I’ll admit it—I love when meetings are canceled. When that notification pops up on my computer to tell me I have my hour back, I feel free. A weight’s been lifted and I feel back in control of my schedule. (Erm, no, I don’t have control issues, why do you ask?)
But I also understand the importance of meetings when they’re done right. Some things are just better accomplished when you can talk to people in real time and not get lost in a trail of emails and chat messages.
That being said, sometimes it’s still necessary to push one back. Here are some instances when you have permission to remove one from the calendar for the time being (if you’re the one who planned it, that is).
1. You Aren’t Fully Prepared
You dropped the ball. Maybe you forgot the meeting was coming up or you kept neglecting the time you set aside to prepare for it. Either way, you’re just not ready to fully and productively lead the discussion.
If you still meet, it’ll likely lack direction and leave everyone wondering what the takeaways are (if any). And, well, that’s just a waste of everybody’s time, isn’t it?
But hear this: You do not want “flaky and unreliable” to be your calling card. (At least, I don’t think you do.)
So, yes, it’s OK if this occurs every so often. Life happens—but don’t let it become a habit. Instead, make it your mission to stay on task, be accountable, and respect other people’s time.
And be careful about the types of meetings you’re rescheduling. If you constantly put off your one-on-one with your boss or your direct report, for example, you’ll probably end up breaking the trust in that important relationship.
2. You Don’t Have All the Information
You’ve had this time blocked off on your calendar for months. You spent a few hours gathering everything you need on your end, and you developed a detailed but realistic agenda. But, despite all the prep work you did, you’re still missing some crucial pieces of information.
The client didn’t sign the contract, your boss didn’t approve the project budget, you’re rebuilding the website but marketing hasn’t decided on a theme—whatever it is, without these nuggets of knowledge, you’ll just be spinning your wheels in the mud and getting nowhere.
So, delay the meeting until you can get the information you need.
3. Something Bigger Happens
A company I worked for was acquired, and leadership broke the news to us at the end of the day, when most people were packing up to leave.
That meant the next day was full of uncertainty. No one wanted to meet to talk about the minute details of any particular project. They wanted answers to questions like, “Will I still have a job?”
People need time to process when big company changes happen, whether it’s an announcement that there’ll be layoffs or news of a company reorganization.
And, of course, they also need time and space when something big rocks the world, like a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. As a result, smaller day-to-day items sometimes need to be set aside. You’ll have plenty of time to address them once everyone feels more stable and ready to focus. The meeting can wait.
Meetings aren’t my favorite, and I’m not alone. So, I’m begging you—pleasebe intentional when you plan and go ahead with one.
When you do need to cancel or reschedule, do it with care. When you hit that delete button, provide your attendees with an explanation. It doesn’t need to be anything poetic, just a short and sweet reason:
Hey all, I wasn’t able to complete [necessary action item] this week. I’m doing it tomorrow and will reschedule this check-in for next Thursday at the same time. Apologies for the last-minute change.
Hi everyone, We haven’t received [necessary piece of information], so it doesn’t make sense to get together just yet. They told me they’ll have it to me next week, so I’m pushing this back until then.
Bottom line: If you put something on the calendar, you should do your best to stick to it.
But if one of these situations pops up, then by all means, postpone. A meeting where nothing can be accomplished—either because something bigger is a distraction or because you don’t have all the pieces to the puzzle—isn’t usually worthwhile anyway.