Insights / Finance / Article

This Is How Leading CFOs Manage Their Time

November 09, 2021

Contributor: Jordan Turner

Expected to wear many hats (strategic partner, relationship builder, change agent, technology champion), effective CFOs prioritize their time leading to better outcomes.

CFOs are expected to wear many hats: strategic partner, relationship builder, change agent and technology champion. But ultimately, a CFO’s top priority is to ensure sustained financial performance for their organization.

The reality is, the complexity and ambiguity of the CFO’s job make effective time management difficult. In fact, according to Gartner research, the average CFO loses almost eight hours — roughly one business day a week — to the wrong activities.

So what’s the solution? Leading CFOs are ruthlessly strategic about their time. They apply tactics for managing it with the same rigor they ask their companies to apply when allocating capital. This approach ensures time is spent on activities that provide the most impact on financial outcomes.

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CFO priorites and time allocation

Gartner research reveals that personally effective CFOs follow these four common time management practices:

They explicitly announce personal priorities 

While many CFOs excel at setting and communicating team priorities, many fail to do the same for themselves. By clearly communicating personal priorities to their teams and the C-suite, good CFOs direct team focus to the right initiatives and make it easier for team members to determine which requests they should decline or delegate.

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They practice “zero-based” scheduling 

Top CFOs schedule personal-priority activities first. This ensures they can allocate the appropriate amount of time for other activities. Another plus? This behavior protects their mental energy for top priorities.

Just like a zero-based budget, zero-based calendars remove all preexisting meetings and then bring them back based on alignment with one’s priorities.

They time-block their calendars 

Personally effective CFOs use strategic, concentrated time blocks to solve escalations. Concentrated interventions are like agile sprints — long periods of continuous time devoted to a single challenge. Certain problems aren’t CFO-worthy, and just don’t deserve a spot on the calendar. 

They continuously improve their time allocation

Just as CFOs can learn lessons from a post-mortem audit of a major investment or acquisition, they review how they spent their time against what was planned. This can reveal root causes of time slippage. Reviewing and iterating enables leaders to address and better manage their time in the future.

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This article has been updated from the original, published 23 September 2019, to reflect updated research.


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