How Do Busy Executives Manage Their Everyday Life?

What’s the #1 question I get asked by people I meet for the first time who know my background?

What’s among the top five questions I ask someone successful?

It’s the same thing. "How do manage and balance your life?" When directed to me, it’s always some variation of how do you balance competing pulls of school, business, sports, etc. When I ask others, it’s always some variation of how do you handle 600 emails a day and all your other busy-ness?

As an obsessive student of personal productivity, I always look to steal from people busier and more successful than me (and let’s face it – there’s always someone above you on the food chain). I read books. If I spend $15 on a book – say, the popular David Allen Getting Things Done – and get only one thing out of it, it was a hell of an investment. I didn’t adopt Allen’s GTD task management system. I DID adopt a now ingrained habit of writing down every single possible task or thought that requires follow-up (I will often scribble down 3-4 things each night while in bed) = more mental RAM.

Generally, I think people focus too much on itty-bitty time management tips you pick up in trashy business magazines and not enough on an underlying philosophy from which everything can flow. For me, it’s the corporate athlete system which says that managing energy, not time, is the key to peak performance. It says that there are four dimensions to performance: mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual. We’re often depleted in one area, and underdeveloped in another. With personal energy as my renewable resource, and because work/play overlaps so much for me, I am pounding away and "always on" from 7 AM to 10:30 PM.

Now, go read this awesome mini-feature at Fortune which profiles about a dozen busy people — from Marissa Mayer to Richard Posner — and examines how they work every day. A.G. Lafley, CEO of Proctor & Gamble, also subscribes to the corporate athlete system.

What about you? How do you do your email? When you do exercise? Have you eliminated ad-hoc phone calls? Do you keep clear boundaries between work and home? If you have a secretary, how do you use her/him?

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