In order to be truly effective, you must be able to control your time. Unfortunately, in many business environments anyone in the system can add a meeting to your calendar. I’ve had time when there were twelve hours of meetings fighting for space in an eight-hour day. Since it seems that few people actually check to see if the time is actually available before they send the meeting over, it results in multiple bookings for the same time slot.
Having a full calendar certainly means you’re busy. But a full calendar often comes at the expense of productivity. Would it be better to be busy or be productive? How many meetings do you get invited to that are simply informational, or it seems you were added simply because the organizer thought you might be able to contribute something (but nothing specific)?
This can also impact the performance of a team, if all of the members are more involved in attending meetings than actually working on something meaningful. I’ve seen meeting invites that included not only myself but one or more of my managers along with several members of my staff! What possible purpose does that serve except to waste the time of several people? Have one (or at most, two) attend and then be ‘on point’ to engage others on the team if it becomes necessary.
How do you solve for this problem? First, if you or your staff are victims of overbooking it might be wise to start booking time on your calendar for work rather than meetings. Make it show up as ‘busy’ or ‘unavailable’ on the calendar so others (if they bother to check) won’t be able to add a meeting in that time frame.
Next, never be afraid to say no. If you don’t know why you are being invited – ask. If the reason is ‘just because’ or doesn’t make sense, don’t feel bad about declining the invitation. If you have staff that would be better suited to be part of a meeting, delegation should always be an option.
We also want to support our staff in their efforts to manage time. If they’re faced with similar situations that should not be afraid to decline meetings. As their manager, we should then be willing to step up and support them in those decisions.
Time is valuable, and once it’s gone it can’t be taken back. Manage your calendar to be productive rather than simply busy.