How Successful SMB CEOs Manage Their Time

Time management is no joke when you’re the CEO of a small to medium business or nonprofit. There are always a million things vying for your attention – email, meetings, calls, strategy, hiring, fires to put out…you know the drill. The days slip by and you wonder “Where the heck did the time go?”

I’ve picked up some hard-won lessons over the years on how to take control of my calendar as a CEO. Here are my top tips to help you master your time management:

1. Implement the 2-Minute Rule

In the world of SMB leadership, it’s often the little tasks that add up and consume valuable time. The 2-Minute Rule is a simple yet highly effective strategy. When you encounter a task that can be completed in two minutes or less, do it immediately. This prevents these small tasks from accumulating and becoming overwhelming.

2. Embrace the Pomodoro Technique

Productivity often thrives in short, focused bursts. That’s where the Pomodoro Technique shines. Work in concentrated 25-minute intervals (Pomodoros), followed by a brief break. Use a timer to keep you accountable. This technique not only boosts productivity but also prevents burnout by incorporating regular breaks.

3. Prioritize with a Daily MIT

Every day, successful SMB CEOs identify their Most Important Task (MIT). This is the one task that, if accomplished, will make the day a success. Prioritize this task above all others and tackle it first thing in the morning when your energy and focus are at their peak.

4. Set Time Limits for Meetings

Meetings can easily consume your day if left unchecked. To regain control of your time, set strict time limits for meetings, and stick to them. Consider using a timer to ensure discussions stay on track and focused.

5. Master Email Management

Emails can quickly become a time sink. Implement smart email management strategies: schedule specific times for email checks instead of constant monitoring, use filters and labels to organize your inbox, and unsubscribe from newsletters and notifications that don’t provide value.

6. Practice the Two-Minute Meditation

Before diving into a demanding task or meeting, take two minutes to clear your mind and focus. Deep breaths and mindfulness can enhance your concentration and productivity.

7. Emphasize the Power of “No”

The ability to say “no” is crucial for effective time management. Politely but firmly decline requests or commitments that don’t align with your priorities. Protecting your time is a sign of strength, not weakness.

8. Use the “Eat the Frog” Technique

Mark Twain’s famous saying, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day,” holds true for SMB CEOs. Tackle your most challenging or least desirable task first thing in the morning. Once it’s done, the rest of the day will feel easier by comparison.

9. Leverage Time Management Apps

Explore time management apps such as Trello, Asana, or Todoist. These tools can help you organize tasks, set deadlines, and track progress efficiently, reducing the mental load and helping you stay on top of your responsibilities.

10. Delegate with Clarity

Effective delegation is both a time-saver and a team-empowerment tool. Clearly define your expectations when delegating tasks. Provide context, set clear deadlines, and empower your team to take ownership of their responsibilities.

11. Batch Similar Activities

Group similar tasks together and tackle them during designated time blocks. For instance, handle all your phone calls, emails, or creative work in one block rather than sporadically throughout the day. This reduces context-switching and improves focus.

12. Conduct a Weekly Review

Set aside time each week to review your goals, achievements, and upcoming tasks. Adjust your priorities as needed to stay aligned with your objectives. A weekly review ensures you’re consistently moving towards your long-term vision.

13. Limit Multitasking

Contrary to popular belief, multitasking often hinders productivity. Focus on one task at a time to complete it more effectively and efficiently. This approach reduces errors and increases the quality of your work.

14. Outsource and Automate

Identify tasks that can be outsourced or automated to save you valuable time. Consider hiring a virtual assistant for administrative tasks or using marketing automation tools to streamline processes.

15. Take Short Breaks

Regular short breaks, lasting 5-10 minutes, can rejuvenate your mind and prevent burnout. Use this time to stretch, walk around, or practice mindfulness to recharge your mental energy.

By implementing these practical tips and strategies, you can master the art of time management and become a more successful SMB CEO. Time is your most valuable asset, and with the right tools and techniques, you can use it to drive your business forward while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

As CEOs, we confront critical choices – growth strategies, succession planning, employee engagement, leadership development…the list seems endless. The weight of these decisions can feel exhilarating, yet also stressful. And lonely.

Even though I started an INC. 500 company, I spent too many years trying to navigate it all solo. I’ve learned every CEO needs a community of peers who understand the unique challenges we face.

Peernacle is a private peer advisory group where leaders in southern Virginia come together and help one another to make better decisions and grow as leaders. If you’re looking for a community where you can gain insight from others who have sat in your seat, explore Peernacle group membership.