At the heart of every business, helping it run smoothly and efficiently is good diary management. With deadlines, meetings, conferences, staff holidays and all manner of other appointments needing to be documented, it is vitally important that you have a system in place to keep your work diary up to date.
WHY DIARY MANAGEMENT IS IMPORTANT
A work diary is essential for ensuring you complete every task at hand. If the information on forthcoming events is up-to-date in your Outlook or Google calendar, you know exactly what you have to do and when. A well-managed diary displays everything in one place, making it hugely preferable to trying to keep track of deadlines on a stack of post-it notes. We are much better at digesting the blocked-out timeframes than we are at reading through reams of texts. Your diary is not only a central resource for you but also for your teams too. They can see when you’re busy, when you’re free, when you’re on leave and when you have a major deadline lurking around the corner. This means they can plan their time accordingly so they are free when you are if they need to catch up.
MANAGE YOUR DIARY AND IMPROVE YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE
Sharing your diary also means you can improve your customer service. If a potential client calls when you are out of the office, a team member can confidently book in a convenient time for a meeting between you and the customer, providing a slick and impressive operation.
WHAT TO SCHEDULE IN THE WORK DIARY
MULTIPLE POSSIBLE DATES
Good diary management means keeping appointments updated as soon as you discover the details. If a client offers multiple possible dates for a meeting, book the time out for each option. This means no one can double book you after you have responded to the customer with the dates that work for you. Once a final date is set, you can delete other options, freeing up your diary.
Take time every week to review the entries on your calendar for the next seven days. You may have booked the time in for a meeting, phone call or job interview, but have you allowed time for the necessary prep work?
If you have any action items, allow yourself time before the event to complete them and ensure you are prepared. Without this time in your diary, you could find yourself overrun with other jobs and go into events feeling like you are not as ready as you could be.
It is also a good idea to take a moment to perform a quick review of your calendar every morning to ensure that the items you felt were priorities are still the most important tasks on your plate.
If the diary is well managed, you can utilise all manner of efficiency-boosting tactics. For example, if you have a meeting in a particular town already booked in, you can schedule appointments with nearby clients on the same day to prevent unnecessary travel. If your diary is not up-to-date, you might miss this quick win.
If you do travel for appointments, remember to bear this in mind when you block out the time. Always add your travelling time before and after the meeting or event. If you’re based in London but are attending a conference in Manchester at 2pm, your colleagues and clients need to know that you will not be available in the capital after 11am. If your diary is badly managed and only has you down as busy from 2pm, you could find yourself being committed to being in two places at the same time.
Always add your travelling time before and after the meeting or event. Click To Tweet
Scheduling a follow-up meeting as soon as you finish an initial appointment with a client helps you focus on delivering the action points. Invite all of the attendees so everyone can start planning their time in order to be able to update the group by that date.
This helps keep momentum going with the work that you discuss and allows you to organise your diary in the most effective manner.
BLOCK OUT TIME FOR EMAILS
Block out a chunk of time to spend working through your emails. This allows you to be free to get stuck into your other tasks without distractions at all other times. That ping that comes with a new mail can instantly break your train of thought when you are trying to concentrate on other jobs and you can easily forget where you were going if you stop, head to your email app, and read and reply to the message in the middle of a task.
With a set time for dealing with emails, this diary management tip allows you to plough through them in one go and be free to dedicate yourself wholly to the important jobs of the day beyond that.
Use the ‘Reminders’ function to stay ahead of deadlines. Discovering you have to complete a major report in a week’s time is far preferable to only remembering it needs to be in an hour before the cut-off time.
PERSONAL DATE REMINDERS
You can also add in personal birthday and anniversary information, as these are the sorts of dates that can easily slip your mind when you are concentrating on making a success of your business. To manage the diary effectively, you can separate these items from the pressing work engagements, as well as distinguishing between meetings, courses, deadlines and other items by colour coding them.
Here’s how to colour code diary items in Outlook calendar.
AUTOMATICALLY COLOUR CODE OUTLOOK CALENDAR ITEMS
Conditional Formatting automatically colour codes your Outlook calendar items based on certain words you use, helping you to manage your diary. If you have Outlook 2007 or earlier, it’s called Automatic Formatting.
Here’s how you use Conditional Formatting:
- From the Calendar window, use the ‘View’ tab and choose the ‘View Settings’ button in the group marked ‘Current View’. From there, choose ‘Conditional Formatting’.
- Press ‘Add’ in order to create a new category of appointment.
- Pick a name for the category (eg. ‘Meeting’, ‘Training Course’ etc.)
- Select a colour for the category.
- Press ‘Condition’.
- On the ‘Appointments and Meetings’ tab enter the word you intend to use in the entry that will trigger the colour change. This will also probably be ‘Meeting’, ‘Training Course’ etc.
- Press ‘OK’.
- Repeat the process for each different category you wish to colour code.
MANUALLY COLOUR CODE OUTLOOK CALENDAR ITEMS
You can also colour code your items manually, as you input them into your diary. Here’s how it works:
- From the Calendar view, right-click on an appointment.
- Hover over ‘Categorise’ until a choice of colours appears to the right.
- Select the colour you wish to use for the type of appointment.
ONLY SCHEDULE NECESSARY MEETINGS
It is easy to fall into the habit of always scheduling a string of meetings for each project you work on, but when you look at your diary, do you really have time to block out for meetings on every single topic?
The fact is that meetings are not always helpful. Sometimes they achieve great results, but sometimes you could have reached the same conclusion just by collaborating on a Google Doc. Ask yourself whether a meeting is really the best, most effective and efficient course of action to get the job done. Often diary management is about what not to schedule as well as what to schedule.
GET HELP MANAGING YOUR DIARY
Supportal can manage your diary on your behalf. Make sure you always hit deadlines, you know when team members are free, and that your calendar is easy to digest at all times. Use the Contact page to find out how we can help make your business as efficient as possible through effective diary management.