Here are some effective tips that will help Assistants with the day to day task of managing their Executive’s schedule.
Recurring appointments are a simple way of ensuring your Executive meets regularly with key individuals, such as direct reports, clients and, of course, their Assistant.
Recurring meetings are great, but they also have to be managed quite carefully. Never schedule recurring meetings for more than a year in advance. If the sessions are frequent, I would suggest six months at the very maximum.
Keep an eye on recurring meetings.
Do the attendees change the time/date frequently? Do they often get cancelled?
If this is the case, revisiting the meeting details with your Executive and the attendees is worth revisiting. Are the meetings still worthwhile, or would it be best to schedule them less frequently?
Perhaps they should take place over the phone rather than face to face.
Don’t delete recurring meetings.
This will remove all of the meetings, and you may need a record of individual appointments. Instead, change the recurring meeting end date so that any previous meetings remain in the diary.
Tentative meeting requests
You will often be asked to find time for a meeting that may or may not happen.
To create effective Calendar Management for Executive Assistants, It is well worth putting a ‘holding’ meeting in your Executive’s diary. Do ensure you set yourself a reminder to confirm the meeting or delete it from the calendar.
Before confirming a meeting in the calendar, always look at what your Executive has scheduled on either side of the meeting.
Do they have an awkward meeting that will affect their mood? Do they have something scheduled that requires their concentration – writing a report, for example? Do look at how their other meetings will affect their performance that day and plan accordingly.
If they have an urgent deadline for a report that morning, schedule a little bit of breathing space in the afternoon.
Always factor in travel time and a little extra.
As much as your Executive might want to cram a lot into their day, you don’t want them arriving at a meeting wholly frazzled and late.
‘All day’ appointments
A great way of setting reminders is using the ‘all day’ appointment feature.
This is a great tool to remind your boss of essential dates, colleague’s annual leave and any general information they need to know but do not need to action.
Remember that some ‘all day’ reminds can look slightly different depending on the device your Executive is using. Make sure an ‘all day’ event does not block out their entire day. It can look messy.
Categories and colour coding
I love using categories and colour coding in calendars.
I colour code and categorise everything from birthdays, client meetings, 1-2-1s with colleagues, reading and email time, holding meetings and even lunch.
All of the different parts of an Executive’s day can be colour coded so that you both know what they are doing at an easy glance.
Scheduling time for tasks
Research suggests that there is a 75% greater chance of a person completing a task if it is in their calendar.
It is worth including deadlines in your boss’s calendar and scheduling time for your Executive to complete essential tasks on that statistic alone.
Viewing the calendar
If you have two screens at work, always keep your Executive’s schedule open on one screen.
If this is not an option, print out your manager’s diary so that you have a working document for the day.
You will be asked continuously throughout the day what your boss is doing and where they are.
Every calendar entry should come with the following information (at a bare minimum):
- Date, time, location
- Agenda/meeting purpose
- Supporting papers
- Type of meeting (conference call, face to face etc.)
Bring up folder
When writing about effective Calendar Management for Executive Assistants, I detailed the bring up folder system in a post a few years ago. Here is my take on it:
This is my favourite tool for keeping on top of supporting documents for meetings. My bring up folder is a big expanding folder box in which I have put 31 dividers for every day of the month and then dividers for every month of the year. I put all of the information my Director needs for each meeting or general documents they require for that day in between each divider. At the end of every day I give them the following day’s paperwork in a clear plastic wallet with a printed copy of their diary for the day on top. I number each meeting on the diary print out and the papers are also numbered and placed in order depending on what meeting they relate to. It is one of my favourite tools as it means my manager has everything they need for that day and are well prepared. As I go through their emails during the day, I can print off the important bits and bobs and just add it to the bring up folder for whenever they need to see the paperwork again and then I can just get on with my work rather than trying to remember what meetings need which bit of paper.
So, I wrote this back in 2014, and I must say, rereading it, it sounds so old-fashioned and awful for the environment! It was a brilliant system and worked so well.
My Executive never had to worry if they had all of the right information as it was there at their fingertips each morning. They could have a quick look through the pack and see what their day would look like. They went into each meeting prepared and never missed a vital piece of information. Every single one of my Executive’s wanted paper copies of everything, so this system made sense. I don’t think technology was entirely up to scratch, and they didn’t want to read documents on their blackberries or lug around their massive laptops!
But, as I said, it isn’t the most modern system, so why don’t we look at how we can modernise the bring up folder?
Using technology to modernise the bring up folder
We have many tools that allow us to collaborate online, and I want to suggest a few options for you, but first, how should we set up this online system? Well, I recommend a similar method to the bring up folder.
Why not? It works!
Why not have an online system with a separate folder for each month of the year and within those folders days of the week?
You could easily slot each document in the day that it is needed. Simple and easy for your Executive to follow.
Also, you could have separate folders for those big meetings – board meetings that take place quarterly, for example. Anything relating to those meetings can go in their folder!
Cloud technology has come a long way, and there are loads of options that you can use to modernise your bring up folders. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Google Docs
- One Drive
You will also have an internal file-sharing system that you could use for your Executive. All of these platforms allow for filing, sharing documents (Google Docs also allows for editing in real-time, which is super helpful!)
Now, as much as I want you to all go paperless. The reality is that a lot of Executive’s still want a physical printout of documents. But if you also have everything online, they can read all of their supporting documents anywhere, and it is secure.
Finally, effective Calendar Management for Executive Assistants means every decision you make should be decisive, and it should be made with your Executive’s precious time in mind.
You are there to save them time, and you are there to ensure your manager’s day is productive. When responding to diary appointments, everyone should provide you with an agenda or purpose for the meeting.
Don’t ever accept meetings with people that have said your Executive ‘will know what it is about’.
They might – but you don’t!
You will need to know about every meeting in case your boss asks – so ask!