Peeling Back the Curtain: A Day in the Life of a CEO

Jay Holstine
3 min readAug 13, 2023

As the sun rises over the cityscape, a day in the life of a CEO begins. The CEO, or Chief Executive Officer, is the highest-ranking individual in a company or organization. Their responsibilities are vast and varied, influencing every aspect of the business — from its overall vision and strategy to the nuances of daily operations. But what does a typical day in the life of a CEO truly look like? There are numerous myths surrounding the lifestyle of CEOs — some imagine it to be a walk in the park, filled with extravagant lunches and late starts to the day, while others paint a picture of relentless, around-the-clock work. The reality, as is often the case, falls somewhere in between these extremes.

The day-to-day life of a CEO is a dynamic mix of strategic planning, decision-making, problem-solving, team building, and effective communication. While no two days are the same, there is a distinct rhythm and routine that enables a CEO to handle the rigors of leadership while maintaining personal well-being. It’s a complex blend of professional commitments, personal obligations, and essential downtime. So, let’s peel back the curtain on the glamorous title and examine what it truly means to walk a day in the shoes of a CEO.

The Typical CEO Schedule

Many successful CEOs are early risers, a habit that allows them to start their day in a proactive, rather than reactive, manner. Starting early often means gaining a few quiet hours to exercise, meditate, read, or plan the day ahead before the business world awakes. It’s a time of tranquility before the storm, a critical period for gathering thoughts and aligning personal goals with the organization’s objectives.

Once the day begins in earnest, strategic thinking and planning take center stage. This could mean reviewing business performance, discussing long-term strategy with senior executives, or making crucial decisions that impact the company’s future. A CEO’s time is valuable, so these activities must be sharply focused on driving the company towards its strategic goals.

An integral part of a CEO’s day is spent balancing time between internal and external stakeholders. Internally, this could involve meetings with different teams, employee performance reviews, or engaging with employees across various levels of the organization. Externally, the CEO could be meeting clients, investors, or partners, or even speaking at an industry event. The key to a successful CEO’s schedule is effectively managing these engagements without overlooking the significance of either.

Finally, as the business day winds down, it’s essential for a CEO to recognize the importance of personal time and work-life balance. Regardless of the pressures of running a company, taking time out to unwind and disconnect is crucial. This could mean spending time with family, engaging in a hobby, or simply relaxing. A balanced life is not just important for a CEO’s personal well-being but also contributes significantly to their effectiveness as a leader.

Emulating the CEO Schedule

Emulating a CEO’s schedule doesn’t mean copying it down to the last detail — it’s about understanding the principles that guide their day and applying these principles to your personal context. The first step is to identify the key components of a CEO’s day: strategic thinking, balancing internal and external engagements, and maintaining personal well-being.

Once you understand these components, you can tailor them to fit your lifestyle and business needs. For example, if you’re more productive in the evening, you could schedule your strategic thinking and planning sessions then, rather than early in the morning. If you’re a budding entrepreneur, you might spend more time on business development activities than an established CEO would.

Remember, flexibility and adaptability are crucial. In an ever-changing business landscape, a CEO’s schedule needs to accommodate unexpected challenges and opportunities. Similarly, as you grow and evolve in your role, your schedule should adapt to reflect your changing priorities and responsibilities.

Emulating a CEO’s schedule is not about achieving a title, but about embracing a mindset. It’s about prioritizing effectively, making decisions confidently, and leading consciously. Whether you’re at the helm of a multinational corporation or a small start-up, these principles remain the same and can set you on the path to successful leadership. Continued..

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Jay Holstine

Jay Holstine — Chairs a Vistage CEO peer group in Dallas Fort Worth and provides personalized CEO consultations for executives