Managing a busy diary is no simple task – as every PA will know. Some boss’ diaries are so complex, they employ two PAs, one to work on the diary – the ‘diary PA’ – and one to do everything else. In some industries, such as banking, the diary can be as much as 80% of the PA’s work.
A good diary manager needs to decisive yet flexible. Flexibility in the diary is something that a number of PAs are afraid of – they live by the ‘once it’s fixed, it’s fixed’ approach and woe betide anyone who asks them to move a meeting. One of the assistant’s recurring tasks is to oversee the manager’s diary. Assistants organise, arrange and make a note of managers’ meetings with both internal and external contacts, whilst also keeping an eye on appointments that have been made and finding solutions if they are not able to go ahead and making a note of this. PAS also play an important role here, taking a large portion of the preparation and follow-up out of managers’ hands, leaving them to concentrate on the main task of running their business.
There must be ONE PLACE, electronic or on paper, where ALL the appointments are noted. Nothing must EVER be written down elsewhere, below some useful tips.
Talk to your boss. Sit down with your boss and agree which meetings you can move, which you can delegate to someone else and which you can send his or her apologies to.
Colour co-ordinate (if using Outlook) It does have the functional purpose of making it easier to read.
Responding to diary appointments. Once your boss has indicated that he or she hopes to attend an appointment, or set up a meeting, you will need to RSVP.You may wish to give a definite response, or (for larger receptions or gatherings) it may be prudent simply to say that the MP “hopes to attend”, for flexibility.
Find out exactly what the nature of the event is now to save time later . Is it a round-table discussion which they will need to prepare for? Will they be asked to speak? If you originally discussed the engagement over the phone, send a follow-up email to get things in writing. Sending your boss to something with no written instructions can be risky and you will have nothing to fall back on if you have any problems.
Weekly Diary Plan. Once a week (Friday afternoon or Monday mornings are best), take some time out to plan all of the activities for the week ahead in the following way;
Commitments / Appointments / Meetings already made
Lunch / Break times (always put these into your diary – this is planned & important time!)
Planned Activities (outside of commitments / meetings)
Personal Tasks / Time
Daily Diary Update. Update your diary at the beginning or the end of each day but treat the activities planned in your ‘weekly planning time’ as if they were your best customers – don’t sacrifice these for the sake of unimportant or urgent activities – get better at knowing what an emergency is for you.
Travel smart. Including travel information in your calendar can help to keep you organized while you travel, and a tool like Tripit will do a lot of the work for you. Also, instead of traveling for meetings, consider scheduling conference calls or online meetings to save even more time.
Be creative. Managing the diary with logic and common-sense is paramount. You’ll need guidance from your boss about what their priorities are. When a meeting request comes in, ask the following questions:
a. Does the boss have to attend this meeting in person?Can they send a delegate and receive a de-briefor read the minutes of the meeting?
b. Can the meeting be done earlier? Breakfast, lunch or as a late afternoon meeting?
c. Does the boss need to stay for the whole meeting? Can they attend for the first 30 minutes and perhaps the end of the meeting for the plenary?
d. Is a meeting necessary? Can the decision be made by a quick call or email?
How do you manage the diary? Do you have any tip to share with us?