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Helping a CEO with time management

'Coach Kriengsak, I'm overwhelmed with work," Martin tells me. "I think there must be something wrong with the way I manage my work."

"Martin, what do you want to achieve from our session today?" I ask.

"I want to improve my time management."

"What will success look like at the end of our discussion?"

"I want to have at least one practical idea to better manage my time."

"That's good. Let's start with your current situation. Please tell me more about how you spend your time in a typical week."

"I think I spend 70% of my time in meetings. The remaining 30% is spent on administration -- dealing with email, signing documents and other general tasks."

"Okay. How would you prefer to divide your time?"

"I'd like to be able to set aside 20% of my time for thinking about the future. But right now there's no place for that in my schedule."

"Martin, if you really needed to find the time, where would that 20% come from?"

"I think 15% should come from meetings and the other 5% from administrative work."

"Which one concerns you more right now?"

"I have some ideas about streamlining the administrative work, so the challenge is how to reduce time spent in meetings."

"Martin, let me recap. You want to improve your time management. Currently you spend 70% of your time in meetings and 30% on administration. You'd like to have 20% of your time available for thinking about the future. You think you could obtain 5% by reducing administrative work and 15% from meetings. Your challenge is how to reduce meeting time by 15%. Is that correct?"

He nods.

"Martin, let's do dome brainstorming here. I want you to give me three ideas first. How do you reduce time spent in meetings in order to obtain 15%?"

"Okay. First, I'll stop going to some meetings. Second, I'll delegate others to go to some meetings, and third, I'll consolidate some meetings together."

"That's good. What else?"

"I'll disband some meetings altogether."

"Good. Anything else?"

"I'll ask the chairpersons of each meeting to study whether there is some other way to replace it."

"Good. Now you have five ideas. Anything else?"

"Nothing else, Coach."

"What are your next steps?"

"I think I'll discuss this with my chief operating officer, who is also a prime candidate to be my successor. I will assign him as the project champion to study all five actions. Then, he will propose to me how to recover 15% of my time from meetings. Doing this will have the additional benefit of helping him to understand the roles and responsibilities of the CEO. It could help him prepare for the future."

"Martin, what could go wrong?"

"I need to ensure that the COO fully understands what I want to achieve. Otherwise, he might misunderstand that it's just a low-value task instead of appreciating that it's a part of our succession planning.

"Further, I need to communicate to other senior executives who lead several meetings. Otherwise, there could be some unnecessary internal political warfare."

"That's good. What else do you want to talk about today?"

"Once I obtain 20% more time to think for the future, what should I do? I've only been the CEO for 12 months and as you can see, I haven't had time to think much about the longer term. Most of my time has been spent firefighting and learning about my new job."

"Martin, why did the board select you?"

"I think they selected me over the other two candidates because the of the CEO Vision presentation that I gave."

"What was the core message in your CEO Vision?"

"I explained that the future strategic direction of our business would be to maintain growth locally and to expand more in the Asean Economic Community. To do that we need to acquire strong and capable local joint-venture partners from each country in the AEC."

He stops to reflect and then exclaims, "Coach, I think I need to spend time focusing more on what I presented in the CEO Vision."

"How will you spend time doing that?"

"I need to have a solid, aggressive plan for JV acquisitions. In fact, I need to make it my number one priority project," Martin says, his voice taking on a passionate tone. "I have to come up with a specific action plan, down to weekly actions to make sure the plan stays on track. Then, each week, I need to review the progress of the actual versus the plan."

"Great. And what else?"

"Coach, I think we should stop now. I already got more that I expected from our session today. I'm really passionate about following through with what we've just discussed. Let's follow up in our next session then."

Kriengsak Niratpattanasai provides executive coaching in leadership and diversity management under the brand TheCoach. He can be reached at Daily inspirational quotations can be found on his Facebook fan page: Previous articles are archived at