When was the last time a colleague asked you to have a meeting and your automatic assumption is to check your calendar? How else would you know if you have 'time' to have the meeting?
Laura Vanderkamp in her book Off the Clock highlights that we are doing it all wrong. We are in essense thinking of any unbooked time in our calendar as free time, waiting for others to fill it. This fails to realise two important things;
1. None of our time if really unbooked. I'm sure like me you never sit between meetings waiting for another meeting, you get on with your work. Assuming that the time between meetings is available for further meetings not only leads to exhaustion as we try to fit other tasks between attending meetings, it also devalues our view of our time. Learn to be strict with your calendar and what you book into it. Really try to evaluate the value you will get out of a meeting and also the contribution you are likely to make and weight that up against your unavailability to undertake your day to day work and meet deadlines.
2. Accepting a meeting invite is not simply about time availability but also about your mental availability. Each time you move between different types of tasks you are using mental energy. Shifting too often between different types of tasks can led to mental exhaustion. One way to reduce this mental strain is to chunk your day into different types of mental availability. You could for example chunking all your meetings into the morning or to one particular day, you may need to play around until you find the right solution for your energy availability and your job requirements. Another important part of reducing mental exhaustion is to recognise that meeting invites usually come set with the most convenient time/day for requester and you can change that. Ackmowledging that the time/date is a suggestion and that you have the power to suggest alternatives, especially if only a small number of participants have been invited, allows you to spread your meetings to meet your 'chunking' requirements.
Good luck learning to re-evaluating your calendar and what it means to be available.
All opinions are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.