Meetings have their place in business, but many companies go overboard with meeting scheduling. Too many meetings can eat into your valuable time, making it impossible to handle your other responsibilities. Learning to say no to meetings is a crucial part of managing your time and maintaining professional sanity.
Honesty can soften a rejection, whether you're turning down requests from people inside or outside of the company. After all, most professionals understand the weight of too many meetings and too many projects. Explain that you're under pressure to meet ambitious goals, or let the person know you're facing several intense deadlines. Express your regret at not being able to take the meeting, and ask the person to get in touch again in the future. If possible, include the contact information of another person who might be able to help; offering a viable alternative can make saying no less painful.
Request an Agenda
Meetings without a specific purpose take up a considerable amount of time. Too often, the discussion spins out of control and the session ends without a specific resolution. When you're dealing with too many meetings, ask for an agenda before accepting an invitation. If the meeting does not have a defined purpose, do not attend. Explain your reasoning; doing so may encourage colleagues to refine their agendas.
Saying no to too many meetings requires you to understand your workflow and identify available time slots. Defining your available time can make it easier to reject meeting requests. Arrange invitations in order of importance, plug those at the top of the list into the openings in your schedule, and turn down all other requests. This method ensures you make time for the most important meetings without over-scheduling your days. It can also help assuage your guilt — after all, there are only so many hours in a day. If you encounter pushback from colleagues, explain that you cannot add meetings without letting your responsibilities slide.
Use Your Schedule
It is impossible to say no to every meeting, especially when your presence is required by superiors or company executives. Mandatory meetings don't have to take precedence over the rest of your responsibilities, however. Use your schedule to exert control and limit the length of each session. Prevent meetings from running long by scheduling another activity immediately afterward. If you are invited to too many meetings of marathon length, arrange your schedule to leave only 30-minute blocks of free time. In doing so, you can maintain a presence without giving in to meetings that drag on for hours.
Too many meetings can eat into your free time and sabotage your productivity. By finding ways to say no to invitations without sacrificing professional relationships, you can create a more manageable schedule.
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