Time: Our Most Important Resource

As I think about this new season of operating, everything has changed. Rhythms, work environments, products, and business models are different. 

It’s a dynamic season. One that requires a lot of brainpower. Here’s how much of my time is occupied right now—

  • Understanding what has happened to the economy over the last few weeks.
  • Digging into how my team is doing and responding accordingly.
  • Joining calls to understand what our clients are working on and what they need. 
  • Building new products and services based on those needs and our clients’ “new” jobs.
  • Reading about how the world might look in the coming months so that I can prepare for the future.

In other words, I’ve spent most of my time focusing on the monetary and human resources around me. Why? Because they feel like the most essential resources to pay attention to, especially in COVID-19 times.

Yet, the demands of this season have helped me realize that there is another resource we need to prioritize—how we actually spend our time.

Why We Need to Focus On How We Use Our Time

I heard Jay Brown at Crown Castle International speak last week, and he said something profound— “Time is the scarcest resource we have.”

If you’re anything like me, you typically don’t treat time as scarce. I’ll say to myself that “I’ll be able to work on this stuff forever,” or “I’ll be able to ‘find the time.’”

But that’s not true. We only have a set amount of time in this world, making it the most scarce resource we have, which means that we need to be intentional about the way it’s spent. 

How CEOs Are Balancing Their Time

One of my favorite studies is Michael E. Porter and Nitin Nohria’s analysis of how CEOs use their time. They looked at 27 CEOs’ calendars in detail for months, to better understand what CEOs actually do with their time. Here’s what they found—

On average, well-balanced CEOs spend 72% of their working time in meetings and 28% of time working alone.

Meeting time is allocated into these categories: 

  • 70% internal meetings
  • 16% with business partners (i.e., customers or strategic relationships)
  • 9% focused on outside commitments (i.e., local initiatives, ext boards, etc.)
  • 5% developing and working with their board

When  it comes down to the types of things they’re working on throughout their day, both in meetings and individually, it’s broken down like this:

  • Strategy: 21%
  • Organization/culture: 16%
  • Functional/business reviews: 25%
  • People/relationships: 25%
  • Other (Planning, Crisis, etc): 13% 

And, CEOs who have effectively managed their time protect 25% for spontaneous issues or priorities that might arise. 

The biggest takeaway for me is that, if I’m going to have a calendar that looks like the top CEOs’, I need to put in the work to allocate my scarce time well and have it reflect something like the chart below.

What I Did to Adjust My Calendar

I’m working with a fantastic coach, Brian Howard. As we’ve been talking over the last few weeks, Brian has been pushing me in two critical ways around my calendar.

First, he asked if I’ve outlined my top seven current priorities. And, while we are incredibly goal-oriented and focused at GAN and GAN Ventures, I haven’t spent much time prioritizing my calendar. I know what I should focus on for the quarter, but that historically hasn’t translated into weekly priorities.

Brian had me outline my top priorities and the hours needed to accomplish each one. They ended up being the following:

  • Team Meetings— executive team 1:1s and meetings with the entire team (10 hours). 
  • Time to Work on the Business (WOTB)— building our future products and services  (4 hours).
  • Growth Meeting (GGWM)—time to hear about and weigh in on current partnerships and products  (2.5 hours).
  • Time to Work in the Business (WITB)—prep time and time to do follow-ups from previous meetings (3 hours).
  • Meet with Partners, Members, and Potential GAN Ventures investments (5 hours).
  • Lead our Boards (1 hour).
  • Write and Edit My Writing (3 hours).

This calendar totals 28.5 hours, and I usually work 45 hour weeks on average. So, I added an extra 1.5 hours every day as “Get Stuff Done” (GSD) time, and then spontaneous time on Friday for catching up with the team, checking off any final to-do’s, or having a team happy hour.

Secondly, Brian made a great point that in this season we need to watch our energy, especially as CEOs. We’re all balancing a lot. I’ve added two new habits to help protect my energy levels. 

  1. I stop working at 5:00pm and don’t look at my computer again until the following business day. It gives my brain time to recover and prepare for the next day. 
  2. I take no more than five external calls a day. I find that if I take more than five, I’m spent.

I have built a new template for how my life looks every week, and my visual is below (thanks, Brian, for the template, and Regan Smith on the GAN team for putting my calendar together). The code for each area is above and any white space is time set aside for external calls.

How To Lay Out Your Calendar

I have no idea what is most demanding of your time right now, so I don’t want to tell you exactly how your calendar should look. Yet, here is where I would start if I were in your shoes.

  1. Define the top seven priorities for your time and how much time each priority will take. Then, block time for these priorities on your calendar. 
  2. Amidst COVID-19 stressors, consider how much additional time you need to get stuff done. I’m finding that my brain is operating at around 80% of what it was before COVID-19 because there is just a lot more to think about right now.
  3. Decide how much time you need each day to do tactical, non-meeting work (GSD).
  4. Think about many calls or meetings you can handle a day, and set a limit for yourself.
  5. Ask yourself, “Does this calendar bring me joy?” Because if it feels constraining to you, you won’t love your job. Figure out what rhythms you need and want to have. When Regan presented this calendar to me, I (literally) yelled with excitement because it was the perfect calendar, for me, and it finally came to life on paper.

Happy Calendaring.