if you’re outside the office more than half the time, you’re likely wasting enormous amounts of time in planes, cars and everywhere in between. How can you expect to add new things to your calendar when you’re away so much of the time?
6. Does the idea of taking a weeklong vacation scare you? I’ve personally seen CEOs go white in the face when I’ve suggested that they take a week away from the office. Just for fun, I usually ask them how they feel about two weeks to get a reaction after that. They can’t even imagine the idea of being away for that long because they have too much to do (and don’t have people that can perform)–a clear sign that they’ve lost control of their calendar.
If you answered yes to any of these questions–or worse, to several of them–then these are clear signs that you’ve indeed lost control of your schedule. Fortunately, there are some techniques for wresting your calendar back, which is what we’ll dig into in our next post.