Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Don’t Let Interruptions Set CEO Priorities

CEOs used to be better positioned to protect their time; but somewhere along the line, they became so accessible that nowadays they are endlessly interrupted. If that’s happening to you, it is inevitable that your priorities will be sacrificed.

Here are five tips that will give you back precious time and retain peace of mind.

1. Calculate Time Stolen by Interruptions. For one week, keep a record of the time lost to interruptions, and at the end of each, tally it up. However, the damage is never limited to the interruption itself that throws you off task. There’s loss of momentum due to the work stoppage, and the time wasted reassembling your thoughts and resources. There’s frustration at having to rebuild them, and the distress and fatigue associated with having to make up for that lost time, which can lead to errors. You would be a rare CEO if you came up with less than three hours squandered daily. In fact, U.S. companies waste $588 billion annually because of interruptions, according to Basex research. My own company’s research finds that office workers at all levels report losing 3-5 hours of productive time every day due to interruptions, most from inside the company.

“Office workers at all levels report losing 3-5 hours of productive time every day due to interruptions, most from inside the company.”

2. Put a Value on the Stolen Time. What if you had spent that stolen time with your company’s best customer, or helped your top salesperson seal a deal, or did something that helped you beat the competition? When you assign a dollar value to your time, you’re not looking for precision, just order of magnitude. (Warning: if you haven’t calculated this cost before, you will be aghast at the numbers.

3. Convert Your Worst Time Bandits. How do you start refusing interruptions without offending the people who interrupt you? Explain how your staying on task is in their best interest. They have to want to not interrupt you. They will be tentative or anxious the first few times, but when they realize you have their best interests at heart, they will acquiesce, often with pleasure. After all, your “Time Bandits” are afflicted with Time Bandits of their own!

4. Lock in Time and Learn to Love It. Once you’ve staved off interruptions, it’s time to re-learn to do what today’s interruption culture has almost destroyed: to deliberately carve out time to work alone, totally focused, on a task that will profit by unswerving attention. Does best studying, strategizing and writing take place when you were left to yourself? You will be surprised what you can accomplish by getting back in that habit. Be deliberate and be disciplined about it.

5. Reset the Company Culture. CEOs are inevitably role models. Once you have set the tone against interruptions in a positive way, fill your management team in on the return you’ve received on time less interrupted, then encourage them to follow suit. When they complete Tips 1 and 2, they will be self-motivated to recover the time stolen from them by interruptions. Imagine all the time they will have to focus on their priorities.

Regain control of your time, and you regain control of your professional life.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.