Skip to Content

What do CEOs do all day?

CEOs, or chief executive officers, hold the top position at a company or organization. They are responsible for overseeing operations, making major corporate decisions, managing resources, and working closely with the board of directors. A CEO’s daily responsibilities can vary greatly depending on the size, industry, and current needs of their company. However, most CEOs focus their time on high-level strategic planning, communication, and relationship building. Their schedule is often filled with meetings, presentations, business meals, travel, and networking events. So what exactly do CEOs do all day? Here is an in-depth look at the typical daily responsibilities and activities of these top-level business executives.

Strategic Planning

One of the most important uses of a CEO’s time is strategic planning. This involves setting the company’s overall objectives, making long-term plans, and deciding how to allocate resources. CEOs analyze industry trends, research market conditions, and assess competitive landscapes. They use this information to chart strategic courses for their organizations. On a daily basis, CEOs may meet with their executive team to discuss strategy. They review sales forecasts, financial reports, and operational needs to help shape strategies. In some cases, CEOs work with outside consultants who provide additional expertise around strategic planning.

Decision Making

CEOs are tasked with making major decisions that impact the overall direction and success of their company. Some key areas where CEOs are directly involved in decision making include:

  • Approving annual budgets and operational plans
  • Making investment and resource allocation choices
  • Selecting geographic markets and industry segments to target
  • Deciding when and how to expand operations
  • Approving major hires and promotions, especially at the executive level
  • Determining when to introduce new products or services
  • Guiding merger and acquisition activities

On a daily basis, CEOs weigh input from their management teams, board members, and advisors before making major calls. However, the ultimate decisions rest on the CEO’s shoulders.

Financial Management

Handling the financial affairs of their company is a major part of a CEO’s responsibilities. CEOs work with their CFOs and financial controllers to manage budgets, cash flow, investments, and capital expenditure. They review financial statements regularly and analyze reports on costs, revenues, margins, and profitability. CEOs use this data to make sound business decisions that keep their companies financially healthy. They also take the lead on fundraising efforts, meeting with potential investors and lenders. On a daily basis, a CEO may have scheduled meetings to review financial performance, capital needs, and growth opportunities.

Business Operations

While CEOs don’t manage day-to-day business activities, they still oversee general operations. They work with their executive teams to set performance goals across all departments and business units. CEOs regularly connect with their COOs, heads of divisions, VPs, and department managers to monitor progress. If any aspect of operations gets off track, the CEO gets involved to get things back on course. Their daily schedule contains regular check-ins on production levels, supply chain status, product development cycles, HR needs, marketing campaigns, and sales pipelines. Operational oversight is key to keeping the company running smoothly.

Building the Executive Team

One of a CEO’s top priorities is building a strong executive leadership team. They personally select executives to fill positions like COO, CFO, CTO, CMO, and heads of business units. The CEO works closely with these direct reports to manage the organization. They also evaluate executive performance and make decisions about promotions, organizational changes, and dismissals when necessary. Attracting, developing, and retaining executive talent is a key focus in a CEO’s day-to-day work.

Crisis Management

When an unexpected crisis hits, the CEO takes charge of the response. This can range from an internal issue like a cyber attack to an external event like a global pandemic. CEOs handle crises by gathering information quickly, communicating with transparency, and making decisive moves to protect their company. They also navigate the PR aspects by issuing statements and managing media relations. Their daily schedule must remain flexible to deal with rapidly evolving scenarios.


Communication is a vital part of a CEO’s daily responsibilities. They communicate in many forms throughout their day:

  • Email – Responding to emails and communicating with their executive team, department heads, board members, investors, partners, and team members.
  • Meetings – Facilitating and participating in internal meetings with their executive team, department heads, and key managers. Giving presentations to employees at company-wide meetings and events.
  • Video conferences – Conducting remote meetings via video chat tools. Allows for communication across distant offices and with clients/partners.
  • Phone calls – Having frequent calls with board members, investors, advisors, peers at other companies, etc.
  • Reports and memos – Reviewing status reports, proposals, budgets, operations plans, and other vital company documents.
  • Speeches – Giving keynote speeches and hosting press conferences at industry events to communicate with external audiences.
  • Social media – Posting on platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter to share company updates.

CEOs spend much of their day communicating important information to audiences both inside and outside of their organization. It’s critical for synchronizing efforts and nurturing relationships.

Networking and Relationship Building

A major portion of a CEO’s day involves networking, attending meetings, socializing, and building relationships. This allows them to:

  • Form partnerships with other companies
  • Meet with current/potential clients
  • Recruit talented professionals
  • Engage with shareholders and board members
  • Fundraise from investors and lenders
  • Interact with business and community leaders
  • Open doors to new opportunities

Here are some examples of relationship building activities CEOs engage in:

  • Grabbing coffee or meals with connections
  • Giving facility tours to important visitors
  • Attending conferences and industry events
  • Playing golf or sports with partners or clients
  • Socializing at charity dinners and cocktail receptions
  • Participating in community organizations and non-profit boards

This “soft” relationship work consumes much of a CEO’s calendar. Nurturing connections is essential for achieving business objectives.


Extensive travel often comes with the territory of being CEO. They frequently take work trips to:

  • Visit regional offices and production facilities
  • Meet with clients and partners
  • Attend conferences and trade shows
  • Recruit talent
  • Meet with investors

In some cases, CEOs spend more than 50% of their time traveling. Even while on the road, the daily duties continue in the form of emails, calls, meetings, and business meals. While draining, business travel allows CEOs to communicate effectively and strengthen relationships.

Public Relations

Part of a CEO’s role involves managing public relations to protect and enhance their company’s reputation. On a daily basis, this can include activities like:

  • Giving interviews to media and reporters
  • Writing op-eds for major publications
  • Filming corporate videos to share online
  • Posting on social media channels
  • Delivering keynote speeches at conferences
  • Attending publicity or charity events

CEOs shape external narratives about their organizations. They amplify positive messages and mitigate bad press. Public relations require ongoing attention from the CEO.

Board Engagement

CEOs must collaborate extensively with their board of directors, who provide governance and guidance. CEOs often hold board meetings, committee meetings, and one-on-one calls with board members multiple times per month. They consult the board frequently to tap into directors’ expertise. CEOs also give regular progress reports to keep the board informed. Maintaining an aligned and engaged board of directors is a central component of a CEO’s responsibilities.

Administrative Tasks

While CEOs delegate most administrative details to assistants and staff, they still must handle some themselves. Daily administrative duties can include:

  • Reviewing and replying to urgent emails
  • Signing legal documents and paperwork
  • Approving new hiring requisitions
  • Logging expenses
  • Scheduling upcoming meetings and events

CEOs try to minimize administrative work to focus time on more strategic tasks. But they remain responsible for giving final approvals and input in many areas.

Personal Development

To be effective leaders, CEOs must invest time in continuously developing themselves. Some learning activities CEOs engage in include:

  • Reading industry publications, business books, and news articles
  • Taking executive education courses or participating in mentoring programs
  • Attending seminars from thought leaders and experts
  • Learning new skills and methods, such as design thinking or lean management
  • Working with coaches to improve leadership abilities

Devoting time to personal growth helps CEOs stay sharp and expand their knowledge base.

Work-Life Balance

With demanding 24/7 schedules, CEOs constantly struggle to achieve work-life balance. Many attempt to carve out time for:

  • Exercising and staying healthy
  • Pursuing hobbies like reading, music, arts
  • Vacationing with family and friends
  • Participating in community service
  • Attending kids’ activities and school events

While CEOs tend to work long hours, those who find ways to unplug and recharge are more effective in the long run. They think more clearly and creatively after taking a break from work.


A CEO’s daily agenda is filled with a variety of strategic, financial, operational, and interpersonal activities. No two days look exactly the same. Their schedules have many moving parts and unexpected issues to handle. However, the most effective CEOs focus their limited time on responsibilities with the highest impact on their company’s success. They make complex decisions, set vision, communicate priorities, build relationships, and guide their executive team. While demanding, the upside of being CEO is the immense ability to drive growth, shape culture, and leave a legacy.