For many years I ran a busy practice. Since retiring, I have worked on websites and SEO. Diary management continues to be a major part of organising my life.
As a business owner, juggling your time is a complex operation. There are also a lot of tasks related to diary management, for example ensuring you get to meetings and appointments on time, understand the reason for the meeting and are prepared for it. Unfortunately that is not where diary management ends, assistants and employees also have to manage the time their managers spend outside of meetings. So I thought I would put all of my favourite tips together in one blog – my ultimate guide to diary management.
Diary Management fundamentals
As an assistant or, even better, an answering services, should manage every part of their client’s calendar, it should be completely controlled by you and your Client shouldn’t edit the calendar at all (in an ideal world!) Instead they should direct all meeting requests to you, including any verbally agreed meetings. Ensure the Client is kept in the loop when changes are made to the diary, especially any changes or cancellations that take place during that day. This is a fundamental part of his diary management.
How to ensure you manage your Client’s diary effectively
Ensuring you manage your Client’s diary effectively is ultimately down to communication. Within the first few days of working with an Client an assistant should ask this vital question – How do you organise your calendar and how do you like to have your meetings set out? If you missed out of this step and have been working with your Client for a while it is well worth revisiting this question in your next catch up meeting.
Once you have complete control over the diary it is really important that you understand how to maximise your manager’s productivity through your diary management skills. Once you have this information you will know when is the best time to schedule meetings for them, when to leave time free for them to get stuck into their emails or write reports. Having a call answering service that can look after your diary and appointments 24 hours a day is a valuable asset in your business managment. A wedding photographer for Essex marriages, is out and about for many hours each week. His motto is – have camera will travel. Whilst he is organising his photographic shots, ensuring his bride and groom have ever-lasting visual images of the most important day of their lives, he cannot be available for answering his phone – potentially lost business.
Practical tips for diary Management
Recurring appointments are a simple way of ensuring your Client meets regularly with key individuals, such as direct reports, clients and of course their assistant. Recurring meetings are great but they also have to be managed quite carefully. Never schedule recurring meetings for more than a year in advance, if the meetings are frequent I would suggest 6 months at the very maximum. Keep an eye on recurring meetings, do the attendees change the time/ date frequently, do they often get cancelled. If this is the case it is worth revisiting the meeting details with your Client and the attendees. Are the meetings still worthwhile would it be best to schedule them less frequently, should they take place over the phone rather than face to face.
Don’t delete recurring meetings. This will delete all of the meetings and you may need a record of certain appointments. Instead change the recurring meeting end date so that any previous meetings remain in the diary.
Quite often you will be asked to find time for a meeting that may or may not happen. It is well worth putting a ‘holding’ meeting in your Client diary but do ensure that you set yourself a reminder to confirm the meeting or delete it from your calendar.
Prior to confirming a meeting in the calendar always look at what your client has schedule either side of the meeting. Do they have a difficult meeting that will affect their mood, do they have something scheduled that requires their concentration writing a report. Do look at how their other meetings will affect their performance and plan accordingly. Schedule a little bit of breathing space that afternoon if they have an important deadline for a report that morning.
Always factor in travel times and a little extra. As much as your client might want to cram a lot into their day you don’t want them arriving at a meeting completely frazzled.
This is a great tool to remind your client of important dates, colleague’s annual leave and any general information they need to know but do not need to action. Do just bear in mind that some ‘all day’ reminds can look slightly different depending on the devise your Client is using.
I love using categories and colour coding on Outlook Office. I colour code and categorise everything from birthdays, client meetings, 1-2-1s with colleagues, reading and email time, holding meetings and even lunch. All of the different parts of an Client’s day can be colour coded so that you both know what they are doing at an easy glance.
If it is in their calendar, research shows that there is a 75 % greater chance that a person will complete a task. * On that statistic alone it is worth including deadlines in your client’s calendar and scheduling time for your Client to complete important tasks.
If you have two screens at work always keep your client’s calendar open on one screen. If this is not an option print out your manager’s diary so that you have a working document for the day. You will be asked continuously throughout the day what your client is doing and where they are.
Every calendar entry should come with the following information (at a bare minimum):.
Date, time, location.
Agenda/ meeting purpose.
Type of meeting (conference call, face to face etc).
Every decision you make regarding your Client’s calendar should be decisive and it should be made with your Client’s precious time in mind. You are the gatekeeper and you are there to ensure your manager’s day is productive. When responding to diary appointments everyone should provide you with an agenda or purpose for the meeting. Don’t ever except meetings from people that have said your Client ‘will know what it is about’. They might but you don’t! You will need to know about every meeting in case your client asks so ask! Again this is down to communication, if you are ever unsure about a meeting do ask your manager.
Bring up Folders.
This is my favourite tool for keeping on top of supporting documents for meetings. I put all of the information my Director needs for each meeting or general documents they require for that day in between each divider. I number each meeting and the papers are also numbered and placed in order depending on what meeting they relate to.
There are also a lot of tasks related to diary management, for example ensuring you get to meetings and appointments on time, understand the reason for the meeting and are prepared for it. Never schedule recurring meetings for more than a year in advance, if the meetings are frequent I would suggest 6 months at the very maximum. Instead change the recurring meeting end date so that any previous meetings remain in the diary.
Prior to confirming a meeting in the calendar always look at what your client has schedule either side of the meeting. I colour code and categorise everything from birthdays, client meetings, 1-2-1s with colleagues, reading and email time, holding meetings and even lunch.