For me, a big part of productivity is being agile. I like to leave a lot of blocks in my day open. On an average day, I'm only 50 percent scheduled, though occasionally it gets as high as 80 percent. That's imperative, because often something comes up out of nowhere. Recently, for example, an important new partner came to the office and unexpectedly brought the CEO. The team came to me and said, "Oh, my God; their CEO came. Do you have a window this afternoon?" I had a window. And at the end of the hour the CEO and I spent together, we'd identified new markets and positioned the company to be a global as well as domestic partner. If I have a free block and nothing presents itself, I catch up on industry reports, self-education, and big-picture thinking. In a packed schedule, those things can get neglected. They shouldn't be.

Scott Lang is CEO of Silver Spring Networks, a developer of smart energy grids, based in Redwood City, California.