Your life is your time. How do you spend it?

Like many entrepreneurs, you likely find your days consumed in meetingsstrategy sessions, or attempting to respond to the endless inbox of emails and calls. If you aren’t careful your calendar, and ultimately your life, can be swarmed and taken over.

Especially with more people working remotely amid the global pandemic, many people assume their coworkers are free 24 hours a day, seven days a week. While at times you may not be in a meeting, that doesn’t mean your time should be taken over.

I found that by using these three simple hacks, I was able to take back control of my calendar and actually create a more productive life for myself and my team.

1. Block out time on your calendar.

It’s hard to decline a meeting invite or say you are busy when your calendar looks wide open. But just because you aren’t in meetings all day doesn’t mean you have ample amounts of free time. To protect yourself from the ever-present, “do you have a moment?” inquiries, actually schedule in the actions you have, aside from meetings onto your calendar.

Part of setting up your calendar appropriately includes creating certain blocks of your day where it is impossible for people to schedule time with you. If you need a few moments to get things done, uninterrupted, set your calendar so there is a portion of your day available for this task. When you have this blocked time, also move all communication platforms offline. The fewer interruptions, the more productive and efficient you will be.

I like to preemptively block time in anticipation that something will come up during the week and I may need a few extra hours set aside to focus. Blocking this on the calendar will provide a safety net for your precious work hours and give you a little wiggle room when you need to make adjustments.

2. Set clear expectations with how you communicate.

Included in my email signature is a note that says I only check email at 9 am and 2 pm. While this is a guideline I personally use with some exceptions, it sets the precedent of what people can expect. If someone sends an email at 9:30 am, they know I won’t see it until 2 pm and can then manage their needs accordingly. This level of transparency sets everyone up for success while protecting you from the influx of emails.

You can also create an email autoresponder if you have a major business decision to make, an offsite board meeting, or are struggling to push through a specific project deadline. Set yourself up for success by being transparent. “I am taking a hiatus from email right now in order to be productive and focus on [insert priority].”

Communicating your expectations is completely productive and very useful. Set the expectations and then follow through. It’s easy to blame others, but oftentimes, we are the very culprit of our own reduced productivity. Don’t say you’re not checking email and then spend all day responding to people. This reduces trust and leads your team to believe you’re not following through on the expectations you have set in place.

3. Plan weekly.

On Sunday, decide when things are going to be done. With my businesses, Mondays and Tuesdays are filled with team meetings, while the remainder of the week remains open for various needs that rotate based on the season of my businesses.

Flexibility in time is extremely beneficial, as it enables you to be completely present with what is coming up and allows you to focus on any opportunities that may emerge. If every minute of your day is scheduled with one meeting after another, there will be no room for new growth, new ventures, or even time to be creative and think.

Give these tools a try and see how your efficiency, productivity, and stress levels respond.