Those of us who have been in the work world for a while have learned that there are a few professional skills that are absolutely essential for career success, regardless of your position or industry—and chief among them is sound time management. According to Psychology Today, “Time management is the ability to plan and control how someone spends the hours in a day to effectively accomplish their goals … It is important to establish clear goals and priorities in order to set aside non-essential tasks that can eat up time, and to monitor where the time actually goes.”
Most of us have learned what happens when we fail to effectively plan and utilize the time we have available to handle important work tasks—things get chaotic, our stress and anxiety levels shoot through the roof, our ability to focus and perform suffers, we lose track of key details, and we tend to accomplish less (sometimes significantly less) than we hoped to. Not a formula for success, is it?
Conversely, those of us who have embraced sound time management techniques have felt its magical effects: we’re suddenly able to develop realistic plans for effectively tackling projects both large and small, we dazzle and amaze our colleagues by our ability to consistently stay on schedule on tasks, we’re able to stay calm and collected even during the most volatile and challenging of times, and we become able to make full and productive use of the hours we have each day to handle our priorities.
It’s hard to argue with results, and having a to-do checklist full of completed items at the end of each day makes a pretty compelling case for the value of time management. And it’s not just those at the lower rungs of the corporate ladder who benefit from using time management tricks. Those at the very top of the professional food chain—the bigwigs and decision-makers with the big offices and fancy job titles like CEO—have also developed their own time management tricks, which have not only helped them rise to the top but also helped keep them there.
It makes perfect sense—CEOs of large companies often have daunting workloads and jam-packed schedules, and their ability to handle their jobs effectively not only affects their own livelihoods, but also the health of their companies and the employees who work for them. So, you can safely bet that the time management tricks they have adopted are proven to work.
Business Insider recently followed the CEOs of some of the world’s largest corporations and found some striking similarities in how they manage their time at work.
They avoid overload
Simply put, no one can do it all, and those of us who learn this and avoid trying to take on too much responsibility all by ourselves are better equipped to create realistic plans for handling our workloads. Sure, trying to do as much as we absolutely can to be productive and keep things moving forward is a noble pursuit, but the truth is that it’s ultimately a futile one—overload is certain to either result in burnout, less-than-optimal results, unachieved goals, or some combination of these. Wise CEOs have reached their positions by figuring out where the tipping point is between maximum productivity and overload to avoid going overboard.
They delegate effectively
Effective CEOs know that they’re only as good as the people and teams they surround themselves with. One person—even a super CEO—just can’t handle everything themselves; in order for a business to operate smoothly, CEOs know that they have to delegate responsibilities to trusted subordinates so that they can devote their time, energy, and focus to the higher-level tasks that demand their attention.
They plan tomorrow before it comes
Sure, sometimes plans change, and savvy CEOs know that they always need to be prepared to effectively pivot towards and react to the unexpected, but they also are aware of the benefit of planning in advance whenever possible. Building daily, weekly, and even monthly schedules as early as possible allows for effective strategic planning of each hour of the day and lets you maximize the time you have to devote to work tasks while avoiding the unpredictable chaos of unstructured time.
Effective time management is both an art and a skill that often requires taking many variables into account and considerable trial and error. But whether you’re just starting out in the work world or are a seasoned veteran, developing strategies for making the most of your time each day is a wise investment in your productivity and future.
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