In my role as CEO, I began working with my team to lay the groundwork for a killer 2018 many months ago. We strategized, identified our biggest opportunities and crafted an operating plan that we all feel great about.
In short, we’re pumped.
Over the holidays, I found myself thinking about what I can do to maximize my contribution to the organization. I’ve discussed here before that success as CEO requires relentless focus on three things–people, strategy, and cash–and as I reflected on the prior twelve months it was clear that I have plenty room for improvement. More specifically, I need to give myself the room to execute against these three priorities.
With 2018 now in full swing, I have resolved to make these three simple (but not easy!) changes to how I do my job:
1. Guard my calendar like Fort Knox.
During the last three months of 2017, my calendar was completely filled with appointments nearly three weeks in advance. Most of these meetings were external; prospective financial partners, industry intelligence, prospective customers, and prospective vendors. These meetings enabled me to stay close to the market and to our company’s operating needs, but they came with a high opportunity cost.
I had zero time to think. I was absorbing hundreds of data points, but I wasn’t giving myself enough space to let my brain do what it does. The only downtime I had was on airplanes or at the extremes of the day–before 7am or after 9pm.
This year, I am going to guard my time like the precious commodity that it is. Doing so will require me to fight my natural tendency to say “sure, I’ll spend a few minutes with you” and to say no to anything that’s not related to our people, our strategy or our balance sheet.
I’m also going back to what worked for me when we were in our startup phase: blocking off a few hours every day of untouchable “GSD” time, and scheduling one four-hour block each month to sit quietly and think strategically.
2. Cut travel days by 30 percent.
One of my biggest responsibilities as CEO is spending time in front of large customers, top prospects and important strategic partners. However, when I analyzed my travel log from last year, I realized that nearly 30 percent of my of my travel days were related to what, upon reflection, were trips that I could have delegated.
In total, I spent over 100 days on the road in 2017.
I’ve spent the last two years transitioning most operational responsibility to a hand-picked and highly capable management team, with the goal of spending more time on big relationships.” Now I’m seeing that the definition of a big relationship has changed considerably; I don’t need to go to every meeting anymore.
It’s time to give others in this organization an opportunity to make the big pitches and log that podium time. It’s great for my team’s development, and it frees me up to work on the few but truly game-changing opportunities sitting in front of us.
Another outcome from cutting travel by 30 percent is that I can be a much more present and engaged husband and father. (The biggest benefit of all.)
3. Discipline through simplicity.
For years, I’ve kept my professional objectives on track with a very simple strategy that I learned from Verne Harnish, author of Scaling Up. It goes like this: every day, your first activity is to take five minutes and make a list of the five most important things that you need to get done, in order of priority. Then, focus relentlessly on the first item on that list, and don’t do anything else until that first thing is done. At the end of the year, assuming 260 working days, you’ll get 260 really important things done.
Last year, I let this previously formed habit slip. Some days, I wouldn’t create my list first thing in the morning. Some days, I wouldn’t make my list at all; I’d have 7:30am meetings on the calendar and it was just go-go-go from the jump.
Getting out of this high-impact daily habit resulted in an increase in stress and also introduced anxiety; when I didn’t write the important things down, it was hard to know if I was focusing on the important versus the urgent.
This year, I’m getting back to this highly effective habit of planning my day around the most important things that need to get done, versus reacting to things that happen in the business. Of course, stuff happens and the day can get derailed, but I’m going to do my best to get that one thing done each and every day, no matter what unplanned craziness transpires.
What are you going to do differently in 2018 to set yourself up for success?
Note: This post originally appeared on Inc.com.