Why am I here? How am I going to get through this? Shouldn’t I be doing something else with my time? Will I ever eat again? These are the questions executives ask themselves while sitting in meetings they don’t need to be in.

As the meeting progresses, the inner dialogue continues…

How did this happen? Did I think about my priorities when the invite hit my inbox? Well, not really.

Did my assistant check with me before booking it? Probably, but it seemed important at the time!

Did my assistant tell me I would regret taking this meeting, yet I ignored their warning? No comment.

Failing at Calendar Management

Far too often, executives find themselves in draining meeting after draining meeting, dreaming of the work they could accomplish if only they weren’t stuck in another meeting. It’s a surefire way to ruin productivity and suck the joy out of them, not to mention make them useless in meetings.

A calendar dictated by others turns into a burnout machine. It’s time you – the leader assistant – take back the reins of your executive’s calendar so they can spend more time doing what they are paid to do.

How to set up an ideal week calendar and why it’s a must have

So how do we take control of our executive’s calendar?

A rigorous vetting process for each incoming invite isn’t enough. With no structure to the calendar, we simply schedule meetings wherever we can find an opening. Even worse, your executive may agree to meetings based on how they feel in that moment, without considering how they’ll feel when the time comes to attend that meeting. When it comes to your executive’s schedule, no structure = chaos.

To prevent RSVPs based on emotions, I like to set up an “Ideal Week Calendar.” This simply means blocking out times on your executive’s calendar for meetings, projects, checking email, working out, reading, taking breaks, and whatever else they want – and need – to spend their time doing. It’s a great way to set aside specific times each day for your boss to do what they need to do when they need to do it. You can download the Ideal Week Calendar Template I use here.

For example, some people like to have the mornings to focus on projects, so adding an event called “Focus Time” on your executive’s calendar every morning from 8am-10am could be a good start. Unless there’s an emergency, you two can agree you will not schedule meetings during that block of time. Quick Tip: make sure you clearly define what a true “emergency” is to take out the guesswork.

On the other hand, some people get their best work done in the afternoons so that you might schedule a 9am-11am block on your executive’s calendar for “Meetings and Phone Calls.” When you receive a meeting request, simply schedule it during that block, NOT in the afternoons. Again, this helps take out the guesswork when trying to find a time for a meeting.

I’ve set up an ideal week calendar for my former boss, my current boss, as well as myself. It’s an extremely helpful way for you to protect your executive’s time. Instead of allowing their schedule to be a blank slate that fills up as invites come in, their new schedule serves as a guide to direct those invites into predetermined time slots.

With the ideal week calendar, you and your executive are in control of their schedule. You no longer fly by the seat of your pants for every meeting request.

Not to mention, if you take the initiative to set up the ideal week calendar, your executive will appreciate your proactive leadership.

Application: What Would Your Executive’s Ideal Week Look Like?

If your executive has no clue what their ideal week would look like, ask them to take some time to look over their current calendar. Have them look at the big picture, as well as one meeting at a time while considering the following questions:

  • Does this type of meeting drain me?
  • Does this type of meeting bring me joy?
  • What time of day am I generally more productive?
  • Am I dreading this meeting? Can someone else attend on my behalf?
  • Does this meeting really need an hour, or could it be done in 30 minutes?
  • What days and times of the week am I more pleasant to be around? (Hint: schedule meetings for these times!)

BONUS

As they work through their calendar, your executive may realise they need to do a more extensive audit of their life. Their workload, their job description, and their goals – personal and professional. If so, encourage them to walk through my FREE eBook that includes my 5-step process to help them do what they love and eliminate the rest.

Once they’ve assessed their current schedule, you should meet with them to discuss their preferences, and from there, you can put together an Ideal Week Calendar draft. You can create a new Google calendar strictly for the purpose of crafting your ideal week, or you can use a spreadsheet or google sheet to work it out.

Personally, I like to start with a google sheet. It’s easy to quickly move things around, colour-coordinate based on the type of event, and share with my boss for feedback. If you’d like to try out my Ideal Week Calendar template, you can make a copy of it or download it here for FREE.

Once I get the ideal week close to a final version, I like to create a new google calendar with all the ideal times blocked out. This allows me to easily overlay it with my – or my boss’ – current calendar to see how far off it is, and to see how long it might take to implement.

It may take 4-6 weeks to completely switch over, and once you’re there, it will likely need tweaking – but that’s ok. As long as it gets implemented!

So take back your executive’s calendar. Make time for what’s important. Map out an ideal week. After a few months, shoot me a note to let me know how it’s going!

P.S. – Don’t forget to download the free Ideal Week Calendar Template here.

A Simple Tool for Leading Productive Meetings

This is a guest post from Jeremy Burrows at GoBurrows.com. If you would like to write for Practically Perfect PA please review our guidelines and get in touch. 

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