How CEOs Actually Spend Their Time: It’s Not How You Think

  • Written by Zero Hedge
  • Published in Economics

Submitted by Nicholas Colas and Jessica Rabe of DataTrek Research

Legendary Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter and the dean of HBS have a new must-read article out; we have a summary and our take below. The topic: how CEOs actually spend their time. It’s not how you think...

When we came across a new study in the Harvard Business Review on how CEOs spend their time, we took notice. Time is especially scarce for CEOs after all, and how they use it sends a message about their priorities and can have a direct impact on their company’s performance.

This 12-year study is particularly important because it is the longest and most comprehensive analysis on CEOs’ time allocations to date and its authors are both rock stars. Starting in 2006, researchers Michael E. Porter (of the famous Porter Model) and Nitin Nohria (the dean of HBS) tracked the activities of 27 CEOs in 15-minute increments, 24 hours of the day for three months each. Most of the companies were public and had an average annual revenue of $13.1 billion.

Here’s how many hours CEOs at these companies worked:

  • They worked 9.7 hours per weekday on average, or 48.5 hours a week
  • Each day on the weekend, they worked about 3.9 hours
  • They also worked 2.4 hours a day on vacation
  • 47% of their work was done at headquarters, with the balance at other “company locations, meeting external constituencies, commuting, traveling, and at home”
  • Grand total: 62.5 hours a week

What they did while working (75% of which was planned and 25% spontaneous):

  • They spent 25% of their time developing people and relationships
  • 25% on functional and business unit reviews
  • 21% on strategy
  • 16% on matching organizational structure and culture with the needs of the business
  • 4% on M&A
  • 4% on operating plans
  • 3% on professional development
  • 1% on crisis management

Time spent with those inside the organization:

  • 33% on direct reports
  • 22% with other senior managers
  • 10% with other managers
  • 5% with other employees
  • The balance they spent with business partners or board members

How they communicated:

  • 61% face-to-face
  • 24% electronic
  • 15% phone and letter
  • 72% of the time they were in meetings vs. 28% alone

As for when they’re not working:

  • They slept for 6.9 hours a night on average
  • They exercised for 45 minutes a day
  • They spent about 3 hours with family and 2.1 hours on downtime for things like watching TV, reading, or hobbies

Overall, CEOs have a lot on their plate and only have a limited amount of time to...

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