This CEO says you should work less to be more productive

June 22, 2015, 7:45 PM UTC

The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “What’s your best advice for staying productive at work?” is by Jim Yu, CEO of BrightEdge.

Staying productive at work is often about motivation. It’s not a question of, “How motivated are you?” but rather, “What fuels your fire?” When starting a company, the balance between strategic and tactical focus is likely one of the biggest time-drains — at least it was for me. In the beginning, you’re razor-focused on hitting your next milestone, and working toward that goal every day: shipping products, closing deals, attracting customers, and hiring a team. But as all of those pieces come into play, it’s the smaller details that take up more time, energy, and precious productivity. You can easily become enamored with the strategic elements of your company and forget how important the immediate milestones are — big and small. My company’s success is my biggest motivation, so I make sure everything I do maps back to that every day. Here’s how:

Understand cadences
Eventually, when the balancing act becomes more of a burden, it may be time to change the pace of things. When I became CEO of BridgeEdge, I layered in (and continued adding) cadences, to help me operate on a schedule at all times. On a monthly basis, I work on understanding how each part of the business is running, and fine tune for effectiveness. Quarterly, I adjust key priorities and strategies of our business. And annually, I drive the “longer arch” strategy of the business. I’m always mapping back to these goals, as they give me a more quantifiable way to manage my time and my business.

Focus on impact, not hours
This is arguably the most important lesson for any leader who’s trying to balance it all. As a leader, you’re striving for a larger goal, ultimately guiding your motivation and efforts. Leaders are expected to work hard — but don’t forget to work smart too. Maximize your time on prioritizing actions that result in desired outcomes, and make sure that you come to the office knowing what matters most so you can make it happen over all of the noise. It seems obvious, but when you oversee nearly every moving part of a business, it’s not hard to lose focus. Let the impact you want to make guide you, not the hours in the day.

Delegate responsibly
Particularly in new companies, the desire to have a hand in all elements is natural for leaders. But as your company scales, you’ll be pulled in one hundred different directions — and deciding how to fit them into one person’s schedule is unrealistic. This is when you should leverage your team. Chances are you helped hire them, so you should feel confident in their ability to contribute (and if not, that’s another discussion entirely). Pass along tasks to folks you know can tackle them successfully — particularly as you grow — and insert yourself into the review process to save time. Make sure fairness, transparency, and recognition are all a part of your delegation process as well. To quote an old cliché: there is no “I” in team, even for the CEO.

Put in the necessary time
The question of productivity is about maximizing your time — and I hate to admit it, but sometimes maximizing your time necessitates adding more hours. While I’d never advise sacrificing all of your spare time, committing to lead a company is bound to take more hours than the average job. But it’s your company — be an owner, not a renter. If you can’t fit all of your tasks in one day, you might have to work extra hours to get done what matters most. My co-founder, Lemuel Park, and I work one-on-one every Saturday to maximize our productivity during the week and keep our focus elevated. If you prioritize your time at the office carefully (think: less ping pong, more proactive conversation), you’ll likely see those extra hours pay off — and that’s the best part of being a leader.

Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: What’s your best advice for staying productive at work?

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