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Harvard study of CEOs shows the importance of time management

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Harvard professors say it is essential to come back in with a long-term agenda.


A Harvard Business School study of how CEOs handle their time has yielded some fascinating findings.

Michael Porter, a University Professor at Harvard, based mostly at Harvard Business School, and Nitin Norhia, dean of Harvard Business School, started amassing information in 2006 and have simply printed an overview of their ends in the Harvard Business Review.

Porter and Norhia requested a complete of 27 CEOs, whose firms had a median annual income of $13.1 billion throughout the study interval, to maintain monitor of their time in 15-minute increments for 3 consecutive months.

I just lately spoke with Porter and he informed me that one of the defining traits of the only CEOs, in the case of time management, is that they are agenda-driven.


“A CEO needs to have their own personal agenda that they determine is where they want to spend their personal time” for the subsequent three to 6 months, Porter stated. “They can’t just react to all the requests” that are available in.

Interestingly, nonetheless, the authors write in HBR that the CEOs of their study spent, on common, about 36% of their time “in a reactive mode, handling unfolding issues, both internal and external.” (These points are totally different from crises, in that they are extra routine and usually much less impactful.)

The authors write that “it’s essential for CEOs to figure out appropriate responses to these unfolding situations.” If they do not, they might spend 100% of their time deliberating the best way to deal with situations resembling a member of the CEO’s workforce leaving a gathering trying upset.

Porter emphasised that the findings from his study apply to leaders basically — not simply CEOs. And certainly, most managers can relate to the feeling of attempting to focus on one venture, solely to be interrupted by a distinct worker with a distinct drawback each 5 minutes.

Planning for ‘reactive work’ could also be the best choice for busy managers

So what’s a supervisor to do? How is it attainable to schedule a day- or month-long interval, in case you by no means know what fires you may have to put out?


Writing for Forbes, Rebecca Newton, a professor of management at the London School of Economics, advises leaders to “plan realistic reactive time.” For instance, if you recognize that you just spend round 40% of your day reacting to staff’ wants and different altering circumstances, then solely schedule 60% of your day.

It sounds easy, however Newton acknowledges that “it’s tempting and seems sensible to plan 100% of our day.”

Meanwhile, Cal Newport, a professor of pc science at Georgetown University and the writer of “Deep Work,” writes on his weblog that you need to plan each minute of your workday — and planning for “reactive work” counts.

Newport additionally recommends that readers “give open-ended reactive blocks secondary purposes: e.g., “course of shopper requests; if I’ve downtime throughout this block, work on venture X.”

Bottom line: Intentional flexibility is vital, for CEOs and for managers at any degree. If nothing else, leaders will save themselves the frustration concerned in seeing their fastidiously crafted minute-by-minute agenda blown to items.

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About Jason Doughty

Jason M. Doughty writes for Investing and Strategy sections in AmericaRichest.

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