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How can you manage your diary better?

What is Diary Management? Diary management involves managing the diary and day to day life of a busy executive, entrepreneur or business owner. While this task may appear rather straightforward, there’s a lot more to it than simply keeping track of important events. Time is a valuable commodity and it must be managed wisely.

When working on numerous tasks or projects at once, this can result in demanding schedules and time-sensitive conflicts.  If you are struggling to find enough hours in the day, then good diary management can release a significant amount of time.

So, how can you manage your diary better?

Are you still using a paper diary?  There are various platforms which will enable you to become more advanced and versatile to cope with your business as it grows and changes.  Do others need access to your diary?  By using a platform that you can share, enables others to view your diary without disturbing you. 

Once you have found the right diary, create the layout to suit your working pattern:

  • check the date format;
  • check the working hours i.e. 8.00 am – 6.00 pm Monday – Friday;
    (If you have certain days off in the week or perhaps work weekends, set this appropriately)
  • set the custom view – i.e. Monday – Sunday (7 days); and
  • set the time to GMT London.

Once you are all set up, share it with your PA/VA and any other team member who needs access.  Then it is time to start inputting all those urgent and important meetings, tasks and reminders.

It is important to think about everything that happens in your life so here are a few examples to get you started:

  • recurring appointments such as 1:1s, regular team briefings, quarterly sales reviews;
  • reporting deadlines;
  • tasks that need to be completed on a monthly basis such as invoicing, credit control and expenses;
  • tasks that need to be completed on an annual basis such as accounts;
  • recurring tasks or projects such as social media postings;
  • calls or meetings with clients and suppliers;
  • preparation for meetings or writing up notes after a call; and
  • renewal of insurances or subscriptions.

So now you have given all your business schedules and tasks some thought and inputted all of these into your diary, then take some time to think about your personal life.  To give you a help in hand, here are a few examples:

  • hair, doctors and dentist appointments;
  • home, car and life insurance renewals;
  • anniversaries and birthdays;
  • school runs or dog walking;
  • activities – yoga, golf, football, fishing or whatever your hobby may be;
  • holidays and bank holidays – if you have children, adding school holidays is especially useful; and
  • holidays that you have booked or you need to book.

Private, sensitive or personal appointments can be marked as private, important when sharing diaries!

To make life easier, and to avoid confusion, it makes sense to schedule recurring appointments to no more that 6 to 12 months at a time. Also put a reminder in the diary to double check them on a regular basis.

Your diary should be your ‘go to’ organiser, but if you need to skip something in the diary, don’t forget to move it to another day, but only move it once.  If you move lots of tasks around or too often then ask yourself why.  Do you need to go back to the drawing board and rethink your diary, or do you just need some help?

Larger Tasks or Projects
If you have a larger task or project to complete, then think about blocking out some time over a few days, rather than in a big chunk.  This will give you time to reflect, enable you to take a break and gives you a buffer for anything urgent that crops up.

Don’t Forget Others
Many tasks can’t be completed without the help (and consideration) of others – whether it’s that your work needs to be done in time to match a client’s schedule or you need information from a colleague.  Ensure you input a reminder in your diary to chase information or work from others, if this will impact on the completion of your task.

Travel Time
The gaps around appointments and meetings must include plenty of time for you to get from A to B.  Not just externally – on the road, rail or air travel – either.  Sometimes you need to be aware that even going from one part of the business to another takes time and can involve distractions or obstacles en-route.

Remember, someone feeling late or rushed may not be in a position to give their best at the meeting.

The judgement as to whether tasks are urgent, important, both or neither is crucial for good diary management.  Most inexperienced people and those who are not good at time management tend to spend most of their time in the Do Now and Reject or Delegate box.  Any spare time is typically spent in the Resist box, which is non-productive.  Most people spend the least amount of time in the Plan to Do box, which is the most critical area for success, development and proactive self-determination.  Do not prioritise according to who shouted last and loudest.  See below examples.   

  Urgent Not Urgent
Important 1 – Do Now
Important deadlines
Emergencies, complaints and crisis issues
Pressing meetings and appointments
Demands from customers or superiors
Deadline-driven projects
Last minute prep for scheduled tasks
Reports and other submissions
Staff issues or needs
2 – Plan to Do
Project planning and scheduling
Research and investigation
Thinking and creating
Modelling, designing and testing
Systems and process development
Anticipative, preventative activities or communications
Identifying need for change and new direction
Developing strategy
Employee training
Personal development
Not Important 3 – Reject or Delegate
Tasks that need to be done, but don’t require your specific skills
Busy work  
4 – Resist!
Unnecessary routines
Comfort activities; computer games and net surfing
Excessive coffee breaks
Looking at junk mail

Colour Coding
Think about colour coding all your tasks into the above categories.  This will be useful when first populating your diary.  Ensure that Do Now and Plan to Do tasks are carried out when you are most productive.

White Space
As tempting as it may be, it is all too easy to pack diaries full of appointments and deadlines morning until night. There are lots of good reasons why ‘white space’ is a key diary management tool.

Leaving gaps, of various sizes, in between tasks will provide time and space to assess, recap, take notes and carry out the urgent tasks taken from meetings before starting the next task.

If you create a stress-filled and pressurised day with the clock forever ticking, it is not going to get the best out of you.

Many of us don’t take as many breaks as we should. Over time, this can have a negative effect on your professional life, as well as your health and well-being.

When managing your diary, it’s vital to include regular breaks and time away from the office.  In addition to factoring a daily lunch break into your diary, for example, you may need to include specific days off. 

Don’t Forget the Detail
When you add something to your diary, ensure you input as much information as you can including what, where, time it starts and finishes and with whom.  Including additional notes or attaching associated documents will be extremely useful too.  This will save you valuable time later.

Make Use of a Virtual or External PA
Good diary management needs time to be set up correctly, but it also then needs time to keep it accurate and up to date.  One of the best ways to manage complex diaries, either individual ones or across teams, is to get help from an expert.  Having the ability to raise above all the daily minutiae, keep the diary streamlined, error free and logical is far easier for someone not distracted by other tasks and internal politics.

At the End of the Day
Review your diary.  Have you missed or deliberately forgotten to carry out a specific task? Either do it now or reschedule it for another day.  Remember, only move tasks once!

Finally …
Don’t forget to back up your diary.

Oreo PA can offer a wealth of business and project management support from diary management to organising events, office moves and staff management. In fact, any project or task which you simply wish to GET DONE.

Contact me today on 07584 306749 to go through your to-do list and see how I can support you and your business.