I've worked with hundreds of executives and CEOs, and the one thing that they all have in common is the feeling that they never have enough time. 

Time to think, to strategize, and to get ahead of the game

They feel pulled toward meetings, urgent problems, and last-minute calls others place on their calendars. It leaves them feeling like they're struggling to be anything other than reactive. 

Although we can't control time, we can manage it a lot better than we think we can. In fact, for most of us, it's actually shocking how much more productive we can be with a little attention. 

This 10-minute exercise has been a total game-changer for many of these executives. Despite feeling like a victim to their calendars, they felt more confident and in control after they practiced this simple technique. You can, too.

The Time-Saving Exercise

Spend 10 minutes at the beginning of each week, either on Sunday night or a Monday morning, and book time to think, time to work out, and time to meditate in your calendar. Physically block out specific times for each of these things so they're visible to you. For example, for a half hour before lunch, schedule a meeting with yourself to go for a walk or run. Treat these meetings like you would anything else on your calendar: Like important meetings that can't be moved. 

How to Use It 

Really commit to doing this for two weeks, and notice the difference it makes. What I've seen is that these meetings end up doubling your productivity, giving you the feeling that you've gained extra time. And, they make you happier to boot. 

Next Step: Be a Gatekeeper

Often, we lose track of time with the best of intentions. Of course, we all want to be available to our teams, and meetings and collaboration are such an important way that work gets done. But no matter what your job, you also need time to think and time to process. So, in addition to carving out time for yourself, make yourself a gatekeeper. 

What this means: Create a list of questions that anyone on your team should review before scheduling time with you (or, you can go through them before accepting a meeting). Questions like: Is this meeting absolutely necessary? Is it urgent or can it wait? Can this be handled in any other way besides a meeting? You can create the questions that feel right for you. 

Depending on your work culture, this could be more challenging. In an open office, for example, it's harder to avoid people coming up to your desk and asking questions that can take you out of your "thinking" mode. But if you have the ability to be a gatekeeper, make people work to get a meeting with you, and you'd be surprised at how much more time you will get as a result. Often people are not thinking, they are just acting, and forcing them to think before requesting your time is a great way to help everyone be more efficient overall.  

Keep practicing both of these actions until they become habitual (which usually takes about one to two months). 

You will soon find that you have more control over your ability to be proactive than you ever thought was possible.