An appointment-crammed schedule can take on a life of its own, gobbling up your workdays like a ravenous beast. Tame your schedule by adopting some of the following simple techniques. The secret to success lies in applying them firmly and consistently.
Block out time on your schedule for solitary work. Guard this appointment with yourself fiercely. Make it clear you'll accept no phone calls or pop-in visits. If possible, escape to a solitary spot during this time. Read 188 Organize Your Workday.
Deflect excessive requests for your time from co-workers. Ask those who squander your time to submit written proposals, or schedule meeting times with them far enough out so that they might just solve the issues on their own.
Allot blocks of time for making and taking phone calls. Avoid phone tag by suggesting these times to callers. Take a list of calls to make when you have a drive of longer than 10 minutes.
Cluster out-of-office meetings geographically. Traveling to and from appointments uses up vast amounts of time. See 4 Run Errands Efficiently.
Communicate clearly how much time you have to meet with people, and then enforce the finish times. Schedule appointments in your own office back-to-back so the arrival of one person encourages the departure of the other.
Keep track of how much of your workweek you devote to appointments. If the amount exceeds 50 percent, evaluate whether other people's agendas are overpowering yours.
Be realistic about travel time to off-site meetings. Many a schedule has been sabotaged because it didn't factor in heavy traffic or public transportation delays. Beware of the phrase "Let's do lunch." Meeting for a restaurant lunch will suck a minimum of 90 minutes from your schedule. Ask yourself whether what you will accomplish will be worth the time invested. Sometimes it will. If you've been trying to meet with your boss for weeks, for example, getting him or her out of the office for lunch may provide uninterrupted, focused time.