A slot is a narrow notch, groove or opening, such as a keyway in machinery or the slit for a coin in a vending machine. The word may also refer to a position or time in a schedule, program or other event. For example, you might reserve a time slot to see a doctor at the clinic, or you might book a flight ticket for an airline’s next available departure. A slot can also be a position in an activity, such as the high slot in hockey where a defenseman can take a blistering slap shot. The term is also used to describe a function, such as the number of paylines on a video slot game.

In aviation, an airport’s slot gives airlines the right to operate at certain times during constrained periods, such as when the runway is full or when capacity is limited. This is known as central flow management and has reduced congestion, delays and fuel burn for airlines.

A slot-based approach to scheduling can help people prioritize important work and meet deadlines. For example, using time slots to set urgent deadlines can improve team productivity and performance by ensuring that staff members know what they need to do first and can allocate their workload accordingly. Using slot-based scheduling to establish project objectives can also benefit teams by clarifying their priorities and improving collaboration. This article was adapted from an original by Laura Martin and Janet Schroeder, which was published by the American Psychological Association.