As CEO of a rapidly growing company it can feel like I'm running from fire-to-fire, dealing with the pressing needs of the company while trying to address longer-term needs. There are parts of the job I instinctively gravitate to, there are the things that bubble up within the company and there are requests for my time that come from outside. The demands on my time are always in flux.
There are points in the last eight years where my workload has taken a toll on me. It's a situation I imagine a lot of people can relate to at many levels of management. It's been a constant process of triage and balance to adapt to a fast paced workload and maximize my effectiveness as a CEO.
It's taught me five important things about time management.
Procrastination is a valuable indicator
As you work through your daily checklist, you can learn a lot from what gets punted. If you keep missing a deadline, it's a sign that you need to reassess something. You either hate doing it, which means that it's worthwhile considering whether someone else should be doing it--or it's not as important to you, or the company, as you imagined. Procrastination is a habit that we all fight against, but that instinct to delay can teach you a lot about where your priorities really lie.
Trying to do everything doesn't scale
As Credit Karma has grown quickly over the last few years I've had to learn to say no, to both requests for my time and my own desire to do everything. You have to find the best ways to scale your own time. For instance, as a new CEO, a lot of other CEOs were generous in offering me their time and advice. I told myself that I would always try and pay that forward. But accepting all requests quickly became untenable. Instead I decided to accept more invitations to conferences and fireside chats, where I could reach more people in one go. I've had to apply this same discipline internally. I love working with data but I gave up my database access two years ago. It came to the point where I often had to pull in an analyst to bring me up to speed. I realized my time was better spent focusing on things with a broader impact at the company so I had to let one of my favorite tasks go. It was exhausting me personally and holding me back as a leader.
Learn to recharge in down moments
As a CEO of a growing company my workload waxes and wanes. Things get hectic, but then a specialist comes on to take over a particular area and I get some breathing room back, before I inevitably notice new gaps in our business. Over time, your job will always expand and contract in terms of your areas of focus and responsibility. Take advantage of the quieter moments to go home and spend time with your family and breathe out a little. There will always be more long weeks around the corner.
When you're not the expert, trust your instincts
Once you rise up into management, you need to be able to jump in and out of a wide array of tasks. I used to be overly meticulous, digging deep and trying to become a subject matter expert in everything. Now, I understand better that I don't have the time for that level of effort. I have to trust the people around me. My job becomes making sure that everything passes the sniff test. I need to be able to ask the right questions and address key concerns. I've learned to move on if something is under control or know when it isn't and I need to make a struggling project my focus.
Everything can be delegated (except mission and vision)
It's not only that it isn't sustainable for you to do everything as CEO, it's also worse for the company. Even someone that you think is only 80 percent as good as you at a particular task will always be better if it is their sole priority. You need to surround yourself with specialists who are more qualified at a particular task than you could ever be. It frees you to focus on company mission and vision--the parts of running a company that will always be your responsibility--and puts your company in a place to take flight properly.