I write and design things, so I need big chunks of time in my day to focus without interruptions. And that’s difficult to do without rules.
I’m not a hustler who can work for 12 hours a day (if they actually exist). On a good day, I can pull off 5-6 hours of good deep work when I really feel the flow. On a bad day, I’m lucky to squeeze in 2-3 hours.
But that’s more than enough for me. What’s important isn’t more time, it’s to use the time you have to the best of your ability.
That’s why I never schedule any meetings before noon for a couple of reasons:
- Mornings are my energy peak - If I don’t get deep work done before noon, it often won’t get done at all today. Everything feels easier in the first few hours of the day. My morning hour is ten times more valuable to me than one in the afternoon. That’s why I protect my mornings vigorously.
- Meetings destroy my focus - I like to spend my morning on the most important creative task of the day. That’s writing an article these days. And I need to be fully focused to do it. But meetings scatter my mind, and it’s difficult for me to return to the morning state of focus.
- Meetings suck my energy - I’m an introvert and meetings with more than 1 other human being feel like an energy vacuum cleaner to me. Listening and interacting costs a lot of energy I could better spend elsewhere. If this happens in the morning, I often need half a day to be able of getting back to writing.
Rules make it easier to say no
Saying no to people is difficult. Nobody likes disappointing others by rejecting them. But since I started using this rule, saying no to morning invites became much easier and less awkward.
I realized a valuable insight: People respect rules more than individual decisions.
Whenever someone asks me to meet before noon, I reply with something like: “I’m sorry, I have this personal rule that I don’t do meetings before noon. But I’m happy to meet later.”
This might sound rude on paper, but in my experience, people react surprisingly positively to this. I often get reactions like: “Oh, that sounds great, I should try that too.” or “Yeah, I understand. I was thinking about something similar myself.”.
People respect the integrity of someone who abides by his own rules. They tend to be slightly impressed rather than offended.
Plus once I started doing this consistently and didn’t back down, people around me got used to it. So now when I schedule with someone who knows me, they automatically know that mornings are off the table. Holding your ground gets easier with time.
Of course, this isn’t always the case, and some people get frustrated. Then it’s my call to decide how important the meeting is. Usually, I agree to a morning meeting about once a month in those rare exceptions when saying no would cause more problems than how much value it creates.
It’s okay to make exceptions when it makes sense.
Find your own rules
I realize this is a tricky rule to implement for most people. Some jobs don’t let you choose when you do or do not want to have a meeting.
As an entrepreneur, I’m used to higher control over my time, and it is important to me. That doesn’t mean I’m not pressured by clients or co-workers to join meetings I don’t want to have. (Otherwise, this rule wouldn’t have to exist.)
But even if this particular rule is unrealistic for you, it doesn’t mean you can’t use a different rule to get the same benefits. The usefulness of rules is highly subjective anyway, and the point isn’t to copy&paste mine’s, but to find rules that work for you.