Are you feeling overwhelmed by your calendar? Perhaps you are always running late or missing deadlines. Do you feel you are constantly juggling your work, re-organising meetings or just playing catch up and never in control? If you’re finding diary management a constant struggle, here are a couple of top tips to help you regain control of your calendar and time.
What Is Diary Management?
Let’s start with the basics; what do I mean by diary management. Firstly diary management is more than accepting or declining your latest invitation or appointment. It’s about having a structure to your day, a method to the way you work that works for you.
So, what does it take to manage your calendar effectively?
Diary Management Essential Skills
There are a couple of principles that are important to developing a diary management system that works:-
- Allow buffer time between appointments for preparation and travel and those all-important breaks.
- Be honest about your habits and how you like to work. Some people are natural morning people and are at their best early in the day. Others need several coffees first and don’t hit their stride until the afternoon. Match your natural working pattern with the timing of your appointments.
- When you settle on a diary management system, stick to it. You might decide colour coding or time blocking works for you (they work for me). Or maybe you want to use an online calendar instead of a physical diary. Whatever you decide will work for you, set up the process and stick to it.
Diary Management Is Not A One-size-fits-all Solution.
Your system must be in line with your personal working style. So an essential part of setting up an effective process is to be honest with yourself about how you work ( which is different from how you should work). For example, here are a couple of considerations to think about:-
- What time are you comfortable starting meetings in the morning?
- Are evening informal meetings or drinks an option, and if so, what days would work?
- Are there any days you prefer to avoid having meetings? (I usually try to avoid Fridays, so I can focus on my workload and go into the weekend with a clear desk). Or perhaps you would prefer not to travel on certain days – Friday afternoon traffic can be a nightmare.
- Do you have any regular personal commitments, i.e. the school run, that need to be factored in?
- Do you prefer in-person meetings, or are you comfortable with Zoom calls, which can be easier to fit in?
5 Top Diary Management Tips
#1. Schedule everything.
Your diary isn’t just for appointments. If you have a job or task to do, put the time in your calendar. It can also help to give that task a priority setting (This can be especially useful if you are outsourcing your diary so your virtual support knows what can and can’t be moved if necessary). Scheduling everything is the only way to understand how you are using your time, and more importantly how you are wasting your time.
#2. Time block.
Are you doing your best work if you spend your days flitting between tasks? Juggling different jobs means your focus is scattered across multiple tasks/responsibilities. This makes it difficult to give any one task your entire focus and attention.
Research shows that if you are juggling 5 jobs, you could lose as much as 80% of your productive time each day. You are far more effective if you spend a couple of hours focusing on each job instead of slotting in tasks sporadically throughout the day.
#3. Colour code.
Start by thinking about the kinds of tasks and appointments you have throughout the day. Set up each category with its own colour code. Giving every entry in your calendar a colour makes it easier to see your priority for the day. It can provide a quick visual of how your time is split and lets you see what is eating into your precious time.
#4. Set up reminders
If you have regular jobs to complete, set up a reoccurring reminder in your calendar. For example, if you have decided to assign a slot every Friday morning to paying invoices, set up a reminder for 15 minutes before, then you know you have to complete your current job and focus on paying the bills.
How much time do you spend in meetings, and are you getting a return on that time investment? It’s easy to get into the trap of scheduling meetings for a specific length – usually 30 or 60 minutes. But do you actually need all that time? Could you cut it down to 20 or 45 minutes?
Cutting the meeting length down means you have built in a buffer should the meeting overrun. It also means you have some preparation time for the next meeting, which means you will be more focused in that meeting.
It’s amazing just how the 10-20 minutes you save by reducing meeting length slightly add up over a week.
Have You Thought About Outsourcing?
If diary management is a drain on your time, you may want to consider outsourcing it. Hiring a virtual resource to organise your calendar might unlock even more time in your day. Yes, I know it can be scary to hand over your day/life to someone else. But think about it, if you set them a framework to work to, they can make impartial decisions on how to effectively plan your time. Or, should you decide to change your plans, your virtual resource can make all the necessary calls to re-arrange. They can even work across your team, ensuring all your staff or associates’ calendars are aligned, and everybody is in the meetings they should be.
Contact me if you want to know more about the diary management services I can offer.