Most executives that I work with have a common complaint—they don’t seem to have enough time to do everything that they want to do. My answer is simple. Spend your time on those things that are most important to you, both professionally and personally. Effective use of your time is all about choices.

Today’s technology can be both a help and a hindrance to using your time effectively. We now have the ability to communicate instantaneously—to any one at any time and any where.  You can be available to your staff 24/7. Technology also enables us to have almost unlimited access to information. Many executives have not found the best way to manage the technology; instead, the technology manages them.

I had one company president recently admit that he was “addicted” to email. After critically evaluating his time use, he concluded that he should “trash his computer.” What he ultimately realized was that he was not managing this tool. As an executive, you should control what email you receive from your organization. Be very specific about what you want to see and what you don’t want to see. Set expectations about the content, format, and length of emails sent to you. For example, you may want a short summary at the beginning of the email. You may limit emails to one page that can be easily viewed on the screen.

Also, the more quickly you respond to emails, the more you reinforce the notion that emails is your preferred method of communications. I recommend that managers and executives get in the habit of checking email only twice per day—once in the morning and once in the late afternoon. This will create an expectation on the part of your staff that urgent matters are to be communicated face-to-face or over the phone.

Learning to make effective use of time in meetings is another way to improve your time utilization. Make sure that every meeting you attend has a clear purpose and that a meeting is the most effective way to accomplish that purpose. Expect people to be prepared for meetings. Very early in my career, I attended a meeting in which a more senior engineer was scheduled to present to the plant manager. The plant manager was direct and tough. In the first few minutes of the meeting, he asked a question that the senior engineer could not answer. The manager immediately decided to end the meeting and reschedule it for a time when the engineer could be better prepared and give the manager the information he needed to have to make an informed decision.

Expect people to come with you with all of the facts and data that you need to make a decision. Expect them to make solid recommendations based on thorough analysis and thought. Get just the information you need. Avoid getting bogged down in the details.