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Your calendar should be an allowlist, not a blocklist

Open calendars are toxic.

Does your company have a culture of letting everyone see each other’s calendars? Do people often schedule meetings whenever there are openings, without asking?

If so, your calendar is a blocklist. The only time that isn’t available for someone to steal is time that’s already spoken for. This is a problem. A time slot that isn’t currently booked shouldn’t be free real estate. That’s my TIME! You can’t just take it without asking.

Instead, your calendars should be an allowlist. You should say “if you want to talk to me, this is when you can” instead of “this is when you CAN’T.” You shouldn’t have to defend our time like it’s gold and your coworkers are pirates. You should just assume that it’s yours to spend how you see fit.

Some people block time off to try to protect their calendars. They create big “GTD” blocks on their calendar and hope that nobody books meetings on top of them. I’ve even heard of people creating fake or vague meeting titles in hopes that others will assume there’s a real meeting at that time. This is a crappy workaround, and it isn’t enough.

The solution should be office hours. You should be able to say say “I’m free for meetings from 2-5pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and if you want to talk to me then that’s when you can.” In most companies, doing that would make you an annoyance. Those companies don’t respect Deep Work.

Scheduling meetings should be a little bit painful. You should have to really want it. You should be forced to question yourself. Is this actually worth me going to the trouble of figuring out how to schedule this meeting? Or could it instead be an asynchronous discussion? Office hours and calendars-as-allowlists have this added benefit.

Is your calendar an allowlist or a blocklist?