Top 4 time management tips to CEOs from Monkey Puzzle Consulting

By Karen Meager and John McLachlan

Karen Meager and John McLachlan set up Monkey Puzzle Training and Consulting to support leaders and teams in their professional and personal growth through training, coaching and business strategy events. They take the latest scientific and academic thinking and make it accessible and usable in peoples’ work and everyday life. 
Monkey Puzzle teach people to understand their thought processes and why they (and others) behave in the way they do. These skills enable individuals to choose how they want to behave to get the results they want, which leads to a less stressful, more fulfilling life. Download the first chapter of Karen & John's latest book here.


As a CEO, it can be very difficult to allocate your time effectively to keep up with the demands of the business, colleagues, and clients as with leadership, come increased levels of responsibility. It is easy to feel pulled in a variety of directions and become distracted when an immediate concern arises that needs your attention, especially as members of the team will regularly come straight to you with any issues that present themselves. Feeling like you are spinning plates and one could quite easily fall can quickly drain you of the initial passion you had for your business, but by implementing the following strategies you can become a time master so you can lead the business to the highest levels of success.

1. Ditch ‘time management’

‘Time management’ is a phrase that is regularly used in relation to how you allocate time to each task during the day, but actually, this is a myth. You cannot actually manage time, only how you use it and there isn’t really one ‘best way’ as every individual’s preference is unique. Thinking of time using ‘time management’ terms implies that it can be controlled in some way. Rather than feel pressured into working in a certain way that works well for other people, such as micro to-do lists, it is much more beneficial to find what works for you and aligns best with the responsibilities you have. We all have the same amount of time to work with, and we allocate this is based on what we think is most important. If you take the time to do a time-audit of where you use your time, you will be able to judge what is most important and where you are time-wasting.

2. Move away from multitasking and perfectionism

It is commonly thought that multitasking automatically makes us more efficient as we are able to get through more tasks at a quicker rate, but is this actually the best use of time? Multi-tasking lulls you into a false sense of security that you are being ‘productive’ rather than being an accurate idea of your output. Your brain can only truly focus on one thing at a time. By quickly flicking from one task to another, you are not making full use of the processing power of your brain and this divided attention will hinder your ability to find the best solution to each task. This may not be an issue for small tasks, but complex tasks require your full attention so make sure you focus on one task at a time to see the best results. Similarly, perfectionism is also unproductive use of time as it means you will spend an excessive period trying to make sure things are ‘perfect’. It’s a much better use of time to take action and revise your process along the way. 

3. Empower members of your team

Spending time working with middle and senior managers will provide you with more time to spend on other tasks that cannot be delegated to others. If your team behind you are empowered with the skills needed to solve issues that arise, they will not need to come to you with these problems which automatically frees up more of your time. Similarly, when creating your senior leadership team, ensure you have a variety of difficult skills and strengths present as different people will be more skilled in different areas such as conflict management or negotiation, for example. Whilst taking the time to get to know their strengths will initially seem time consuming, it gives you a much better gauge on whether you are comfortable with people representing you in client meetings and whether they embody the company vision. Creating these meaningful relationships means you can clearly explain your views on an issue and trust they will be replicated even when you are not able to be present.

4. Root causes, not patching up - is there a theme?

Sometimes it feels a better use of your time to put a quick fix in place to solve an issue so that you can carry on with your day, or perhaps hope it goes away, but in the majority of cases, this is not the best use of your time as it is likely the issue with return if its cause is not dealt with at the root. Setting aside time to work through a complex issue will allow you to find out its root cause, rather than fighting individual battles when the problem reoccurs. You could involve middle and senior managers in these discussions to gain further ideas as it always beneficial to hear alternative perspectives and it also strengthens their problem solving skills. 

When you take the time to review recurring problems you may begin to see a theme forming. Is staff wellbeing continually suffering? Rather than only implementing reactive strategies, take a look at your office culture as a whole to prevent any further people from suffering in the future. If you are regularly expecting employees to work longer than their contracted hours, you need to revise this to focus on an individual's outputs. You could test solutions to ongoing themes in one department first in a low-risk way before rolling this out across the organisation. Taking the time to unpack issues to see their underlying causes and any recurring things will save you time in the long-term. 



Working out how best to use your time as a CEO can be a difficult process, especially as many different groups are often relying on you. However, it is important to take a step back to decide what is really important and ditch time-related myths as mastering time is personal to you. By looking at root causes and empowering other members of your team you will be able to free up time for other tasks. These steps will help you on your way to becoming a time master!


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