Creating Space in Your Fully Booked Calendar

Trevor White

Head of Engineering at Reforge



Sometimes as a manager, you may look at your week and see that it is entirely full. This can be especially true when you get to a certain scale. Your attention is being demanded by various people and in multiple directions. And it's probably at this point that you realize that you need to balance your time accordingly. So how do you prioritize the things that are most important and how do you create time in your schedule for yourself and high priority items?

Actions taken

I recommend taking a look at your calendar and making two separate lists based on what you see. In the first column write down the items that only you can do, and in the second column list tasks that could potentially be delegated to other people. What you'll find is that there are many more things that can be delegated to others, thus freeing up some of your time.

"By offloading some of your work to others - to one of your managers or to an IC, you are actually providing opportunities for them to grow and develop. Explain to them that you want to ship that area of ownership over to them. Allow them to drive it and take the point on that particular item so that you can step away from it. They take ownership and accountability for that area which allows you to focus on the tasks that only you can complete."

Another way to free up blocks of time on your schedule is by saying no to certain things that you would love to do if time permitted it, but when that time isn't necessarily available. Additionally, you can create space in your calendar by reducing the frequency of items such as meetings or 1:1s, keeping in mind their importance and the value that they provide.

Lessons learned

  • When you make your two-column list, I found that it is very easy to distinguish between the tasks that only you can execute versus the ones that can be delegated. The deciding factor is that most items can be delegated unless a delegated task gives someone else the opportunity to go into your role.
  • Writing out a list based on your current calendar is a good exercise that forces you to think about time management and to think about what you need day-to-day to be successful. Think about strategic blocks in your calendar.
  • As an IC you're told to block your calendar if you need dedicated focus time. As a manager, director, or leader you're not told to do this but it is assumed that you know. So don't forget to take that responsibility and block out your own dedicated focus time. Don't let anyone book over it and give yourself that hour or two each day to be strategically effective, without interruptions.
  • How do you create opportunities for other people? By giving them big challenges that typically only you might have done in the past. Therefore, for their growth and development give individuals new challenges that can be delegated from your workload. It's a win-win situation: it gives individuals additional opportunities for the next level of their learning process, and it creates space for you to go and do the things that are most important to you. (Remember, though, that there is likely to be a learning curve with these new challenges that you have provided.)

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Trevor White

Head of Engineering at Reforge

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