A CEO's most precious resource is time, according to consultant John Kador. It might well be your own biggest need as well. Often, the best use of that time is for reflection. On chiefexecutive.net, Mr. Kador collects the following tips from some top executives to find those valuable reflective moments:
Block out some private time for a retreat of one: you.
Bill Gates was renowned for doing that when he was at the helm of Microsoft, carving out "think weeks." Ann Herrmann-Nehdi, chief executive officer of North Carolina-based Hermann International, dreams of a week away from it all, but tells Mr. Kador that the time usually gets chewed up at either end by staff demands. She says she's satisfied if she gets two to three days.
Join a group
Find a group of executives you can meet with regularly to discuss the larger picture. Ms. Herrmann-Nehdi says she has to drive four hours each way once a month to meet with a group of other CEOs. But the chance to undertake deep thinking about the issues CEOs face is worth it.
Time to wonder
Turn off your e-mail, and give yourself some time during the day for unstructured wondering and intellectual wandering. Jeff Hoffman, founder of Chicago-based ColorJar, a venture accelerator, and CEO of Black Sky Entertainment, says he likes to read the newspaper, or check out the most common search terms at Google and Yahoo and figure out what it means.
Minute of silence
Multimedia publishing company Sounds True, of Louisville, Colo., starts all meetings with a minute of silence, to allow people to gather their thoughts and be fully present.
5% think time
Detroit-based ePrize encourages all employees, particularly those close to the customer, to take 5 per cent of their time to just think. Founder and chairman Josh Linkner told Mr. Kador: "If someone works 40 hours per week attacking their to-do list, they would have a certain level of productivity. But if they devoted two hours per week to just think, they would be equally or more productive, plus they would occasionally come up with a brilliant idea. I want to create a greenhouse for creativity."
Dally after conferences
Instead of hurrying back to your office after a conference to immerse yourself in the regular grind, take a day to synthesize the information and ponder the lessons you have learned, a technique of Robert DiQuollo, president of investment advisers Brinton Eaton, in Morristown, N.J.
'No e-mail' Fridays
Various companies are trying the idea of banning internal e-mails between staff on Fridays, to allow more time to step back and plan. (Yes, e-mails to customers are okay.)
When you're on vacation, be on vacation. Train your staff to call in only in a true emergency, as does Frederick Krebs, president of the Washington-based Association of Corporate Counsel.
And, by the same token, if your subordinates are away, don't call them.
Get a hobby
Mr. Krebs also tells Mr. Kador that it's vital for a top executive to have another passion besides work: "The important thing is for CEOs to be able to focus on something other than the day-to-day details of running the business. Fresh thinking requires fresh environments."