Sat, Apr 06, 2013 - Page 9 News List

So what have we learned? There is no respite at the top

By Tim Dowling  /  The Guardian

Investigating the bedtimes of high achievers in the hope of divining the secret of success sounds a bit like looking to a novelist’s desk placement for the key to good writing. I want my characters to be believable — should I be facing the window? However, there is no doubt that once you start examining the daily schedules of chief executive officers, patterns emerge. Part of the routine is dictated by the job, but a lot of it is the product of outlook and approach. These people live their lives in a very directed way. How do they manage, day in, day out and what can we learn from the habits of seven highly effective people?

‧ First off — and there’s no getting around this one, I am afraid — you have to get up early. Really early: 6am is good, but 5am is better. And chief executive officers do not hit snooze: Most of them claim to leap out of bed in the morning (even though it is basically still night).

‧ Business and domestic life are hopelessly blurred. Leisure activities are as rigidly organized as the office diary — nobody lies in on Saturdays; they get up early and exercise — and everybody seems happy to let work follow them home. Quality time with children is timetabled, which might sound a bit ruthless, but at least they are determined to include some.

‧ It is clear that none of these people gets to do the sudoku in the morning.

‧ They may be in charge of large international companies, but they are absolute slaves to e-mail. Karen Blackett of MediaCom claims to receive 500 a day. For the modern chief executive, dealing with your own e-mail seems to be some kind of touchstone of accessibility. I am not sure what I would do if I got 500 e-mails every day, but I know what I would not do: I would not read them.

‧ Far from giving you a blueprint for your rise to the top, these routines will probably cause you to reconsider the whole idea of becoming chief executive of a major communications conglomerate. For the most part, it sounds horrible. There is no respite at the top of the greasy pole — it is just more of the same. What is the point of being rich and successful if you have to get up before dawn every day to answer 500 e-mails? There are so many other options open to you: wage slave, failed artist, cowboy plumber, local weirdo. The money is not good, but the hours are very attractive.

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