How CEOs Spend Their Day. And How They Should.
As a culture, we (Americans) seem obsessed with how CEOs spend their day. Particularly before breakfast. Type in “What CEOs do” into Google’s search field and watch the auto-populated search terms fly up… What CEOs do in the morning, What CEOs do all day, What CEOs do before breakfast, How CEOs spend their day, etc. There’s even a plethora of articles about what you need to do in order to be a CEO before the age of 30. It’s exhausting.
However, I’m part of the obsessed.
When I started my company, I was convinced that I wasn’t just an entrepreneur, I was a CEO. I guess you could make a case for that because it was (and still is!) my responsibility to run the company. But really, I’m an entrepreneur most of the time. That doesn’t stop me from being captivated by CEOs, how they manage their time, how they run their day, and how they seem to have it all. I became fixated on how CEOs spend their day.
That’s where my research began. I devoured anything I could get my hands on about CEOs and how they got to be where they are. I figured if I could structure my day and my activities in a similar way then my company might see some of the same success. Plausible, right? And then a realization hit me. They aren’t really CEOs.
Maybe you’re not really a CEO either.
You see, start reading some of the articles about how CEOs spend their day and you’re bombarded with “checking emails and skipping lunch” phrases. Sure they all add in exercise and family time too which is fantastic but according to interviews, how CEOs spend their day — how they REALLY spend their day — is more along the lines of never sleep, check emails all the time, never eat lunch, first one in, last one out, and squeeze in some phone meetings after the kids go to bed.
I get it. Being a CEO is demanding and there’s only so many hours in the day. But the definition of a CEO (according to businessdictionary.com is:
Top executive responsible for a firm’s overall operations and performance. He or she is the leader of the firm, serves as the main link between the board of directors (the board) and the firm’s various parts or levels, and is held solely responsible for the firm’s success or failure.
In my opinion, how can you be responsible for your company’s performance if you can’t effectively run your own? How can you be responsible for the success or failure of your company, if you are running close to empty?
I know what you’re about to say. Well, Lindsay, not everyone needs sleep. Not everyone needs food.
Are you listening to yourself? Sure, we all need varying degrees of sleep and food BUT if you spend all your years on little sleep and little food you will NOT be operating at peak performance.
And I dare to say, neither will your company.
Let’s look at how CEOs spend their day, and how they should.
How CEOs spend their day:
- They wake up early. REALLY early. And most of them say they start checking email before they even get out of bed.
- They exercise in the morning. Bonus if you can check email while running on the treadmill.
- Grab coffee and breakfast. Use this time to chat with your family if they’re up or if not, bonus — more time to check your email.
- Have your driver drive you to the office so you can check your email and listen to voicemail.
- Arrive at the office and either check email or start on your meetings for the day
- Have family time when you get home. (I approve of this.)
- Once kids go to bed, start checking your voicemail, email, and have phone meetings.
How CEOs SHOULD spend their day:
- Wake up early. REALLY early. But don’t start checking email right away. Spend some quality time with your spouse. If he/she isn’t an early bird, use this time for some self-care.Whatever that means to you. If your definition of self-care involves checking email your priorities are severely out of whack.
- Exercise in the morning. While you’re doing this, have your assistant go through your email and flag the ones that need an immediate response or are very important for you to see. (Trust me. People overuse the “cc” portion of email and a quarter of what’s in your inbox isn’t really necessary for you to spend time wading through.)
- Grab coffee and breakfast. More family time if they’re up. If they aren’t, plan out your day.
- Check those emails your assistant flagged as important while your driver is driving you to the office. Reply to the ones needing a response.
- Arrive at the office and spend at least the first hour, longer if you can manage, doing YOUR most important task for the day. Do NOT spend this time reacting to what someone else thinks your priority is. This is your company and your life. Do what is most important to you. The world can wait.
- Then go about your day of meetings, emails, managing operations etc.
- Have family time when you get home.
- Once kids go to bed, check your email, phone, etc but only if you promise me that you will go to sleep at a decent hour so you can wake up REALLY early the next day.
While I put in the “how CEOs spend their day” list in order to feed your obsession, it really boils down to the fact that I think we need to redefine what it means to be a CEO.
And that new definition and my musings on it is what I’m sending out to our exclusive World Domination newsletter tomorrow. It’s the best of what I do, promise.
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