Calendar rejections

by Productivity

Do you feel overscheduled or have difficulty saying no to meeting requests? Do you break out in a sweat every time you get an email asking you to join another call? Having a plan to tactfully implement calendar rejections and the guardrails around the decision can ease some of those challenges.

Before owning a business, I really had no need to network. When I was a new business owner, I felt like I had to meet with everyone that asked. It quickly became apparent that I could spend all day long jacked up on coffee meeting one person after another. One in five might be someone I could support and vice versa. I tested out several networking groups and clubs and have changed them as my business grows, especially since most of my business is not in the Raleigh-Durham area.

Pre-Covid, as a business owner, I was often asked if I would meet for coffee to get to know each other better and refer to each other. 

Now that those coffee dates have turned into, what could be endless Zoom meetings, I have to be careful of my time in a different way. I'm also now asked to do a lot of pick your brain calls or mentoring. 

Over the years, I've crafted a fit that works well for me, which I'll share now with the hope that you find one or two ways to work this into your over-committed schedule. Bear in mind that everyone's job is different. Disclaimer: If you are in sales and your job is to meet 25 new people a week, it's a different situation.

How I Handle Calendar Rejections

  1. Before meeting with someone face to face, I require a phone call first. If I can tell the meeting isn't going somewhere, I can hang up in ten minutes. If I've driven somewhere and purchased a latte, it doesn't feel right to get up and leave after ten minutes. I've invested commute time and money, so it ends up being 3-5 times longer than it needs to be.
  2. I limit the networking groups or clubs I'm in because I prefer narrow and deep rather than spray and play. Right now, I'm on the leadership team of Upward Women, a founding member of my Vistage group, a member of Raleigh Founded co-working, and a speaking mastermind.
  3. I make it easy for people to schedule with me, but at the same time, I also create some friction. I use Acuity and have these 25-minute options:
    • Speaking and Training Connection 
    • Discovery Call 
    • Virtual Coffee 

    The friction is from a list of questions that the person completes when scheduling to reflect on what they want or need, and I can be fully prepared for the meeting.
    Virtual Coffee
  4. I do walking meetings when possible, either by phone or in-person, so I'm not just staring at a screen and can background task with walking.
  5. I use a template when people contact me via email to meet that says
    Meeting Request

If I don't see a real purpose in the meeting, I'll adjust the one month as needed or remove it altogether.

Hold Your Time Sacred

If you aren't sure if a meeting is crucial for you to attend or don't know what it is about, don't blindly accept it. Reply back and ask, “what is the expectation for me to contribute to this meeting?” If they say they just want you there as FYI or can't give a direct answer, ask if you can just have the summary or meeting minutes.

As much as you can, hold your time sacred. My corporate clients regularly complain about meetings scheduled over their blocked times. If you're always giving in, your times will never mean anything. Be very particular about the ones you let slip through and create guardrails.

Offer an Alternative

I can't attend the meeting for the whole hour, but I can attend for the first 15 minutes (this may also shorten the session).

I'm working on a mission-critical project right now. Can we postpone this until…?

Thanks for thinking of me! It sounds exciting but not the best use of my skillset right now. I think someone else would be a better fit.

I disagree with saying let me get back to you, or let me check my calendar when you know you will not attend, and you're just hoping they'll forget. Be clear and direct with your calendar rejections, and then move on. It's not fair to be wishy-washy.

Unwanted Email Intros

If someone wants you to make an introduction you don't want to, you could reply back with something like this…

Dr. Amy is fantastic! Because of that, her schedule is often packed, so I don't feel comfortable adding to that workload. If you can send 3-4 questions you wish to ask her, I can forward them to answer if she chooses. Maybe she'll find them so intriguing she'll find time for a chat!

Having a template makes the rejection easier and removes some emotion. Come up with your guardrails, write them down, so you see them in front of you until they become a habit, and then smile at your calendar filled with the meetings and time that light you up!

Practice your calendar rejections to eliminate the meh to make room for maximum impact.

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Your Weekender Snapshot and Tim Ferriss’s Five Bullet Friday are my favorite emails I receive.
jim west

Principal and Managing Director, GFF Architects