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Ye olde time management techniques taught that a truly efficient person has every moment of his or her time filled with productive activity. Not only the time, but the chinks between the time. And it’s better if you have several things going at once.

So what happens if you have that kind of life, with back-to-back appointments and every minute planned out, and a crisis occurs? Crisis, here, means any unforeseeable, unplanned situation that you have to respond to. It doesn’t have to mean an earthquake, it could be the flu that knocks you flat, or a car problem that leaves you stranded and makes getting to your meetings impossible.

Without flexibility in your schedule, your efficient system shatters. But if you build flexibility into your schedule, if you leave room for the unexpected, it’s a lot easier to cope with the unforeseen. And it creates opportunities to put final touches on projects or make last minute phone calls that otherwise wouldn’t have fit into your tightly-wound, intensely-planned schedule.

Building flexibility into your schedule can be approached as a simple math problem. Let’s say that you, like me, get up at 7 a.m. And at some point, maybe 8 p.m., you determine that you’re done for the day. It’s time to start unwinding. In a five-day week, that means you have 65 hours of “productive time.” If you plan up 90 percent of that—58.5 hours—and something goes awry, you will have to cancel appointments, miss deadlines and be generally stressed. But what if you only filled up around 60 percent? That’s still 39 hours a week, and there’s no law against being productive the other 19 hours. But you’ve given yourself room to make adjustments for a crisis, should it arise.

If the crises doesn’t happen, you can use the time to be proactive, knock items off your to-do list, catch up on reading, social media, bills, exercise, or whatever seems like the best use of your time.

Sixty percent may not work for you but it’s a good benchmark to start with. In any case, it will ease your stress level. Little issues like unexpected traffic or copiers out of ink don’t have to throw off your whole day.Try it out and see how productive you can be!

Thanks for reading!