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Rush Hour Don't let downtime turn into lost time. Learn how to make the most of it.

By Chris Penttila

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As with any project-based business, there are months when employees at Chevy Chase, Maryland-based Creative Strategy Inc. can barely breathe under the deadline pressure. At other times, how-ever, the pressure is off, and it gets quiet--almost too quiet for Sally Roffman, founder and president of the $1.5 million brand-building and marketing firm. "Those are the days I walk into the office and everybody just ducks for cover because then I micromanage everything," she says.

It's one thing if you're working 14-hour days just to keep up with all the orders customers are placing; it's another if you've suddenly got time on your hands, whether it's a slow day, a slow week or a slow quarter. Many people react to open, unstructured blocks of time in their schedules by trying to keep things hectic, which often just makes them less productive. "You get very used to [being busy] and almost addicted to that pace," says time management and organizing expert Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management From the Inside Out. "So you try to recreate it in the slow times when it's not the best use of that time."

Workers in the U.S. aren't using their time wisely, whether it's busy or slow. A recent survey by organizing products company Day-Timers found that one-third of workers never plan their work and seldom or never schedule time to work on their high-priority goals. "The biggest time-management mistake people make is not knowing how much time they waste," says Peggy Duncan, a personal productivity expert and the author of The Time Management Memory Jogger.

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