Personal Assistant diary management is a huge task. Some employers have complex and often overwhelming diaries which can take up huge chunks of your time.
To be a successful PA, it’s imperative to be able to stay on top of your boss’s diary; otherwise, it could lead to missed appointments or important life events. So, what can you do to achieve highly effective PA diary management?
In this article, we share our very best diary management tips for PAs.
What is diary management?
Diary management involves managing the diary and day-to-day life of a business leader. While this task may appear rather straightforward, there’s a lot more to it than simply keeping track of important events.
Key PA diary management tasks can involve:
- Making the very best use of your time and ensuring that your commitments are fulfilled even if last-minute changes occur
- Ensuring there is enough time between scheduled appointments for travelling, preparation or lunch
- Syncing your email inbox to your diary, especially if you’re assigning tasks to others; in this case, allowing them access to your inbox provides an easier way for them to get these tasks completed successfully
- Leveraging your time to ensure appointments and meetings are well executed if there is an objective
- Using the very best technology to manage your diary, whether you’re required to find new tools to work more effectively or upgrade your technology to assist in delegating tasks
For any Personal Assistant, it’s essential to use your time as effectively as possible. With that in mind, here are some of the best diary management tips for PAs:
- Set reminders
Setting helpful reminders is an effective PA diary management tip, especially when it comes to important events/meetings. You can use Google Calendar for email or push notifications or Zapier for text messages to your phone. You can also set reminders for planning to ensure you remember important details. Just make sure that you carefully input dates and times to avoid any mistakes. The devil is in the details in the PA role.
- Respond to appointments
RSVP to appointments once your boss has confirmed their attendance. This helps prevent any miscommunication with others. Alternatively, you may need to express that your boss hopes to attend if they can’t confirm their attendance. If it’s unclear whether a meeting will be a good use of your boss’s time, ask the meeting organiser for further details so you can help make that call.
- Communicate with your boss
Talk to your boss regarding meetings. Keeping an open line of communication allows you to be flexible with your diary to get the very best use of your time. You may be able to move appointments or meetings to manage your boss’s time more effectively. Every boss has a different working style, so establish their preferences in the first few days of your job.
- Colour code important appointments or events
One of the best PA diary management tips is to colour code events or appointments. For instance, you could use green for internal meetings, blue for external meetings, orange for team meetings and so on. Aside from adding a splash of colour, this helps break up a wall of black text so you can get an overview of the week and where time is being spent.
- Highlight time zones
If you travel regularly, it’s important to note down time zones, especially if you’re communicating with your team at home. You can make calendar updates to include time zones, which makes it easier to plan for local events, or you can make a note of time differences. Either way, stick to one method to make it straightforward to manage.
- Keep a handy check-/to-do list
Keep a checklist separate from your diary. This allows you to prioritise your tasks as well as clearly view what tasks need to be accomplished for the day. Wunderlist is an effective app for keeping a digital to-do list. Alternatively, you can write down your tasks in a notebook or planner. Just make sure you always keep it to hand.
- Keep a note of important deadlines
Does your boss have important deadlines coming up? Keep a note of these either with a disclaimer or by colour coding. Important company deadlines need to be met, so it’s advisable to add them to the diary as soon as you’re aware of them. You’ll also need to communicate with your boss to ensure busy working periods are booked and that any other urgent matters are flagged and addressed in order for the project to be successful.
- Keep blocks of time free for work
It’s easy to fill your diary with meetings and appointments, but keeping blocks of time free for work is necessary, especially if your boss has a lot on their plate. To ensure there is adequate time to complete certain tasks on time, avoid booking meetings during these working hours. Keeping an open line of communication with your boss will enable you to plan for essential periods when they need to be at their desk.
- Time your meetings
Time your meetings as accurately as possible. For instance, if you plan a half-an-hour slot and your meeting only lasts 20 minutes, this gives you an extra 10 minutes in case you overrun. However, if you’re planning three short meetings together, this is an extra half an hour that could be spent on important tasks, so it’s wise to make the best use of your time. Rather than simply time blocking, try fitting meetings into slots that make the most sense, as this can increase your productivity rate.
- Be informative on calendar entries
Use contact and company names in calendar entries to avoid confusion. For example, just noting down common names like “Ben Jones” could be confusing if you don’t remember which business they’re from. Instead, try adding [name] – [company] – [event] – [extra information]. You can then colour code entries.
- Be flexible
A flexible approach can be really beneficial, allowing you to prioritise where time is best spent from moment to moment. While some important meetings may not be able to be moved, ensuring you have some flexibility in your diary helps keep business running smoothly and allows your boss to be available to respond to important circumstances as and when they crop up.
- Weekly planning works well
Weekly planning your diary enables you to plan for the week or weeks ahead, especially throughout busy periods. You may wish to allocate some time on a Friday afternoon to plan your week ahead. You could include important events/meetings/appointments, lunch breaks, planned tasks, personal tasks and activities.
- Update your diary every day
Update your diary every morning to keep track of important dates or to allocate time to any unplanned “emergencies”. This helps you notify any colleagues or external appointments of any changes that need to be made, in addition to ensuring you’re not missing any essential tasks.
- Note down travel information
Travelling smart means making notes on important travel information. You can use an app or a tool, such as Tripit, to keep organised, especially if there is a lot of travel involved. You could also try scheduling online meetings or conference calls where necessary to save time on travelling.
- Understand your boss’s habits
Diary management is very much a balancing act, so try to decipher when your boss is at their best. If they are not a morning person, important meetings early in the morning may be a no-no. However, if they tend to be at their most productive in the morning, booking meetings at this time may be highly effective. You may also need to be aware of their personal commitments. Do they need to be at their child’s parents’ evening during working hours? Do they have an important veterinarian appointment they need to attend? You don’t need to keep track of their social calendar, but knowing whether there is any work/life conflict can help keep your diary running smoothly and as effectively as possible.
- Be realistic and use common sense
Using your common sense and initiative can make your job a lot easier. Ask your boss what their priorities are so you can successfully plan your diary. Ask yourself: Does my boss need to attend every meeting or can I delegate these to other team members? Is a meeting necessary or can a decision be made via email? This will help you avoid wasting unnecessary time on meetings which don’t need to be held.
- Stick to an effective system
Once you’ve established an effective system for managing your diary, stick with it. There’s always a lot to manage when it comes to being a Personal Assistant – one method that works for you may not work for someone else, but if it’s effective, then it’s worth sticking with. There’s no right or wrong way, so don’t worry too much if someone else doesn’t approve of your style.
Article contributed by Oriel Partners
About the Author
Olivia Coughtrie is Co-founder and Director of Oriel Partners, a PA and administrative recruitment consultancy based in central London. Olivia is passionate about making positive changes to the recruitment process.