If there’s one task that can edge above others as the most important in the life of the PA, it is diary management. Some diaries can be so complex that an upper management boss might have two PAs, with one being the ‘diary’ PA and the other handling all other tasks. But in most cases, it is one of the tasks that a PA carries out. So you want to get all the tips and advise you can get to help manage it!
What a good diary manager needs
As the diary manager for your employer, you need to be both decisive but flexible. This means that you can move things around, make changes, alter arrangements and work with a changing world – one of the biggest problems can be when PA treat diaries as immovable objects that cannot be changed.
In fact, rare is the time that a diary doesn’t change. Meetings are arranged then someone has to cancel. A presentation was planned but an expected delay puts it off. A business contact was visiting but took ill and had to cancel the trip. When you take a good PA Course, learning to control the diary but be flexible is a key skill.
Central diary management
Another vital part of diary management is to have one system that everyone uses and that is firmly in place. It doesn’t matter whether is a traditional diary, a planner, a piece of software or an app on the phone. The key part is that there is one approach, one diary and one system that governs it. Without this, chaos will ensue.
Sit down with your boss and decide about what the system will be. For software, it needs to be quick and easy to access and use, flexible about where you can access it and easy to make changes. For a paper-based system, there needs to be a hierarchy of who puts what in the diary and who can make changes (namely, you and you).
How to respond to changes
A big part of the diary system is how to handle incoming and changing diary appointments. For example, if your boss tells you that tomorrows lunch appointment is now a mid-afternoon one, do you make the change or does he?
Laying out how far ahead the diary will be created is also important. Will you have a meeting once a month to create a rough outline of what is happening then a quick weekly chat to iron it out and make any changes? Or will it be a quick chat on a morning before work starts to see what’s on the agenda for the day? Every employer will have a different preference and you will soon find a system that works best.
Prioritising the diary
It is easy for a diary to get full and find no-one has any spare time if something comes up. But as the diary manager, you are the one who has to be the firm hand in things and assess if it really is needed.
For example, does the boss need to attend this meeting? Or could someone go in his or her place, take notes and share them? And if they are going, what preparation is needed to ensure they are ready for it – when does this need to be done?
You might also look if they need to be there for the whole meeting or just the half that applies to your department. Or could the meeting be done a different way such as via the phone, video chat or even via email? Clearing away unnecessary meetings and being firm about time commitments are the most key skills for a good diary managing PA.