Ah, the good ol’ calendar audit!
Have you heard of it?
Have you done it?
If you need a refresher, here it is:
But here’s the thing. I’ve seen THIS play out time and time again:
You do the calendar audit.
You remove useless meetings.
You reduce the frequency and length of other meetings.
You free up space on your calendar.
And then what do you do?
You fill it up with more meetings!!
I know, your calendar is entropy incarnate.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause.
But you’ve got to have a strategy for after you do that audit.
And while I don’t use war metaphors often (because, um, war is bad), this is what I always think of:
- Advance, and protect.
So, when you free up space on your calendar, space that you want, that you need, to get your work done during the workday. Space for your deep work and your projects so that you don’t have to take it home anymore…
Immediately protect that time.
Immediately block your calendar in those beautiful open spaces as “DO NOT SCHEDULE” or “Private” or whatever it is that’ll be vague and foreboding enough to keep folks from snapping up that time in their needy little claws.
If you don’t, do you know what will happen?
It WILL get scheduled over.
And you’ll be back in the same place you were before the audit.
So, will you be able to never, ever schedule new meetings?
Of course not.
But you want to be in control of that newfound time.
It took a lot of emotional effort, I’m sure, to earn that time back.
And you’ve got to protect it if you want to keep it that way.
Not sure how this works in practice?
Well, let me share one way that I’ve done this:
I used to allow meetings to be scheduled any time between 9 am and 5 pm Monday through Friday.
I mean, I was working those hours, right?
But then I realized I needed creative time, time for deep work. And, after a lot of experimentation, I realized I needed it on Mondays.
So, first, I blocked off Monday, on a recurring basis, so no one could schedule new meetings on Mondays (protecting the time I already had open on Mondays).
Then, I started moving existing meetings off Mondays (slowly and in collaboration with the other participants, of course).
And then I solidified my “no meeting Mondays”.
Mondays are now always blocked in my schedule.
I advanced, and protected.
I’ve secured that day.
Do I ever make an exception?
Well, once in a blue moon. I’m human, after all.
But mostly, no. Monday is protected for creative work.
And that’s just one example.
Maybe you can’t block off a whole day, or even an afternoon.
But let’s say you’ve successfully turned a once-a-week meetings into a once-a-month meeting. Right now, get in there and set a recurring “Do Not Schedule” block for the other 3 instances a month that you’ve just liberated.
You’ve liberated them for a specific purpose, and it’s not just for more meetings!