Blank Space on the Calendar
Don’t undervalue the blank space on your calendar. Just because it’s “open” doesn’t mean that you are mentally and energetically available.
Your calendar ≠ your capacity.
Too often, we try to use our calendars to DRIVE our capacity. If we are invited to a meeting and we have no scheduled conflicts, we automatically say yes. The idea of declining can even make us feel guilty or lazy!
But the truth is, that white space in your calendar is a precious commodity – especially as you advance in your career.
As you grow in authority and reach, every meeting, discussion and decision starts to carry more weight. You need time in between to process, reflect, and recharge for the next one.
When you’re doing heavy lifting in the gym, you’ve got to rest your muscles in between reps. Otherwise what happens? You burn out.
This can be especially challenging for women professionals, who are frequently conditioned to accommodate demands on their time, even at the expense of their own wellbeing and productivity.
Some women I’ve coached have even told me that they measure their own capacity in terms of “how much I can accomplish without collapsing.”
This is no way to live. It sets the bar for “doing enough” at the brink of exhaustion, and leads to feelings of guilt, shame and anxiety when we DO decline a request for a time slot that isn’t “already booked” by something else.
But if you cede every inch of your calendar to outside requests, you’ll have none of that precious blank space to devote to your own work.
Instead of defining your capacity by your calendar, try this metric:
Will accepting this meeting request support my ability to be my best self and do my best work?
If the answer is no, you don’t need to explain. Just say, “Sorry, I can’t make it – I’m at capacity.”