Are you feeling overwhelmed by your calendar? Maybe you’re constantly running late and missing deadlines? Do you feel like you’re always rearranging meetings and struggling to catch up? If you’re finding diary management an uphill battle every day, here are a few tips to help you to take control of your schedule.
What is diary management?
Helping a client to organise their time in the most effective way is a core service a Virtual Assistant (VA) provides. But diary management is more than accepting and declining appointments and invitations, it’s about helping clients achieve more by structuring their days in a really methodical way.
But what does it take to manage your diary successfully?
Diary management skills – the basics
The art of managing a client’s calendar is something you have to learn quickly as a PA (or Virtual Assistant) and there are a few principles that are crucial to developing a diary management system that works.
- Allow for buffer time. Allow time between appointments for preparation, travel time and breaks.
- Be honest about habits. Some people are at their best first thing in the morning. Others need a few coffees before they’re firing on all cylinders. An important diary management skill is being able to match natural working styles with the timing of appointments.
- When you agree on a diary management system, stick to it. You may decide on colour coding and time blocking. Or perhaps you use cloud-based tools but prefer to have a physical diary as back up as well. Whatever your process is, the most important thing is to stick to it.
There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to diary management
The approach you take to diary management has to work in line with the personal inclinations of the calendar owner. So, an important part of setting up an effective process is to be honest about anything that should impact on a scheduling decision. For example, here are a few considerations to get you started:
- What time are you comfortable starting meetings in the morning?
- Are evening drinks an option on certain days?
- Are there any days you would prefer to avoid travel outside the office?
- Do you have any regular personal or family commitments that need to be factored in?
- Are you comfortable with Zoom meetings if a physical meeting is difficult to schedule?
5 diary management tips from a VA
Here are five tips that can help you upscale your diary management process.
1. Schedule everything
Your diary isn’t just for formal appointments. If there’s a task that requires your time and attention, why not give it priority by assigning it an entry in your calendar? This could mean blocking out time for family time, travel, exercise and also work tasks such as preparation for important meetings and speaking events. Scheduling everything is the only way to get a clear picture of what time you have available. It can also highlight where you could be wasting time or using it better.
2. Time block
If you spend your days switching spontaneously between activities, are you doing your best work when your attention is scattered across multiple duties? Juggling so many tasks requires constant context switching. This makes it difficult to give any one thing your full focus.
Considering it takes about 25-30 minutes to context switch, swapping between multiple tasks is an avoidable drain on your productivity. In fact, if you’re juggling five tasks, you could be losing up to 80% of your productive time each day to context switching. You will be much more productive if you spend two to three straight hours focusing on a project or task, rather than slotting it in sporadically over a couple of days.
3. Colour code
Start by thinking about the types of appointments and tasks that fill your day. Set up each as a ‘category’ with its own colour. By giving every entry into your calendar a different shade, it’s easier to see at a glance what sort of day lies ahead. It shows how time is being split and what tasks are eating into your schedule most. As well as maybe highlighting areas that aren’t getting enough priority.
4. Schedule reminders
If you have regular tasks to complete, set a recurring appointment in your diary so you have the time reserved to complete the task. For example, you may assign a specified slot every Friday morning to pay invoices.
How much time do you really spend in meetings? It’s easy to fall into the trap of automatically scheduling 30 or 60-minute meetings. But do you need all of this time? Or maybe you’re always over-running? Think how much time you really need and limit your availability based on this. It’s amazing how the 10-20 minutes you save here and there can add up over the course of a week.
Is diary management a drain on your time?
How many hours every week are you spending juggling appointments? Hiring a Virtual Assistant to organise your diary could unlock more time in your day. Book a consultation with us for advice on calendar management best practice and to see how working with a VA could help you.