8 min read

When is a Schedule Optional & How do You Plan Your Own Availability?

Availability scheduling 

There are various times in a working person’s life when your everyday experience can feel entirely beholden to the demands of your schedule and meeting availability. By now we are all well aware of the need to tabulate, keep track of and manage our time spent working in order to do so successfully. Sometimes, however, letting your schedule lead the way can become a daunting ordeal and before you know it you’re left reeling, jumping between meetings and sowing seeds that aren’t guaranteed to bear fruit.

As per the saying that sometimes the best approach to feedback is knowing when not to take it, sometimes the best way to engage with scheduled meetings is knowing when to decline them. Opportunities should always be respected and considered and no one is advocating for slacking off, but it is important to consider that sometimes our time can be better spent elsewhere. Your schedule should be an asset that helps you to progress and chase successes, not serve as a 9-5 overlord that commands total obedience and compliance.

Let’s take a look at some ways that we can exert a bit of control over our calendars and make scheduling decisions that don’t hinder but rather help us to meet our goals.

When is it okay to decline a scheduled meeting

It is of course entirely acceptable to decline a meeting when it conflicts with other important commitments or when attending the meeting would not add value to your work or goals. 
For instance, if you have a project deadline that requires your immediate attention, you may need to decline a scheduled meeting to focus on the task at hand. Similarly, if the meeting's agenda or purpose is not relevant to your work or responsibilities, declining the invitation may be appropriate.

Declining an engagement because you need to focus is not the same as declining because you’re flippant about the opportunities that come your way. If it is meant to be then you will find additional time that works for all parties. 
If you are experiencing burnout or have already scheduled too many meetings, it is reasonable to decline a meeting to avoid overloading your schedule and preserve your mental and emotional wellbeing. Regardless, it is still essential to communicate your meeting availability decision politely and respectfully, providing a clear and valid reason for your inability to attend the scheduled meeting.
If you don’t appreciate being ghosted by friends, chances are you won’t like being ghosted at work, so let’s all be a little kinder and a lot more forthcoming.

When is it important to attend a scheduled meeting

Determining when a meeting is too important not to attend can depend on various factors, such as the purpose of the scheduled meeting, who will be attending, and the potential outcomes or consequences of not being present. If the meeting involves crucial decisions or discussions that will impact your work or the organization's goals, it is likely too important not to attend.

Generally speaking, if the scheduled meeting requires your expertise or input, it is vital to attend to ensure that your insights are considered. If the meeting involves key stakeholders or decision-makers, missing the meeting could result in missed opportunities or jeopardize important relationships. The beauty of modern scheduling software is that meeting guests and attendees are usually available to view and we would highly recommend doing so to ensure you are in the know and can base potentially critical decisions off of the information available to you.

In short, it is important to carefully evaluate the scheduled meeting's significance and potential impact before deciding whether to attend or not. As always, going with your gut is an advisable decision because if you have that familiar nagging feeling like you probably should attend, then do so.

The problem with being permanently available in your meeting scheduling 

Being permanently available can be harmful to your professional perception because it can create the impression that you have no boundaries or work-life balance. Constantly responding to messages or being available at all hours of the day can signal to others that you have little control over your time and can lead to others taking advantage of your meeting availability. 
It might seem harsh, but handing others the rope as it pertains to your stability and workload is never a good thing and even though it might not be entirely intentional, people are naturally inclined to push their luck and take advantage of others’ shortcomings to further their own needs.
This can also indicate that you are not able to prioritize your work effectively, as you are always available to attend to immediate needs, regardless of their level of urgency. On a personal level, being permanently available can lead to burnout and stress, which can negatively impact your work quality and productivity further down the line. 
In contrast, setting reasonable boundaries and taking time for self-care can signal to others that you value your time and prioritize your work responsibilities, which can enhance your professional reputation and lead to greater respect from colleagues and clients alike.

How to design meeting and schedule schedule availability infrastructure

Designing good meeting infrastructure is essential to ensure that scheduled meetings are productive, efficient, and engaging. It’s also a great way to make sure you’re formalizing aspects of how you engage with others, creating a consistent method that you can rely on to make sure you’re not dropping any balls and sticking to script. Here are some tips to help you design a successful meeting infrastructure:

Establish clear meeting objectives: Before scheduling a meeting, define its objectives and make sure they align with your organization's goals. This will help you create an agenda and identify the necessary participants. We are of the opinion that no scheduled  meetings should occur without an agenda present. Let’s reduce the noise and keep the babble to the group chat! Develop an agenda that outlines the scheduled meeting's objectives, topics to be discussed, and a timeline for each item. Share the agenda with all participants before the meeting and ask for their input to ensure everyone is prepared and can contribute to the meeting's success.

Choose the right meeting technology:

Use technology that supports your meeting objectives, such as video conferencing software, project management tools, and screen sharing applications. Make sure that all participants have access to the necessary technology and can use it effectively. There really is no excuse to suffer technical problems in 2023, so let’s put our best foot forward and make use of the incredible software we have at our disposal to their full potential.

Invite the right people for the meeting :

Invite only the necessary participants to ensure the scheduled meeting stays focused and productive. Consider including individuals with diverse perspectives to encourage lively discussion and creative problem-solving. There are few instances where hundreds of people need to attend a meeting simultaneously, so be careful to not make it the norm as it could degrade people’s perception about the importance of your calls and meeting availability.

Establish meeting ground rules:

Set ground rules for the meeting, such as speaking time limits, respect for differing opinions, and the use of technology. This will help maintain a respectful and productive atmosphere in meetings. IT goes without saying but when establishing these, make sure to stick to them so people know you honor your word.

Provide meeting minutes and follow-up after the meeting:

After the meeting, provide a summary of key takeaways, decisions made, and action items assigned. Follow up with participants to ensure that they understand their responsibilities and deadlines and provide support as needed.

By following these tips, you can design a meeting infrastructure that supports effective communication, collaboration, and decision-making, ultimately leading to more successful outcomes. If you’re keen to create your own but don’t know where to start, OnceHub is a comprehensive meeting scheduling and management tool that can help design good meeting infrastructure in several ways:

OnceHub allows users to create and share customizable booking pages, making it easy to schedule meetings with multiple participants, including clients and colleagues.

The OnceHub scheduling tool integrates with popular video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet, making it easy to create virtual meetings and manage them efficiently.

OnceHub offers features like automated reminders, confirmation emails, and follow-up messages, ensuring all participants are informed and prepared before and after the meeting.

OnceHub provides a centralized platform for managing meeting details, including participant information, agenda items, and documents, making it easier to stay organized and track progress.

Finally, OnceHub's analytics dashboard provides valuable insights into scheduled meeting performance, meeting availability, including attendance rates, response times, and user feedback, allowing users to continually improve their meeting infrastructure over time. Overall, OnceHub is a powerful tool that can help streamline the meeting process, saving time and improving outcomes.