When you run a marathon, you look ahead to where you want to go, not down at where you are now. Otherwise, you’ll end up face first on the ground.

I talk about this in Make Yourself Useless, Chapter 10 in Your Oxygen Mask First. The job of a leader is to keep their eyes up and ahead, on the future, to lay the foundations to get there; and to make people so strong and so supported they can do their jobs without you.

People often get stuck in the wrong time horizon, and don’t invest enough energy on where they can have the greatest impact. CEOs should spend a notable amount of time on the next three to five years – 15% to 95% depending on where the business is at – but definitely not zero.

To make this work, every team member needs to understand the CEO’s job and their own role, responsibilities and timelines to fulfill their strategic plan.

Note: This is a framework and may be different, depending on your situation and stage of business.

How Leaders Should Spend Their Time

 1. CEOs benefit from a notable amount of focus on what will have a big payoff and impact in the next three to five years.

  • Enhance the strategy
  • Be an ambassador and build relationships
  • Recruit key talent
  • Explore models, expansion, acquisitions, or future products
  • Maintain gross margins
  • Understand what happening in the market and the future needs of customers
  • Look for and develop their successor.

 2. EXECUTIVES benefit from investing much of their time on the next 90 days to the next year or two.

  • Execute the priorities and budget of their department’s quarterly plans
  • Make sure their teams are supported and successful in getting their work done
  • Laying foundation for what needs to happen in the next two + quarters.

 3. SENIOR MANAGERS ideally have most of their focus on the next week to 90 days.

  • Execute the quarterly plan.
  • Deliver on their priorities and oversee frontline staff.

 4. MANAGERS/SUPERVISORS focus on today and up to the next two + weeks.

 5. TEAM MEMBERS and frontline staff should focus on today and possibly the next couple of days.

The Challenge

  • As a CEO, are you spending enough time on the three-to-five-year time horizon?
  • As an executive, leader or manager are you spending enough time on your optimal time horizons?
  • If not, how can you recalibrate?

Want to hear more about how leaders should spend their time? Listen to Episode 97 of The Growth Whisperers.


Lawrence & Co’s work focuses on sustainable and enhanced growth for you and your business. Our diverse and experienced group of advisors can help your leaders and executive teams stay competitive through the use of various learning tools including workshops, webinars, executive retreats, or one-to-one coaching.

We help high-achieving leaders to have it all – a great business and a rewarding life. Contact us for simple and impactful advice. No BS. No fluff.