How successful CEOs spend their time

How successful CEOs spend their time

The FINANCIAL -- Time is everyone’s most valuable resource. You can find ways to get more money and more manpower, but it’s impossible to add hours to a day or reclaim them once they’ve been spent. While we all have the same hours in a day, CEOs often have the most demands on theirs, and how they use their time is one of the most important decisions they can make, says Nitin Nohria, dean of Harvard Business School.

Nohria and Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter tracked the daily activities of CEOs at 27 billion-dollar companies for 13 weeks to discover their time-management practices, and the results were published in Harvard Business Review. They found that the average CEO works 9.7 hours per weekday, 3.9 hours per weekend day, and 2.4 hours per vacation day. Forty-seven percent of a CEO’s work is done at the company headquarters, while the rest is conducted while visiting other company locations, meeting external constituencies, commuting, traveling, and at home.

How those hours were allocated was crucial to their own effectiveness as well as the performance of their companies. These are the areas that have the most impact.


On average, CEOs spend 43% of their time on activities that furthered their agendas, while 36% was spent in a reactive mode, handling issues as they unfold.

CEOs spend 28% of their work time alone, but 59% of that is fragmented into blocks of an hour or less. To have time to prepare or do strategic work, CEOs need to claim larger blocks of time away from the office.