I am sure you must have wondered, sitting in your tiny cubicle with a pile of work and looking right across your CEO’s big beautiful room, what is it like to be a CEO? You must have thought a day in the life of a CEO must be so much better than yours. You earn way less, and your entire day goes by with your eyes glued to your computer screens. Your CEO on the other hand is always meeting people — sometimes even out of town — which according to you is the easiest thing on earth. I felt the same when I was at the initial stages of my professional career.
If you also wonder what a day in the life of a CEO looks like, then you are in luck. Here, we are visualizing what a day in the life of a CEO looks like. The idea of this article comes from the research which I found intriguing by Harvard Business School. The study by Harvard Business School involved gathering data from 27 CEOs on their daily routine as a CEO.
Then my curious mind also urged me to conduct my own little teeny online research. My research comes from various interviews of CEOs and founders on YouTube and other reading materials online.
So, let’s begin with it now!
A day in the life of a CEO
When I was new, I had some wild theories about my CEO. I thought that he came late because he woke up late, not that he had a meeting with a client. I thought he called a hangout with his friends at the country club a ‘client meeting’ to sound less weird. Then, his visits out of town were like his mini-vacations, which he called “important summits with investors.”
I was naïve back then of course! After working for some years now and directly with my CEO, I have realized I could not be more wrong. A day in the life of a CEO is not as fun as I have envisioned. Firstly, let me put it out of the way, your responsibilities indeed increase with your rising level on the corporate ladder. A CEO is in the topmost position and is accountable for everything to everyone, so his job can get extremely overwhelming.
A CEO works a lot more than you do and even on weekends to keep the organization moving. He/she is always on the edge — building relationships with every stakeholder, formulating new business strategies, business plans, resource allocation, and gauging the performances of each functional and business unit.
CEOs are early risers like all successful people
If you despise waking up early, then you should not! After extensive research on CEOs, I have found CEOs are early risers (early to beds even). Nearly all CEOs wake up early, from Jeff Bezos to Elon Musk to Mark Zuckerberg to CEOs of every kind of business big or small. These people have the morning routine that they follow. Jeff Bezos is the one who rises the earliest at 4 am.
A day in the life of a CEO starts at 6ish 7ish am with a good workout as it gives them positive energy. Then, they have their morning coffee which they consume with social media, newspapers, and other stuff of their preferences. Some like to read newspapers online, and some are Sundar Pichai (actually, no one is like him), who reads like an actual newspaper, like a hard copy of an actual freaking newspaper.
CEOs working hours are way more than yours
As per the aforementioned research, on average CEOs work more than 60 hours a week. On the other hand, average employees in the United States work on average 8 hours a day i.e. 40 hours a week. CEOs even work on weekends as 79% of the CEOs in the research worked 3.9 hours on the weekend and 2.4 hours on vacation days.
Your manager, leader, and CEO work way more than you. So the envy that you feel sometimes looking at your Boss’s vacation pictures in his room is all baseless. He even works during vacation, while you must turn off your work mobile and completely vanish to avoid seeing anything work-related.
CEOs are experts in managing their time well
CEOs manage their time well. While going through the interviews of some CEOs, one thing I particularly found very intriguing was that they maintain their daily planners and prepare daily agendas. CEOs plan their days or hire people to do that for them. The failure to do so can lead to chaotic repercussions.
Here, let me quote something I read about Mark Zuckerberg that I found hilarious and inspiring at the same time.
Do you know why Mark always wears the same grey T-shirt and jeans?
According to him, his work uniform reflects his ways of saving time. Mark does not want to waste his time on trivial decision-making. So, he wears the same outfit every day. See, a CEO has to go the extra mile to protect his time as he does not have the luxury of ample time to kill like us.
So, what do CEOs do in a day?
A day in the life of a CEO consists of many things. The research tells us that 25% of their work involves dealing with people and building relationships with them. It includes dealing with customers, investors, shareholders, lenders, employees, and other stakeholders. A CEO needs to communicate with every stakeholder to know what is cooking in and out of the organization.
Then 21% of a CEO’s work time goes into developing business strategies. Business strategy and plans are crucial as they provide direction to the company. With a good business strategy, a company can differentiate itself by providing better value propositions to its customers. The CEO also ensures the execution of business strategy across all functional and business units. Besides, the CEO also spends 25% of his work time reviewing the functional and business unit.
CEOs also spend 16% on organization and culture. Only 4% of their time goes on mergers and acquisitions and operating plans, 3% on professional development, and 1% on crisis management.
Meetings and more meetings make up a day in the life of a CEO
Meetings are the highlights of a CEO’s day. Meetings constitute 72% of their work time, and more than 60% of these meetings are face-to-face. For a CEO, meetings play a crucial role, as this is how they can motivate and exert their influence on the people. Meetings are even online on FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype.
Since meetings take up an entire day for a CEO, then CEOs need to be skilled enough to know what meeting is important, and how much time to spend on each meeting. CEOs must try to end an hour-long meeting earlier if it is not serving any purpose.
Elon Musk has an interesting approach to dealing with non-productive meetings, as quoted:
Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worse over time. Please get [out] of all large meetings, unless you’re certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short.
Jeff Bezos has even a better approach to dealing with the big meetings, he avoids them simply!
Bezos meets his investors only 6 hours a year. Then, he has this “two-pizza rule,” where he only holds meetings big enough to feed people with two pizzas.
A day in the life of a CEO should have family time and some me-time for sake of sound mental health
A CEO must have some me-time as well as some family time. Nearly every CEO whose schedule I have come across makes it a point to spend time with his/her family. The study discussed also shows that 31% of the CEOs’ time goes to work, 25% to their families, and 29% to sleeping. Many CEOs even love to drop their kids off at school to get extra time to spend with their kids. After work, they make sure to have dinner with their families before calling it a day.
Some CEOs even love to do recreational activities e.g. Mark Zuckerberg loves to read a new book every two weeks and is learning Mandarin. Some love to relax and do yoga. Some love to cook for their families.
Professional and personal life balance is imperative for your mental health
Work-home balance is imperative for any CEO and even for everyone. This time you spend with your family and yourself will allow you to detox your soul. It will bring peace and serenity to your life and save you from your trips to a shrink for therapy.
So, take a moment, slow down and enjoy each little moment of life with your family.