How CEOs Waste Time: 5 Things CEOs Do That Waste Time

By Ted Skinner

dateWed, Sep 21, 2022 @ 06:00 AM

Frustrated Middle market CEOCEOs spend their days working long hours, managing employees, and dealing with shareholders. They don’t have much time to focus on their personal lives or hobbies.

CEOs are often expected to put in long hours at work. In addition, they also deal with numerous responsibilities outside of the office, such as family life, health care, and retirement plans. This means they rarely get enough sleep, exercise, or even take breaks from work.

While some CEOs enjoy relaxing with friends and family, others prefer to stay busy. The key is finding the balance between work and play. Here are five ways CEOs can improve their productivity without sacrificing quality time with loved ones.


How CEOs Waste Time #1: They Tolerate Unproductive Meetings

Every team in your organization has weekly meetings, but how many are productive? What percentage of their time do they spend on their department's strategic or operational goals? Are they in synch with the progress in other departments that may impact them?  

We've found that CEOs that run weekly adjustment meetings rather than status update meetings are much more likely to meet their goals than other teams. That meeting format spends 80% of the time-solving problems and only 20% on status updates. This encourages productivity, and team engagement as weekly meetings become engaging.

  • Organizations spend roughly 15% of their time on meetings, with surveys showing that 71% of those meetings are considered unproductive. (via Zippia

Download Rhythm for OKRs: Simplify Your OKR Process

How CEOs Waste Time #2: Let the job be All-Consuming

"I'm not a fan of the word 'work' because it implies that there is something that needs to be accomplished." However, if we're going to talk about a chief executive officer's job, then perhaps we should start with what they actually do.

The CEO is responsible for leading and managing an organization. They are responsible for setting a strategy, hiring people, motivating them, and ensuring everything runs smoothly. The CEO also has to deal with all kinds of issues ranging from legal matters to financial problems. And while some CEOs may have more power than others, most will still need help from other executives when things get tough.

So, ensure that you prioritize your organization's strategic goals when working to maximize your effectiveness as a leader. So, before you do anything else, you must ensure that you have the proper foundation for your company and have a clear 3-5 year strategic plan.

  • CEOs conducted business on 79% of weekend days, putting in an average of 3.9 hours daily, and on 70% of vacation days, averaging 2.4 hours daily. (


How CEOs Waste Time #3: They Don't Prioritize Time for Personal Well-Being

I’ve been thinking a lot about priorities lately. I think we all have them, but they can get muddled and confused when you are busy with work or family responsibilities. It is easy to forget that your health and happiness should be at the top of your list. Time management is crucial for the things that make you happy. Make sure you have time for family, friends, and interests - believe it or not, this will make you a better leader.

We all know that stress causes illness, so taking care of yourself first makes sense. But too often, we allow the day-to-day fires of work to catch up with us. We need some time away from it to make ourselves feel good. I can't tell you the number of times I hear of problems being solved at the CEO's happy place: at the gym, in the water, at the beach, fishing, etc.

  • "If you want to improve productivity, start by improving personal well-being." - David Allen.


How CEOs Waste Time #4: They Can't Avoid the Lure of Email

As email has become a ubiquitous part of our lives, it's hard to imagine life without it, and yet we're still learning how to use it effectively. The fact that email is so pervasive means that there are many opportunities for CEOs to reach out to their customers and employees in new ways. Remember to schedule a time to respond to emails rather than watch the inbox fill up as the day goes on. You have to avoid interruptions and allow time to focus on the key long-term drivers of your business.

 An effective schedule for many executives has been the three times a day rule. You check your email in the morning, mid-day, and then again at the end of the day, where you wrap everything up that you need to complete the day. You'll find that you are much more invested when using scheduled time for email rather than trying to fit it in on the run. On average, a CEO spends 24 percent of their day in electronic communication.

Download Rhythm for OKRs: Simplify Your OKR Process

How CEOs Waste Time #5: They Don't Have Priorities Drive their Agenda

Harvard Business review found this to have some of the highest variation levels in recent research. CEOs reported time devoted to their core agenda from 14% to 80% of their work hours. This is a wide variation. Of course, the amount of time you spend on this will vary by industry and how long you've been in business, but it shows that the best leaders focus more of their time on the big things and stay agenda driven.

Take a look at your top priorities for the year. Okay, jot down the top three. Now, look at your calendar. How many of those activities directly impact the top priorities? Those that don't may need to be avoided; you should run a meeting audit to clear your schedule for the important stuff.

In addition, if you are not prioritizing your time, you will likely spend most of your time doing non-value-added activities like answering emails, attending meetings, and making phone calls. If you don't spend enough time on critical tasks, you won't achieve your personal or professional goals.

Here’s to a productive day!

-Ted Skinner

CEO Survival Guide

View Additional Middle Market CEO Articles:

CEO Focus: What Should a CEO Focus on?

How CEOs Grow Accountable Leaders & Teams [Video]

A Leader's Template: 6 Questions to Ask in Your Next One-on-One Meeting

5 Insights You'll Learn from Executive Coaching

Key Performance Indicators for Employees

The Five C's of Team Accountability

Strategic vs. Tactical Leaders: Which Are You? [Video]

Daily Routines of Successful CEOs [Infographic]

Ted Skinner


Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images