Rachel Emma Silverman in The Wall Street Journal. Here
What do chief executives do all day?
It really is what it seems: They spend about a third of their work time in meetings.
That is one of the central findings of a team of scholars from London School of Economics and Harvard Business School, who have burrowed into the day-to-day schedules of more than 500 CEOs from around the world with hopes of determining exactly how they organize their time—and how that affects the performance and management of their firms.
Their study—known as the Executive Time Use Project—incorporates time logs kept by CEOs' personal assistants, who tracked activities lasting more than 15 minutes during a single week selected by the researchers. The project, which is ongoing, so far has collected data from three different studies of CEOs from around the world.
In one sample of 65 CEOs, executives spent roughly 18 hours of a 55-hour workweek in meetings, more than three hours on calls and five hours in business meals, on average. Some of the remaining time was spent traveling, in personal activity, such as exercise or lunches with spouses, or in short activities, such as quick calls, that weren't recorded by CEOs' assistants. Working alone averaged just six hours weekly.
The more direct reports a CEO had correlated with more, and longer, internal meetings, the researchers found. Rather than foisting off responsibilities to other managers, CEOs with more direct reports may be more hands-on and involved in internal operations, they said.
But not all direct reports are equal. In companies that incorporated a finance chief or operating chief into the corporate hierarchy, the CEOs' time in meetings was reduced by about five-and-a-half hours a week, on average, the researchers found.