Faced with a perpetual time-shortage, too many managers cancel the regularly scheduled one-on-ones with direct reports in order to attend, usually, other meetings. No matter the reason you give, that choice to cancel the one-on-one speaks to your priorities.
When employees are waiting on that meeting to get questions answered, canceling results in decreased productivity because they are confused and unclear about their tasks or worse yet, they continue working on something–incorrectly.
A less clear impact is that without regularly scheduled meetings, employees will find ways to talk to you—extra email or hanging outside your office waiting for the spare moment when you “aren’t doing anything important”. Once this happens your schedule is no longer yours. Knowing you’ll be interrupted you don’t even plan a schedule to get important work done in those “spare” moments between meetings, for example. This is not only less efficient; the people who get the most attention are the ones who are most persistent throwing your apparent priorities completely out of line.
Rather than saving time by choosing one meeting over another, make the meetings themselves more useful and impactful. If you work really hard to keep meeting commitments, others will do more to respect that time. In return for your effort, you should require that others come prepared. For example, don’t collect background during the meeting. (BTW: This effort often results in problems being solved before the meeting.) Meetings do not have to last 1 hour. Fifteen to twenty minutes may do, or the meeting may end earlier than planned. And have an agenda. Use this time to offer direction on priority and strategy. Be choosy about the content, especially when there are other venues for the same conversations.
As a manager how you choose to use your time is the behavior that tells the truth about your priorities. Aligning the use of your time to your priorities and values will not only save you time, it will help others around you know how to behave in order to support your success.