Something Lou Gerstner, former CEO of IBM, once said has stuck in my head: "Never let anyone own your schedule." It's simple and obvious, yet genius.
Over the years, whenever I didn't follow this advice, I was stressed and unproductive. Gradually I learned that planning and following a routine makes a huge difference in how I feel and what I get done. Here are some of the things that help me manage my schedule that you may find helpful:
1. Create a routine.
No matter what you are working on, create a routine. Block times for specific activities, and stick with the plan. Turn your calendar into a bunch of blocks, and put activities into those blocks. Whatever is not planned, you don't do. If you want free time, plan it.
2. Group meetings and calls into blocks.
For example, if you need to have outside meetings, block two and a half days a week for those meetings, and go to the outside meetings only during those times. Do the same thing for in-office meetings. This way you are not only creating a chunk of time for meetings, you are also creating other blocks of time that you will be able to important work. Do the same thing with calls, and book them all back to back.
3. Optimize time for different meeting types.
Personally, I am now a big fan of 30-minute meetings and 10-minute calls. I think 10-minute calls are a great way to initially connect with someone or give someone quick advice. You can do a Google Hangout or Skype if you prefer to see the person instead of just hearing them. The reason 10-minute calls work is because people skip BS and get to the point. Try it.
Here are the types of meetings you might want to book:
• 30-minute meeting in the office to get to know someone or catch up
• 45-minute meeting outside of the office. Allow 15 minutes for travel.
• 10-minute call to help someone who needs advice
• 15-minute daily standup—great for startups and engineering teams
• 30-minute weekly staff meeting
4. Use appointment slots.
There is a great feature in Google Calendar called Appointment Slots. It allows you to book a chunk of time, and then split it into pieces. For example, I can book three hours of outside meetings and then split it into three meetings—one hour each. Or I can book one hour of calls and split it into six calls at 10 minutes each.
The next step is to create bit.ly links for different blocks of time. You can have a link for your outside meetings, another link for 30-minute inside meetings and yet another one for 10-minute calls. You then share these links, and they can book the time with you.
This won't work with everyone, because some people may find this rude. In any case, if you are not comfortable sending the link to someone, then you can use your own appointment slots, suggest a few meeting times, and then book the specific slot yourself.
5. Block time for email.
This is the most important tip in the whole post. Email will own you unless you own it. To own your email you must avoid doing it all the time. To do that you need to schedule the time to do your email. It is absolutely a must.
6. Plan your exercise and family time.
Unless you put it on the calendar, it won't get done. Well, that applies to your exercise and time with your family. Whether you go in the morning, afternoon or evening, do it three times a week or every day, put exercise time on the calendar.
The same applies to planning time with your family and significant others. If you are a workaholic like me, you will end up stealing time from your family unless you book it in advance and train yourself to promptly unplug.
7. Actually manage your time.
I think about my time a lot. I think about where it goes. I think about where can I get more of it, and how to optimize it. When I was running GetGlue, I had an assistant who was managing my time. She was awesome. But when I joined Techstars, I decided that I will manage my calendar myself. I have to confess that I am happy about this decision.
I find myself thinking about what I am doing, who am I meeting with and why a lot more. I meet with a lot of people every week. My schedule is particularly insane during the selection process. Yet, because I manage my calendar, follow a routine, plan meetings in blocks and use appointment slots, I find myself less overwhelmed and less stressed.
Related: Make your waking hours work for you
This article was written by a member of the AlleyNYC contributor network. AlleyNYC is one of the world’s largest innovation hubs, helping foster the growth of startups in its flagship location in New York City. Entrepreneur Media is a partner and investor in AlleyNYC. If you would like to learn more about AlleyNYC and how to apply for membership visit here.
Copyright 2015 Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.
This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editor.