FOR years I have operated under the assumption that being well organised is a function of power. The more powerful you are the more control you have over your time and the more you can control the time of people who are less powerful than you. There seems to be a pecking order, intuitively understood by most people, where the individuals with the greatest perceived authority - in their community, their profession, or their organisation - can get everyone else to yield to their schedule. If they exercise that authority to the maximum, they can go through any business day with split-second efficiency. For example, if someone from the White House called up the chairman of, say, General Electric and said, ''The President of the United States would like to see you in Washington next Tuesday morning from 11.15 to 11.45. Can you be there?'' I suspect the meeting would take place exactly the way the President wants it. Everyone yields to the President. Similarly, if the chairman of GE wanted to gather all his top managers for a 6 am meeting on Sunday, there might be some grumbling but the meeting would happen the way the chairman wants it. At GE everyone would yield to the chairman. And so on down the chain of command in any organisation, to the office manager who wants to meet with the mailroom staff, one by one, in a series of meetings, the first at 9.25, the second at 9.38, the third at 9.55 . . . Within the office manager's fiefdom, every one yields to the office manager. The most efficient people, I've found, are those who have the greatest appreciation of this dynamic and are not afraid to play with it. They exploit their control over their subordinates' schedule and consequently can accomplish more in five hours than the rest of us get done in five days. On a typical morning, from 7 am to noon, the President of the US could meet with two Cabinet members, three Congressional leaders, and four CEOs of major corporations. They would all come to his office. And, if he wanted to, he could do that every day. As a connoisseur of time management, I envy the President's total control of his schedule. I don't have the kind of power that reshapes the world for my convenience. Like the rest of us, I have to work hard to arrange one meeting with a busy corporate decision-maker, and I have to work even harder if I want to arrange back-to-back meetings with two busy decision-makers. I was musing on this recently, when in one day I had back-to-back meetings at very precise times with five heads of five major companies. It was risky. If a meeting was delayed or ran overtime or I got trapped in traffic, the schedule could fall apart. Fortunately, everything went like clockwork. Wrapping up the final meeting, I remember silently applauding myself for the split-second efficiency of that day. In my mind, I was approaching the Presidential ideal. The interesting thing is that none of this had anything to do with power. Not one of the executives I called on was the type who would drop everything because someone said ''Mark McCormack would like to meet with you.'' When you don't have the power to organise your day at your convenience, you need a more flexible approach to make busy people yield to your schedule. Before you can get through to powerful people, you have to acknowledge their standing in the pecking order. If it is more important for you to see them than for them to see you, they rank above you in the pecking order. This requires an attitude adjustment, an adoption of humility, that a lot of people neglect to make. For example, if I want to see 15 people during a week-long visit to London, I will rank those people in three categories according to how important it is for me to see them. In Category A are the people who I absolutely must see in order to justify the trip to London. They are my highest priority. In my mind, that person - regardless of how the outside world may compare their stature with mine - places them above me in the pecking order. It tells me to accommodate their schedule at all costs. In Category B are the people who it would be worthwhile to see on this trip. In Category C are the people I would like to meet if there are any holes in my schedule. Once you know the pecking order, you must be very accommodating to those above you. Again, a lot of people forget that. If I know I can make my London trip on any week during a five-week period, I will always let my Category A people decide which week it will be. I will call my top priority in Category A, find out which week he will be in town, and let him choose the timewhen we can get together. After that I will go to my next highest priority person, and so on down the list. There's usually enough leeway in a week to meet all my Category A people. Then I move to Category B. I'm not sure most people work this way. Even if they take the time to prioritise the people they're trying to see (and I suspect many don't), they put the cart before the horse. What usually happens is that an executive decides he's travelling to London on a particular week. Then he starts calling the 15 people he wants to meet, only to find out that half of them are out of town or unavailable that week. That's hardly accommodating important people. If I were that executive I would postpone the trip and start from scratch - by letting my top priority people decide when I should visit. It also pays to work far in advance. In fact, you could almost state it in an equation: The more important a person is to you (or, conversely, the less interested or obligated they are to see you) the farther in advance you should contact them for a meeting. If you're visiting London on a given week and need to see the managing director of your biggest customer, you might have a hard time breaking into his schedule if you call only a week before your trip. But I suspect even the busiest boss will find room for you if you call four months in advance. No one's calendar is fully booked that far ahead. Plus, that sort of advance booking locks the meeting in more firmly than any hastily arranged visit. For some reason, people will always think twice about breaking a meeting that's been set up four months, whereas they may not hesitate to cancel a meeting set up a few days before.