Introduction - What is a diary system?
Using a diary system has many different purposes and can bring many benefits to the business. Within most companies there are many different offices and it can sometimes be hard to communicate with each other and know exactly what each person is doing on what day. They can be paper-based in the form of a traditional bound diary, or can be in electronic format.
By using a diary system it makes it much easier to find out if a certain person is in the office or if they are on appointments. It also ensures that nobody is ‘double booked’, meaning that if they have an appointment on a certain day, they can check the diary system and ensure that they do not book anything else at the same time. Time management is a very important purpose of using a diary system as it means that employees don’t need to spend too much time coordinating diaries to schedule appointments or meetings.
Many electronic diaries can be accessed from any computer or handheld device, provided the user has the correct sign-in information and password. This allows information to be changed, confirmed or reviewed at any time from almost anywhere in the world.
If you are managing a diary system for your manager:
Prior to confirming a meeting in the calendar, always look at what your manager has scheduled on either side of the meeting. Do they have a difficult meeting that will impact upon their mood, do they have something scheduled that requires their concentration – writing a report for example. Do look at how their other meetings will impact upon their performance and plan accordingly. If they have an important deadline for a report that morning, schedule a little bit of breathing space that afternoon so they can grab a coffee, or do some general catching up.
Always factor in travel times and a little extra. As much as your manager might want to cram a lot into their day you don’t want them arriving at a meeting completely hassled.
Research shows that there is a 75% greater chance that a person will complete a task if it is in their calendar. On that statistic alone it is worth including deadlines in your manager’s calendar and scheduling time for your manager to complete important tasks.
Every decision you make regarding your manager’s calendar should be decisive and it should be made with your manager’s time in mind. You are the gatekeeper 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.
Have you ever used a calendar or diary?
If not, how do you remember events and activities?
If yes, how useful do you find these?
How to Use a Diary System
You can print out your diary so that you have a working document for the day. This will help if you need to take it with you to meetings, and you don’t have a phone to store your calendar with you. You can then be on time if you need to leave if your appointment looks likely to overrun.
Every calendar entry should come with the following information (at a bare minimum):
Date, time, location
Agenda / meeting purpose
Type of meeting (conference call, face to face, etc.)
A way of setting reminders is using the ‘all day’ appointment feature on Office Outlook. This is a tool to remind yourself of important dates, your annual leave and that of the team. It can include any general information your team members need to know but do not need to action.
Use categories and colour coding on Outlook Office. Color-coding and categorisation can apply for 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 your day can be colour coded so that you know what you are doing at an easy glance.
To prioritise requests you should ensure that you put the most important ones first. This ensures that the ones that are urgent, for example are being dealt with before the ones that may not be as urgent but are still important
It is important to keep confidentiality secure when using a diary system as there will be a lot of information going into the diary entries and this may include personal information from clients, for example, and they may not want this information to be passed on to anyone else. It is also important to keep a diary system secure as the organisation will not want anyone to be able to access their diary system. You can often use a privacy function which block entry to anyone but yourself or your manager.
Justin had just started working within a new company as a Finance Administrator. This was his first office-based job. Justin has been asked to manage his manager’s diary as he will be on holiday for two weeks. The manager, Carl, has asked Justin to step in and only book essential, justifiable meetings, but only for the month after he returns and not to overbook the diary with more than 50% of meetings each working day, unless it is a senior management meeting. The working day is eight hours long, plus a half-hour for lunch, so Justin knows that he can’t book in anything longer than around four hours. You know how to use the system, and this is a one-off, as Carl normally books in his own appointments.
On Day 1 of Carl’s holiday Justin has three emails requests to book in. How should he handle these requests?
The Finance Director is re-scheduling a full-day senior team meeting, due to holidays and has requested a full-day block out. This is a regular monthly meeting. There is an hourly meeting with the HR Manager that morning to discuss sickness absence, so there is an overlap with the two appointments.
A supplier has requested a meeting for two hours at their site, which is a twenty minute drive away. Justin has noted that previous meetings were held at his manager’s office.
A request has been put through which has said that his manager ‘will know what it is about’. It is a late afternoon request, and you are not sure what it is about. When you’ve asked for more information, the requester won’t say why they want the meeting.
Speak to the HR Manager and apologise but that you need to reschedule the meeting and give a couple of alternative date/time options as soon as possible, around the date the meeting has been scheduled. Then agree to the Finance Director’s meeting as a priority.
Contact the supplier and provisionally book the requested slot and schedule this to happen either in the manager’s office, or on the supplier site. Then Justin should reply that his manager will discuss a confirmed location on his return. Leave it as a provisional booking until the manager returns. Allow a half-hour either side in case there is a justified reason for Carl to visit the supplier site, which will allow time to travel each way. Luckily the meeting then does not cover more than 50% of the working day.
The manager might know – but you don’t! You will need to know about every meeting in case your manager asks – so ask! Again this is down to communication, if you are ever unsure about a meeting, do ask your manager. For now, don’t schedule this in and reply that your manager will discuss it with them on his return as he has asked for only the highest priority meetings with a justifiable reason to be booked in his absence.
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