In this Ultimate Guide to Diary Management, I explain why having an electronic diary is an absolute necessity AND how you can maintain your energy levels to ensure your days run like clockwork.

1. Use an Electronic Diary 

Online calendars which sync to your computer and phone mean you have access to your availability wherever you go. If you’re at a networking event and want to schedule that coffee with the dream client you just met, you can whip out your phone and organise it on the spot. There’s no hesitation because your diary’s on your desk and you’re not fumbling around with a Filofax.

It’s slick, it’s easy and it’s professional. It’s effective diary management 101.

2. Put Absolutely Everything That Affects Your Availability in Your Diary

This is the key to success – you need to put EVERYTHING in your diary in order to have a clear view of what your commitments are and how much time you have left over. That includes dentist appointments, school plays and even popping in to see your parents. Any other approach may mean you get double booked or, worse, you miss an appointment. And that’s the last thing we want.

3. Know How You Like to Work

Think about how you like to work and consider whether you are comfortable with back to back meetings and calls, or whether you prefer to have a little breather in between each appointment. Some people are happy with three one-hour calls back to back, others like to have a 30-minute break in between each one.

Sometimes people prefer to batch up the same types of meetings and calls on the same set day each week.

Many prefer to keep Friday afternoons free entirely.

Take the time to work out what best suits you so you can maintain your energy levels.

4. Don’t Create More Work for Yourself

When you schedule an entry, put in all the information you can there and then. Things like:

  • Is it a call or a meeting?
  • How much time should I allocate (include a buffer if you’re unsure)?
  • Do I need to allocate prep time in advance?
  • What’s the location?
  • Are there dial-in details?
  • Who else is attending?
  • Do I need to add travel time either side so there’s a buffer?

If there are any blanks, at least you will know about them well in advance.

5. Confirm and Reconfirm

If someone proposes a time for an appointment, always confirm via email and by following up with a calendar invite too. The last thing you want to do is assume that a meeting is confirmed and then find out that the person is no longer available because you didn’t respond or because they didn’t have the entry in their diary.

Also, don’t be afraid of reconfirming as well. I always contact people 24 hours in advance to reconfirm their availability. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy email, just a simple, “It’s been a couple of weeks since we last connected, so I wished to reconfirm our meeting. I have noted that we will meet at [venue] at [time]. Please do let me know if any of those details have changed and I hope to see you as planned.”

6. All Day Appointments Versus Reminders

When an appointment lasts all day, technically it is an ‘all day’ appointment, but it also really helps to have a visual reminder which blocks out the entire day using a manual entry between, say, 9am until 5pm, as well. When viewing calendars online, it’s sometimes impossible to immediately know the difference between a note that’s been written about someone’s birthday which perhaps doesn’t affect availability (but is showing as an all-day appointment), and a day-long appointment for birthday celebrations because you’re having a family party.

7. Booking Meeting Rooms, Restaurants or Quiet Spots

If you love that little independent coffee shop with comfy sofas and free wifi on Bermondsey Street, make a note of it so you don’t have to dig around for the details the next time you’re in the SE1 area. If a certain contact has a special dietary requirement, log it in your contact card or CRM so you can be proactive with venue suggestions next time around.

8. Use Colour Coding

Most electronic diaries also have the option to change the colours on each entry, so this means you can colour code your appointment based on importance or category. For example, when I manage a client’s diary, I may put all conference calls in yellow, all meetings which involve travel time as red, then travel time or breathing room as green.

9. Tweak Reminders

You can tweak the appointment reminders so they pop up at the time of your choosing. So I put birthday reminders in for a week in advance, conference call reminders for 10 minutes in advance, then meetings where I have to travel don’t have a reminder because I’ve already allocated the right amount of travel time to the diary as a separate entry.

10. Integrate your Calendar with your To Do List

I use ToDoist for my to-do list and it’s so cool that it integrates with my Google Calendar which means I have a visual overview of both my diary commitments and also to-do items for that day. This has been a complete game changer as I can drag and drop my pending items to another time or date, so I can easily reprioritise my day if needs be, but nothing is ever lost or forgotten.

Diary management is a task my team and I do for our clients on a daily basis. Having a VA on board means we schedule appointments within our clients’ required timeframes, all while protecting their prep, personal and family time to ensure they’re not overstretched. With us working behind the scenes, all the client has to do is turn up to the appointment on time.

If you would like to free up your time by having a VA take diary management off your plate, or if you’d like me to review your current approach and suggest more effective ways of working, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me an email or use the contact form on my website.