In today’s workplace, we’ve all got a million and one things to do. How, exactly, are you supposed to balance them all—and still clock out at fewer than, say, 60 hours a week? You’d have to seriously hone your time-management skills to do it. And to find out how, we turned to the people who we know have a lot on their plates: CEOs.
Here’s what they (and other big bosses) think you can do to best manage your time.
1. Get an early start.
“It’s a cliché, but you can make yourself a morning person. If you’re passionate about what you do, you can get yourself out of bed. You only need to wake up at 6 a.m. every day to find new time which can be amazingly productive, and by doing those essential morning tasks before 7a.m.—like responding to urgent, overnight emails, catching up on the latest industry news, and coordinating your calendar—you can take advantage of the rest of the world sleeping and complete those tasks without interruption.” — Jack Barmby, Founder and CEO of Gnatta
2. Keep a to-do list.
“I keep to-do list of short-term and long-term goals that I’m constantly shuffling around. Having a bird’s eye view of my responsibilities allows me to make quick decisions about what’s next. Being flexible about your priorities and responding quickly when they need to change is important.” — Kelsey Doorey, founder and CEO of Vow To Be Chic
“The first thing I do when I get up in the morning is I don’t get online and I don’t open my email. If I do, I’m lost for the rest of the day. Instead, I make a to-do list for the day, usually yesterday’s notes and memory. Then I prioritize that list—I mark what’s urgent, what must be done by end of day, and what can wait. Then I get started.” — Niki Radisic, founder of Krazy Fish
3. Make time for yourself.
“Make time for yourself to recharge and re-prioritize. I’m the first one to admit that while the number of responsibilities outweighs the minutes of the day by many multipliers and how important yet difficult it is to juggle them all successfully, I’ve become more conscious of the need to take the time to keep myself at my peak. By focusing on the here and now—such as turning off my phone when focusing on my family—and keeping myself healthy, and constantly re-prioritizing, I can be at my best to help everyone else reach their highest purpose and potential.” — Daniel Cane, CEO of Modernizing Medicine and co-founder of Blackboard, Inc.
“Take time to sharpen your ax—by which I mean, actually take the time to rest. I am a recovering workaholic who used to put in 15 hour days seven days a week, always thinking there was something else that I could do to be more effective. Little did I know that this was very inefficient. These days, I recommend doing a fully focused 50-minute sprint on your one task at hand, and then after that all-out assault, take 10 minutes up and away from your work area standing up and moving around and not worrying about work at all. This makes it easier to plot your day into hour intervals, but also keeps you and your team going strong.” — Alex Moen, cofounder and president of Match Made Coffee
4. Take advantage of your travel time.
“Every train, plane, or Uber you take is a chance to get some quality alone time to push things through. Whether it’s following up with people you’ve just met or some crucial product planning, take advantage of being away from your laptop to get things done. Also, if this is the window you need to sing happy birthday to a close friend down the phone, don’t be embarrassed to do so. You can even ask the Uber driver to join in.” — Jack Barmby, Founder and CEO of Gnatta
“The most important time management strategy I use is to maximize my down time. When I’m on a plane, train, bus or boat, I am working on offline work that is important to my business. I save offline work for those trips and get it out of the way. Because I am in one spot and can’t do much else, I am less distracted and get some of my best work done.” — Kean Graham, CEO of MonetizeMore
5. Do the worst thing first.
“I’ve found the best way to accomplish everything I need to in a day is to ‘eat the frog.’ Eating the frog is doing a hard task you are dreading. It keeps you from putting it off and when you finish, it’s easy to carry that momentum to your easier tasks. I started getting twice as much done every day once I implemented this.” —Max Page, founder of U.S. based CouponHippo
“Get the things you hate to do completed first. Stop putting things off until tomorrow or the next day. Get the calls, the reports, the meeting with the nasty client all out of the way first and the remainder of the day is easier. So if you have several things planned, look at your list to start the day and begin with those things that are most difficult, time consuming, or simply a pain in the neck. No one likes doing expense reports, calling difficult clients, or calling past-due clients but when you conduct these difficult tasks first, the day will go much easier.” — Drew Stevens, CEO of Orca Communications
6. Block your time.
“When I set to start my business, I became the accountant, administrative assistant, project manager, writer, business developer, and co-boss. That felt crushingly overwhelming because I always had something to do. To save myself from becoming a scatterbrained mess, I began practicing time blocking. Each day, I block out 30-minute to one-hour chunks of time to focus on one task—emphasis on one. That way, I can concentrate on one thing and do it well without getting distracted and ultimately doing a poor job across the board.” — Caroline Maurer, cofounder of Witty Kitty
“Set timers and give yourself a limited amount of time to accomplish some tasks. That way you don’t let yourself get caught in the perfection cycle and let one task take your whole day. Figure out what a reasonable amount of time is for that task, set the timer, and work fast so you get it done in time or early.” — Kimberly Giles, president and CEO of Claritypoint Coaching and Identiology Inc.
7. Mitigate your distractions.
“It’s important to manage distractions. Happily, open floor plans are starting to go out of style, which is good because they were always disastrous for work that requires high concentration. But if you need to protect your physical space, do so. If you need to talk to your coworkers about what the appropriate times to interrupt you are, do so. And manage your electronic interruptions too. Do away with the mobile notifications. Set your email client to check manually, so you can set times for inbox-clearing, rather than having it rule your day.” — William Gadea, founder of IdeaRocket