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How to Buy Back Your Time as an Executive

A few years ago, while operating as a VP of marketing for a fast-growing company, I was on the verge of burnout. I was trying to do too much, to prove I could handle the job.

My breakdown happened while on a call with a small mastermind group of marketing leaders. We were talking about strategy and success stories, and when it was my time to speak, I kinda burst into tears instead of sharing my plans.

I was so embarrassed until I realized every executive on that call had a similar experience at some point. Every one of my colleagues took on too much, focused on the wrong things, and became a victim of the corporate “have to” mentality.

That day I made a decision. I decided that I would never get so lost, that I let someone else dictate how I spend my time. I just had to figure out how actually to do it.

There are many tools and resources out there that teach you how to better manage your time. Today I want to focus on one tool that made the biggest difference in my career. I learned it from a business coach, who taught me how to think like an entrepreneur even though I had a corporate job.

You Don’t NEED To Work Harder

Have you ever wondered why we think being an executive means we need to work harder? We accept the promotion, and for some reason assume it now means the company owns our time.

I hear it all the time:

“I have to take those meetings”

“The leadership team works all the time too”

“I can’t say no to the EVP”

Here’s the thing: some meetings are mandatory, some of your colleagues may work long hours, and maybe you can’t push back on one meeting with a senior leader, but that doesn’t mean you have to surrender all control of your time.

That is part of the reason you are struggling to make an impact and show up as an executive.

You are pricing your time like you were still an individual contributor, but as an executive, your time is priced differently. Not based on the hours you spend, but based on the results you generate. And every time you take a meeting that has zero impact, you are selling yourself too short.

You need to buy back your time, so you can do the work you were meant to do.

The CEO Calendar

When I decided to never let anyone control my time, I had no idea how to make it a reality. It seemed like an impossible task. After all, so many of my fellow executives were going through the same challenges, and couldn’t break the cycle.

But I had to keep the promise I made to myself, so I started looking for solutions. Not bandaids, but structural and behavioral changes that would work no matter who I worked for.

This is when I came across the concept of the CEO Calendar.

The idea was simple: do not accept the schedule you have, create the schedule you want. Instead of trying to fix a broken calendar, start from zero and build the schedule you want. Then, and only then, look into constraints and requirements, and make them work within your boundaries.

Here’s how the process works:

  1. Create your ideal week. Day by day, hour by hour.

  2. Include various activities. Emails, Strategic thinking, workouts, reading time, kids and family obligations, as well as learning.

  3. Block time on your calendar. Schedule the different types of activities you'll do.

  4. Audit your existing calendar. What are the MUST-have meetings you absolutely can’t move? Those are usually all-hands meetings, and multiple participant meetings you didn’t set up. You can pretty much change everything else.

  5. Plug in ONLY the must-have meetings. Tweak your ideal schedule to work around them.

  6. Cancel, reschedule or delegate the rest of the meetings. You don't HAVE to take them.

  7. Reschedule any remaining meetings based on your ideal schedule. Don’t just spread them around to plug holes, think about creating an optimal workflow.

You may not end up with 100% of your ideal work week, but following this process will result in owning the majority of your time, and prioritizing what really matters! Instead of operating based on someone else's timeline, you will be optimizing your schedule for career growth and increased impact.

That is how you buy your time back and stop selling yourself short. You manage your calendar like a CEO.

Click here to download the template

Your Next Steps

How much control do you have over your calendar?

Seriously, on a scale of 1-5, where 1 means I have no control, and 5 means I manage my own time like a boss, where do you stand?

If it feels like someone else owns your time, you have way too many meetings, and you start your “real” work at 5 pm…it will be hard to step into an executive role, or excel at one.

Take back control of your calendar.

It may seem counterintuitive, but owning your calendar is better for you and your employer. It’s how you give yourself the best chance of delivering what you were hired to do, without burning out or checking out.

It’s how you work smarter, not harder, and show up like an executive.

I believe in you and I’m rooting for you.

Maya ❤️


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