Do you find yourself running from meeting to meeting all day long? Are you frequently double-booked with meetings? If so, consider this: Is your presence vital for each of those meetings?

Now, I’m not suggesting that you don’t have something valuable to contribute. However, your time and energy might be better spent elsewhere.

What if you had even just 15 minutes a day to walk around the office and get a sense of how your team is doing? How about an hour to think, pray, and plan the next few weeks?

Maybe you could take 30 minutes to read a few articles and reflect on what you learn. How would these other activities impact your effectiveness or your energy level? Would that increase your ability to see the big picture and plan for the future?

I realize this may sound like a pipe dream. You’re in high demand and can’t seem to get all your meetings to fit into a standard workweek, much less start declining them (or not requesting them).

While you probably can’t clear out your calendar tomorrow, here are some tips to help create more free space on your calendar.

Tip No. 1: Make Meeting Agendas Mandatory

If a team member requests your participation at a meeting, the organizer should distribute an agenda with the meeting invite (or at least the day before the meeting). This gets your team to think through who needs to participate in each meeting, what topics to discuss and what decisions the group needs to make during that time.

Receiving an agenda before the meeting gives you a chance to decide beforehand whether you’re really needed in that discussion. You can then decline and ask that the meeting notes or key decisions be communicated to you afterward.

Tip No. 2: Insist on Documenting Action Items

Any worthwhile meeting will result in at least one task to complete as a result of that session. Yes, many meetings are discussions or brainstorming sessions, but even those require follow-up.

Coach your staff to have someone assigned to take notes and document action items. That person should email the notes and action items to the meeting participants within one business day and follow-up with each person assigned a task to ensure the individual responsible completes those tasks by the agreed-upon deadlines.

Tip No. 3: Review your Calendar

Scan your calendar for meetings you have coming up over the next month and determine which of those meetings you don’t really need to attend. To decide, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I a key decision-maker for this topic?
  • Has someone else been invited to the meeting who can contribute just as well as I could?
  • Can I send someone to represent me?

Tip No. 4: Start Eliminating Meetings

Let your team know about this new approach, so they’ll understand why you’re about to start declining their meeting invitations.

This would also be an opportune time to mention the mandatory agenda and action item rules. Then, decline the meetings you’ve determined aren’t necessary.

Tip No. 5: Block Time on Your Calendar

Once you have some open space on your calendar, block off time for you to do those activities I mentioned earlier. Don’t block off every bit of white space, but aim for an hour each day (maybe broken up into 15-30 minute increments) to walk around the office, think, plan, dream, read, complete various tasks, etc.

While there are many demands on your time, your schedule is just that – yours. Take back control and be intentional about how you allocate your time. Delegate authority whenever possible and allow your team to share more of the workload.

The team members who are up-and-coming leaders will rise to the occasion and may even surprise you with their insights and abilities. Let them shine and provide yourself with the time and energy to lead.