Managing someone else’s diary is a complex skill that blends patience, flexibility, time and a little human intuition. Here are our tips on how to ace your approach to diary management.
Assistants can spend a huge proportion of their time on diary management. The logistical arrangements of a meeting marks just one aspect of this. The task is made more complex when having to deal with dozens of incoming meeting requests, being asked to change plans and having to factor in time for travel, meals and personal engagements too.
Here are our tips on how to tackle diary management confidently and efficiently while managing the multiple administrative tasks related to it.
Communicate with your manager
If you’re managing a busy diary, you’re likely to be inundated with requests for meetings with your manager. You’re the important intermediary between your manager and many other individuals, but it is your manager’s decision what meetings they can agree to. Make this as efficient as possible by collating a list of meeting requests and sitting down with your manager on a regular basis to agree on whether they’ll attend, ask a colleague to attend instead or send apologies.
Plan for flexibility
Adding a meeting to a diary doesn’t mean it’s immune from change. There are plenty of reasons why you might be asked to move a meeting. Rather than feeling frustrated by requests such as these, try to anticipate this as being part and parcel of diary management. Remember that it’s important for senior managers to be available to their staff and have maximum input into the running of a business. High profile meetings with many senior stakeholders will usually have to remain as planned, but try to be flexible with other meetings if they need to be moved.
Be on top of recurring meetings
Most busy managers have a number of meetings they have to attend on a regular basis, including one-to-one sessions with their direct reports and senior management meetings. Instead of handling these on an ad hoc basis every month, schedule these meetings into your manager’s diary for at least the next six months, which will save you time in the long run.
Time for work
Managers can’t spend all their time in meetings – they also need time to complete their own work and specific tasks. Help your manager by blocking time out in their diary that is specifically allocated to work and not meetings. Discuss how much time they need for this each week in your regular catch-up meetings.
Suggest alternative approaches
If it’s too much of a squeeze to fit all the meetings your manager needs into a working week, think outside the box. Find out if the meeting can be done by telephone conferencing instead, which will save them valuable travel time and generally free up more time in the day. See if your manager can stay for a portion of the meeting rather than the whole thing. Or find out if your manager is willing to have a breakfast or lunch meeting if food is provided.
Managers are usually rushing from one meeting or task to another, so you need to make the running of their day as efficient as possible via the diary. Maximise your use of functionalities available in your diary system to help them. This can include using colour codes to help them quickly highlight the theme or subject matter of their next appointments. Also attach digital copies of all related documentation to each diary entry too, so they can quickly access the necessary information wherever they are.
Get a helping hand from technology
When you’re managing the complexities of a diary, there are also apps and software that can help you make the process more efficient. For finding suitable meeting dates for multiple attendees, use a website such as Doodle, where everyone can add their availability quickly and easily. To help navigate time zones for global telephone conference calls, use the Time Zone Ninja app. If you use Outlook, Google Calendar or Apple Calendar, educate yourself on all the hacks and tricks you can tap into to maximise diary management too – there may be features you’re not aware of that will make a huge difference to your day.
Stay on top of diary management by paying close attention to these aspects of the task and you’ll get it just right.