Strategy & Operations » Leadership & Management » 5 ways to take back time as a CFO

Executives starting a new C-level role often find themselves working 80-hour weeks, jumping from meeting to meeting before going home and spending hours on emails.

Deloitte’s global research director for the firm’s CFO Program, Ajit Kambil, discusses the five things new C-suite executives can do to take back their time and avoid burnout.

1.Screening

Choose which meetings are “important to me to be successful” says Kambil, and which meetings you can send somebody else from your team to. Doing this also allows others from your team to develop professionally.

Kambil says he has asked his executive assistant to schedule calls based on seven different levels of set criteria, in order to help him “screen and make sure that my time is used for the most important things.”

2. Schedule things

Have a time for emails scheduled in so you are not constantly distracted by the need to reply. Kambil advocates blocking off email time and using the rest of your day to focus on what needs to get done.

He adds: “I think it’s important for folks to say, technology for the first time allows us all this connectivity, but at the same time it doesn’t mean we have to instantaneously respond. It may be better if we take some time to think through our responses and not get caught up in this email cycle.”

Kambil, who runs executive transition labs, also recommends scheduling in time to think, even if it’s just to take a walk or hit the treadmill. He says it’s a “wonderful way to step back and say, what is really important today, and how are we going to really tackle this tough problem and get the right resources.”

3. Routinising tasks

If things are not being done well or in a timely manner, find out why and implement a routine to ensure efficiency, find out if a process is broken and then fix it.

Kambil says: “Do that routine correctly once, and then everybody else can follow that routine the next time around and free up a lot of organisation time and your time, because they may not be pulling on you in that ad hoc way.

“Senior executives should try to get as many things routinised that they can in their organisation because their real value is to focus on the important things that are more ad hoc, less routine, less structured.”

4. Delegating tasks

Ensure you have the right staff and the right team in place to be able to delegate tasks to. Delegating frees up your time to deal with the more complex and ambiguous issues that the CEO is looking to you for help with.

Kambil says: “We call it the time-talent trade off. If there are individuals who are not strong in your leadership team and in your next layers of organisation who you depend on, it’s just going to kill your time. Resolve all your talent issues within the first year of your role – ideally within the first 180 days.”

5. Have a kill list

Assess what the organisation is doing that is no longer relevant and it should stop doing. It allows you to free up people and time to focus on other things, according to Kambil. The best way to do this is to take an inventory of tasks and assess which has the least value to a client.

Kambil says: “Sometimes it takes the CFO and the financial planning and analysis team to really work with a customer to reframe what data they should have for planning and action. It’s a change process on both sides, within the organisation as well as outside.

“It’s about overcoming habits of the past and saying what’s really important for the future.”

 

You can listen to the full podcast here.

Ajit Kambil is the global research director of Deloitte’s CFO program and developed Deloitte’s executive transition lab to help CxOs transition into their new roles.