At Basecamp, we don’t share calendars. Everyone controls their own calendar, and no one can see anyone else’s calendar. You can’t claim time on anyone else’s calendar, either. Other people’s time isn’t for you — it’s for them. You can’t take it, chip away at it, or block it off. Everyone’s in control of their time. They can give it to you, but you can’t take it from them.Jason Fried – “Wait, other people can take your time?”
Jason Fried’s blog post “Wait, other people can take your time?” and his book IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE CRAZY AT WORK1 made me reflect on my own work calendar recently. I’ve been as guilty as anyone about taking people’s time as if they weren’t going to do anything else. It’s a shitty thing to do to someone and it’s something I can change and promote to other people.
So here’s some rules that I’m trying to follow at work:
1. I ask people if they have free time before I take it
I’ll hit people up on Slack first, or talk to them face to face (assuming they’re not busy). If they don’t reply I’ll decide how important it is to have a meeting, erring on the side of not booking a meeting. This is a hard rule to follow all the time but I think it’s the most important one. It’s way easier to follow when their calendars have public event names rather than just “Busy.”
2. Async communication whenever possible
I’d rather communicate over email or slack or a shared document. Meetings are not good for proper reflection and decision making. Software is great for status updates.
3. Apart from 1:1s, something booked in my calendar is only tentative until a short time before the start.
If something more important has come up then I should do that instead, right? I’m not saying the urgent drowns out the important. But I reserve the right to weigh up whether I should be writing up a document or doing some research or thinking about a decision I need to make rather than something someone else wants me to do. I wish my decline/rearrange rate was higher. It might be time to set a goal around that.
4. The events in my calendar are public and I politely block out time for myself.
Generally you can see what I’m doing in a day – who I’m meeting with, the agenda of the meeting. It’s rare that I do something that requires privacy. There might be the odd “Private/Busy” in my calendar but mostly it’s something like “Geordi / Joe 1:1”, “Discuss warp coil upgrade”, or “Please don’t book here”. Guess which of those is the first to get double booked! I encourage my reports and other people I work with to make their events public, too. I think it’ll make us much more wary of taking each other’s time.
I’m getting more and more vigilant about these rules. It’s hard to maintain them but it’s worth it if more and more people start doing it too.
1 IDHBCAW is a polemic railing against the fuckedness of corporate culture. It’s full of unvarnished truths that anyone who’s worked at a company of more than, what, four people will nod their heads about. Sadly, there’s not a lot of advice other than “Go work somewhere that doesn’t do that.”