How A CFO Manages Their Time

November 6, 2020

In a busy world where everyone is vying for your attention, time management is crucial. Here are a few ways to better manage your priorities and create more time for yourself and those around you.

1. Prioritize and Delegate

How is it possible to prioritize when everything needs to get done? Why does it always seem that low-priority items infinitely sit on the backburner as the pipeline of more essential tasks is continually filled? Prioritization is an important skill that takes practice to master and one that goes hand-in-hand with delegation.

An impossible task would be for a CFO to clear their plate without the help of a team. Delegation requires an understanding of each specific task at hand. It is essential to understand the task’s time and skillset required. This way, the CFO knows which individuals and teams are capable of undertaking the project. Many executives lack the trust to consider that others can do some tasks. It can be hard to let go, but it is essential to ensuring that all objectives get accomplished. Ask yourself, “can someone else complete this task 80% as good as I can or better?” Use this question as a rule of thumb when deciding whether to immediately delegate things that consume too much time.

2. Don’t Micromanage

Now that you have successfully delegated the task, you need to follow through on the “let go” philosophy we were talking about. It would be best if you had trust that you made the right decision to delegate a specific task. If you made the wrong decision, then you need to come to terms that you will have to settle for correcting it in the future.

More than just a loss of time, micromanagement can have a horrible impact on teams. Micromanaged employees feel less trusted, less capable, and are easily irritated. Many departing employees state micromanagement as a primary reason for management dissatisfaction.

3. Increase Team Collaboration

Many CFO’s responsibilities are continually expanding. This means more teams to manage, more projects to oversee, and more tasks that fall under their purview of control. If teams are not communicating sufficiently, there could be substantial work-overlap occurring without anyone knowing. As the CFO, you should have a reasonable idea of everything going on, but having a tab on every fine detail would be an impossible task. Cross-functional teams are an excellent resource to manage various projects and ensure that things are moving along efficiently. Let your managers identify the path of least resistance.

4. Use Your Calendar and Fill it with Deadlines

If you are an executive with the luxury of administrative support, utilize their expertise to help you manage your schedule’s constant demands. Establish a transparent system of reporting between you to them so they can keep your calendar filled with relevant details on project deadlines.

5. Schedule Your Day and Perform Deep Work

Every morning take a minute to think about what tasks need to be accomplished that day, then spend 5 – 15 minutes, creating a schedule of how you will spend your time. The more specific the scheduling process is, the better. This process will seem clunky at first, but after a few weeks, you will know precisely how long it takes you to complete specific tasks, and you can better plan for them.

Make sure to carve into your day time for what Cal Newport calls “Deep Work,” or uninterrupted focus on specific tasks. The deep work strategy involves an intense focus that we otherwise rarely exhibit. Every time you check an email, stop what you’re doing to answer a co-worker’s question, or look at a notification on your phone, your brain is engaging with a distraction. The objective of deep work is to minimize distractions and focus on as narrow of a goal as possible for an extended period. During this time, you greatly enhance your brain’s ability to learn a new skill.

These deep work sessions only work with sufficient downtime. Downtime includes activities that don’t require an intense focus, such as walking, cooking, or light conversation. While we live in a work culture that promotes hard work, it is important to remember that this deep work level is impossible to sustain without your brain’s sufficient rest. A good idea would be to schedule a deep work session in the morning before the day starts to get hectic, or before lunch, when you have an opportunity to take a mental break.

6. Don’t Let Technology Get the Best of You

We’ve all experience distractions similar to the ones mentioned above. The most frequent distractions nowadays always come from technology. Whether social media notifications, a text message from home, or endless emails from superiors and team members, there is no shortage of digital distractions. Make sure you have the reigns on the amount of time you spend managing these distractions—the less sporadic your engagement, the better. Try to set time aside to answer emails right after you respond to your texts, and then get back to whatever you were doing, knowing that you will handle new emails once you retake time to read them. More often than not, the distractions are no emergency.

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