2 min read

Declining meetings outside business hours

Declining meetings outside business hours
Photo by Fitsum Admasu / Unsplash

On my current team, I work with a lot of people on the west coast, while I live in NYC. Although a 3-hour time difference may seem trivial on paper, it significantly impacts my daily routine. I often find meetings scheduled on my calendar until 8pm ET, encroaching on my personal time with my husband and friends.

To address this issue, I started putting a block on my calendar to indicate when my working hours ended. I also declined meetings with a standard message that said:

Declined because this meeting is outside my working hours. Feel free to reschedule, use this Google form to setup time, or reach out if you have questions.

Despite these efforts, scheduling conflicts persisted. Some people failed to notice my declines until minutes before the meeting, leaving them confused as to why I didn't attend. Others listed me as optional on the invite when they didn't want to reschedule, leaving me feeling undervalued.

This issue came up again this week. My manager even attempted to reschedule the meeting, asking the organizer to change it to an east coast friendly time. Their response was this:

I tried to, but it was very difficult to find an open slot that works for most. I see that everyone except Julie accepted the meeting.

For a moment, I felt called out. I questioned whether I should cancel my plans with my running group in order to attend this meeting. I didn't want to be difficult.

Then I thought about what I wanted to celebrate at the end of March. Was it attending this meeting, or feeling ready for my half-marathon in April?

I decided to leave work at 6pm, skip this meeting, and run 2 miles of hill sprints on the Manhattan bridge with the Badass Lady Gang instead.

I reached this decision by reminding myself that life is all about chasing your own north star. I also decided that my self-worth isn't tied to attending a meeting, but my happiness is affected by my ability to live the life I want.

Of course, there will always be constraints and business needs that require me to work outside my usual hours. For example, I've already accepted a meeting next week that will extend until 9pm my time. However, there are aspects of my job that make showing up so worth it, I would likely do them without getting paid. Attending non-business critical meetings outside my work hours is not one of them.

Life is all about choosing your own adventure. There are no right or wrong answers, it is just about what adventure you want to choose. Creating my March celebration list helped me start with an idea of the life I want. Declining meetings outside business hours helps me achieve it.