Protecting your calendar from others: managing availability

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While working with Teresa Gavigan, one of my clients, on her office organization, we talked about the challenge she was having with an overly booked calendar and what to do about it.  She had recently taken over another entire division and was splitting her time between the two groups, which were in two different buildings.  She had ceded her calendar over to her assistant but hadn’t set any boundaries around what meetings to accept and what to decline.  Her assistant was accepting meetings tentatively, which resulted in Teresa often being double and triple booked.  She told me she frequently felt like she was “having a Lucy Ricardo moment” as she dashed over to one meeting, then over to the next, then back to the other, never wanting to let one or the other down. 

After months of running around harried, she decided that was enough, she was the boss, and she didn’t have to be everywhere and be available at everyone’s beck and call.  She decided to reduce the number of meetings she attended by delegating attendance at some and declining others.  She scheduled a regular staff meeting every other week with one group not to exceed one hour and a monthly conference call with the second.  To make up for the reduced group meeting time, she schedules monthly meeting with each of her direct reports to discuss planning items.  All staff members can email or phone her with more immediate concerns.  Additionally, she has a 30-minute “innovation” meeting once a month to discuss a specific topic of future interest to the organization that everyone comes prepared to discuss.  With the boundaries she’s placed on her schedule, the regularly scheduled staff meetings and individual meetings, she feels much more in control and less like a “Lucy.”  What have you done to regain control of your availability?

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  1. [...] Managing your availability requires close attention to the truly important. Once you reach higher levels in leadership, you can’t allow the mundane to distract you; you shouldn’t be running around putting out brush fires, especially when others can do so less expensively. Additionally, that style of management comes perilously close to micromanaging. [...]

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