Diary Management the Easy Way

Written by: Penny Cooke | Posted on: | Category:

So, who is this Virtual Ms Friday person who’s telling me how to manage my diary? Well, Virtual Ms Friday has worked as a traditional, office-based PA for a long, long time – we’re talking well into the last millennium* 😉 Despite going virtual – last year – I still consider myself a traditional PA and, whether traditional or not, we’re all pre-disposed to saying Yes and How can I make things easier/better/go away for you?

I spent over 10 years at Oxford University Press, in the film-making department, I spent a couple of years working for the co-CEOs of an anti-virus software company (and I really don't do technical 😏) and over 12 years as PA to the head of a graduate college in the University of Oxford. That one was my last salaried position, and I might be there still had the new head not decided (wrongly!) that he didn’t a full-time PA… but I’m glad he did, glad that I didn’t decide to compromise and stay, glad that I started out into the unchartered territory of VA-dom.

One thing is clear, whether you’re a sole trader, or growing as a Small or Medium Enterprise, time is money. You can’t afford to be disorganised, to miss vital calls and appointments etc. You need a diary. And you need a diary that’s organised and talks to you (no, not out loud, but sends you messages!). So, we’re talking electronic diary. And a well-kept one, too.

Now, I’ve lived the last 30-some years using Outlook Calendar – I’ve used it for work, obviously, but for personal stuff, too – family birthdays, dentist appointments and, even, to tell me to move my car before it gets a parking ticket!

Good diary management is an art form, but only as good as the dab of the paint you put on canvas. So, here are my dabs of paint to make life easier for you.

Put your meetings in your diary. Duh. That’s a bit obvious, isn’t it? Yes, it is but do you have regular meetings – say, Strategy Meetings that occur every third Monday or whatever. Rather than typing that in over and over again, did you know that you can tell your diary to put those in for every third Monday (for some reason, I keep typing money instead of Monday – idiot, or Freudian slip? After all, time is money in business, isn’t it?!) until a specific date, or until the end of time? You can remove individual occurrences, too, just in case a third Monday happens to be Christmas Day.

While you're putting those meetings in the diary, don’t forget to set a reminder to flag up to you. Whether it’s a day or two before an important meeting that you’ll need to have various things ready for – a PowerPoint presentation, samples etc – or a week or two before a birthday to buy and post a card, or find an ideal gift – flag it up! And when those reminders pop up, you can dismiss them straight away or snooze it for an hour or a day. This is what I meant when I said I lived my life by Outlook calendar – but any electronic calendar will do this for you.

Don’t forget to schedule in travel time. It’s no good putting in, say, 10-11 meeting with John Smith in Oxford and 12-1pm for a meeting with Joe Bloggs in London. Unless you have either a time machine (and I’m the one who’s been called a Time Lady by one of my clients) or a Beam Me Up Scotty transportation device, it ain’t gonna happen.

Colour code. Have a different colour entry for those strategy meetings, for telephone calls, for client-facing meetings, for making payments, for odd things that you really musn't forget, for travel time and travel bookings (and if you're flying, what time you need to check in). This makes trying to find something in a mad dash through the diary if you’re looking for a specific colour ie yellow means a phone call, green is a meeting with a client, red for those things that you really mustn't forget.

If you need to set time aside to chase payments, to keep up to date with expenses, to order stock or whatever, block it out in the diary. Don’t try and do it piecemeal between appointments. Block out – don’t forget to colour code – sections for bookkeeping, for credit control, for whatever. But block it out, or you’ll be doing it at 8pm when I’m sure you rather be home with your family.

If all this sounds horribly like Administrivia – and everyone has far too much of that – why don’t you outsource all that to a Virtual Assistant. All that and more – let your VA put in your client meetings, or when you need to get your expenses up to date (she can do that, too), let her put in your travel time – heck, we can even book your travel!

Hand it all over to your Virtual Assistant, and you go out and make money, make solid business relationships, stop being the person who always turns up late to a meeting or – horror – forget it entirely, because you forgot to put it in your diary.

So, all this is designed to make diary management easy. But do you know what would make diary management really easy? Oh, that’s so simple

Give me a call, and see what I can do for you – how I can manage your diary, get your life better organised and, importantly, help you to focus on what you do best.

Give me a call, and leave the rest to me.

Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke / Pixabay

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