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A Day in the Life of a Business Executive

If you’re considering a career in business, you might be wondering: what does a typical day look like? Depending on the industry, job type and individual, however, you would likely get a different answer every time. Still, business executives do share many overlapping roles and responsibilities. Here’s a closer look at six things that come into play in the ‘typical’ business day.

Sep 6, 2023
A Day in the Life of a Business Executive

If you’re considering a career in business, you might be wondering: what does a typical day look like? Depending on the industry, job type and individual, however, you would likely get a different answer every time. Still, business executives do share many overlapping roles and responsibilities. Here’s a closer look at six things that come into play in the ‘typical’ business day.

1. Communication

Communication is often cited as the most important ‘soft skill’ for business leaders. And with good reason: how you communicate influences your relationships with everyone from coworkers to clients.

According to a Center for Management & Organization Effectiveness (CMOE) survey of influential and successful business people in North America, the average leader spends more than three hours a day emailing, texting, and on the phone and just under three and a half hours a day in conference calls and meetings. More than half of their time is spent working with people and teams, while less than two hours are designated for personal tasks and projects. The takeaway? The stronger your communication skills, the smoother the bulk of your work day will be.

Communication doesn’t just mean the ability to express your own thoughts and ideas. It also means listening to theirs, as well. Benecard PBF president Michael A. Perry tells Inc., “When leading important initiatives, invest the time to understand the current perspectives of each stakeholder. Every person will have a different start point, based on their experience and role. Discussing individual road maps, director toward arriving at the same destination, will broaden your understanding of the challenges and will elicit more engaged and willing participants.”

2. Strategy

The CMOE study also reveals that the typical business leader sets aside just under 30 minutes every morning to strategize. This includes setting and evaluating goals for the day, week, month and year, time management, and prioritization.

Others attend to this task at the end of the day. Boatsetter co-founder and CEO Jaclyn Baumgarten says, “Each night I dedicate a few moments to identifying the initiatives or activities that are most important to moving the company forward the following day. I divide them by category such as fundraising, operations, resource development, negotiation or strategic planning in my 'black book' which is always with me. I tackle the hardest or most complex things first. I try to keep the critical list capped at five and revisit the list throughout the day, avoiding distractions such as email. Prioritization is the key to managing my time and working on initiatives that will have the most impact on the business. On any given day, I may re-prioritize my list two to three times.”

3. Travel

Just because a lot of business today can be done remotely doesn’t mean travel is a thing of the past. For starters, there’s commuting time. According to CMOE, business leaders spend just under an hour every day commuting. However, this can vary widely depending on the individual. Others have more intensive travel requirements, such as HSBC executive Melania Edwards, who maintains two offices an hour apart from each other, in San Francisco and Palo Alto, California. She says, “I'm grateful to live in two innovative and thriving environments, surrounded by inspiring people." Edwards is lucky enough to take the train between cities, which allows her to use the time to listen to a podcast or answer emails, she told Business Insider.

And then there’s business travel. European CEO reveals, “Business travel is a vital part of any CEO’s job, usually accounting for anywhere from now one to 10 working days per month. For bosses at the higher end of the spectrum, that means more time spent traveling than in meetings.”

4. People

We hear it over and over again: Business is about people. Apple luminary Steve Jobs knew this and lived it. “Think about the type of people you want to work with. Think about the types of customers you would enjoy serving. Think about the friends you want to have. Then, change what you do so you can start attracting those people. Hard-working people want to work with hardworking people. Kind people like to associate with kind people. Exceptional employees want to work for exceptional bosses. Be the best you can be, and work to surround yourself with people who are even better,” he advised.

Also, when asked about their daily routine various successful executives also reference the importance of cultivating relationships with people. These including greeting their employees every day, holding a daily huddle, and staying connected with non-work people.

5. Exercise and personal development

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” according to the old adage. It also makes Jack less successful, which is why the average business leader spends approximately 45 minutes each morning exercising, while devoting 30 minutes per night to personal development.

Edwards, for example, wakes up at 5:30 every day to meditate, spend time with loved ones, and play tennis. She also walks to work. “I find the best way to set the tone for the day ahead is a short meditation where I focus on deep breathing and determine my priorities for the day,” she told Business Insider.

It Works! CEO Mark Pentecost adds, “I find that personal development is another way that I like to unwind. I love to read the latest books and magazines. In our ever-changing world, I find that it’s important to continue to develop a competitive edge in leadership and business in addition to working on my personal development.”

Other ways to stay healthy while leading a company include staying hydrated, eating breakfast, and getting enough sleep.

6. Relaxation and family time

Even the most driven executives don’t work 24/7. Spending time with family is a vital part of the pre- and post-work day for most of them. Brookfield Multiplex Executive Director Sharon Warburton told Leaders in Heels, “Breakfast is with my daughter before she goes to school and I go to the office. I avoid early work meetings and rarely attend brekkie functions. I try very hard to have meals with Chloe every day. This is our special time.”

But this time away doesn’t mean turning everything else off. In fact, it can spur the creative process. MiMedia CEO Chris Giordano says, “"My daily habit is taking a walk to get coffee--the long way--to take the time to think, resolve problems and brainstorm ways to stay ahead of the competition. Some of my best ideas for solving consumers issues, introducing new products and even minute details like design and UI [user interface] have come from getting outside and stretching my legs."

If you’re looking to prepare yourself for life as a CEO, meanwhile, the right training can make all the difference. This is where ESCP Europe’s Executive Master in International Business (EMIB) comes in. Using a 100 percent online methodology and available in your choice of English or French, the EMIB comprises 14 management and leadership courses, as well as a master’s thesis. Its aim? To equip aspiring managers all over the world with the knowledge, skills, and hands-on practice they need to hit the ground running in leadership roles in international business.

In reflecting on her EMIB experience, alumna Esther Campillo Navajo enthuses, “The EMIB program provides all I was looking for: an MBA course with an international orientation, flexibility to learn, and offered in a prestigious business school…”

Meanwhile, alumnus Fabien Mainemare, says, “I must say [the program is] the best personal investment I have ever made. I knew ESCP Europe as a famous business school but I didn’t expect I could become a part of it, [because] that’s really what you become by joining their programs. [There is] incredible availability of the professors (I still didn’t find their trick to answer my emails by night) and the deep and strong experience they have. Day to day I feel more and more globally minded and open to an appealing international career. The EMIB is providing everything I need to get to the next step.”

If this sounds like exactly what you’ve been looking for as well, find out more information about ESCP Europe’s innovative EMIB.

Joanna Hughes


Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.