Behind every great boss is a greater executive assistant. If you’ve been blessed with a position such as an executive assistant, remember that with bigger roles come bigger responsibilities. Most executive assistants agree that the secret to being perfect at their job is to maintain an efficient executive’s calendar. It’s your responsibility to ensure that your boss doesn’t waste time and goes through each day without any hiccups.
Your excellent time and calendar management skills will depend on how well you handle your boss’s schedule. To your rescue comes calendar management tools. Using one of these can make your job of maintaining calendars easy and highly organized. There will be fewer chances of making mistakes if you follow one regularly and meticulously.
Table of contents
- 1. Understand Your Executive
- 2. Why Do I Need An Executive Calendar
- 3. Ways To Effectively Manage An Executive Calendar
- 4. Apps & Software That Can Help You
- 5. Managing An Executive Calendar The TimeTackle Way
- 1. How do I manage my work calendar?
- 2. How do you effectively manage a diary?
- 3. How do you manage an executive assistant?
1. Understand Your Executive
Working styles and organization skills vary from executive to executive and therefore, it’s a good idea to get to know the personality of your boss, how he sets his priorities, and organizes his schedule.
1.1 Know their priorities
The number one thing you must do is understand which tasks make it to the priority list of your executive. There are weekly, quarterly, and yearly reviews with and without board members, client meetings where the level of clients will differ by their importance to your company business, half-yearly and annual reviews of direct reports, meeting with potential clients, after-office networking, setting strategic directions for the company, attending events, etc.
Talk to your boss to find out how he organizes his priorities. Some executives like to spend a significant amount of time networking, while others prefer someone else to represent them in events where there are many networking opportunities. The personality type of your boss will make it easier for you to guess where his priorities lie and make calendar management easier.
1.2 Audit existing calendar and processes
Check how the executive’s current schedule looks. Are the events color-coded? Is there too much or too little description? Does your boss update his calendar every time a meeting is postponed or does he save it for later? Does he add any tasks to empty spaces like a canceled meeting or does he use it as his free time?
If you want to introduce anything new to the executive calendar, check with him first.
1.3 Ask questions if needed
If you are new to this job, this is an especially vital step – ask questions to get rid of any confusion as guesswork will only land you in hot water. Not all executives work in the same style or have a definite method of maintaining their schedule.
Ask as many questions as you need to identify how your executive’s schedule is maintained and for managing your executive well. If you want to introduce anything new to proper calendar management, check with him first, and follow up with him on how comfortable he is with it.
2. Why Do I Need An Executive Calendar
This is a million-dollar question that deserves an elaborated answer! In a nutshell, you need an executive calendar to show that you are the best executive assistant and that your boss can’t do without you!
2.1 Gets activities organized
You are in charge of how your executive’s day is planned out, so you ought to know about each event, the agenda, attendees, venue, start time, end time, etc. Since executives attend more than one meeting a day, you need to keep a tab on the details of each. The best way to do that is by maintaining an executive calendar.
You can organize all the events daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly. You must have a good grip on your boss’s job. By maintaining an executive calendar, the schedule has set reminders to alert you of a task to be done.
Only by maintaining a well-organized schedule of tasks would you be able to make the exec work his best without wasting his time or running from one meeting to another without a clue of the agenda or his contribution.
2.2 Efficient time management
The standard 9 to 5 working hours are all we have. Meetings, lunch breaks, replying to emails and phone calls, employee reviews, and sundry work need to be addressed. If you don’t have any time assigned to such tasks, each day would turn out to be chaotic as different tasks would pull your boss in different directions at the same time.
That’s why it’s your KPI to ensure the whole day at work is handled efficiently as per the designated times. Always keep some buffer in between tasks so that multiple tasks don’t overlap.
2.3 Increase executive productivity
Your executive is the head of your organization and such a resource must be optimally used. He must not attend meetings where he cannot add value. Hence, you should be aware of why somebody is asking for a meeting request. It’s smart not to accept vague answers.
On top of that, the maximum productivity of your boss can only be had if he gets some time to reflect. Thus, his schedule cannot be chock-a-block with meetings only. To get the most productivity from him, these times for reflection must be suggested by you and approved by the executive with a commitment to stick to it. Calendar management is a two-way street.
2.4 Stress-free routine
Your executive’s diary lays out all the meetings, appointments, conferences, and other activities with specific timings. As many others are also involved in these tasks, the schedule works on multiple layers. Having all these sorted out will ensure you can carry these out like clockwork and enjoy a stress-free routine.
2.5 Clear communication
The calendar is visible by all involved, therefore communication becomes transparent and leaves zero room for misunderstandings. Plus, it becomes easier to manage your executive as everything has been shared.
3. Ways To Effectively Manage An Executive Calendar
Given below are the top ten calendar management tips on how to handle an executive calendar effectively.
3.1 Priority Setting
The first thing to do is setting priorities to meetings as this will provide you with the springboard for your effective calendar management. Without this knowledge, the foundation of your executive’s schedule would be wobbly.
According to Kristina Schneider, a successful executive assistant-turned-Executive Director, you should always ask your boss about the tasks at hand and how these are prioritized. As these priorities keep changing, you should keep checking with the executive instead of relying on your judgment to avoid embarrassment later.
Therefore, keep a handy list of all the projects so that you can discuss with your boss and assign priority levels to each. While you’re at it, make sure you have your boss’s personal schedule shared with you as important events like birthdays and anniversaries must not be neglected. Moreover, if you have information about upcoming doctor appointments, you can schedule meetings accordingly and thereby avoid miscommunication.
3.2 Block Scheduling
You should apply blocks for specific jobs both for the Executive and yourself. Start by identifying the times when your boss is at his most productive. He could be a morning or an afternoon person. Accordingly, set strategic jobs for him as such tasks need undivided attention.
Set a separate block for one-to-one or group meetings, for example, you can choose 30 minutes every Friday afternoon so that your boss gets a lowdown on objectives met throughout the week, bottlenecks, and things to get done in the following week.
The ball lies in your court as far as scheduling meetings and informing everyone about blocking the schedule for your boss. Not only should you inform them, but you should also remind them of the timeline within which they can place a meeting request. Further, you need to tell them that if the deadline is not adhered to, you have the rights reserved to push the meeting request to another time.
Amidst all this calendar management for the Executive, don’t forget to separate a couple of hours every week for yourself so that you can review and update the executive calendar. Where multiple calendar handling is involved, it’s wise if you prepare a summary.
3.3 Creating a Routine
A daily routine guides us along and helps us to complete jobs according to their priorities. When you have a routine to refer to, chances are that you will be more productive and save time as you know the flow of tasks and tick them off from your list.
Similarly, you’ll be the rock star in your boss’s eyes if you make him go through a daily routine that keeps him on top of all tasks and gives him enough breathing space. So, you need to update his calendar every day at day-end and share it with him. This way, he will know what’s waiting for him the next day and will be mentally prepared for it.
Block scheduling is a major part of creating a routine. When you and your boss know that certain hours of the day are reserved for replying to emails and making phone calls or team meetings or strategic thinking, it gradually falls into a rhythm and becomes part of the routine.
If you color-code events with unique colors, it gives an overall view of how the week or the month looks like in terms of meetings and other tasks. Without diving into details, you can safely comment by looking at the broad categories. Don’t forget to share with others what each color connotes.
The executive has to deal with hundreds of issues daily and may not always be on top of which meetings concern which issue. You can help him by adding more information about the meeting so that he can be prepared before it starts.
Similarly, for phone calls and email replies, check if he has all the notes as reference.
3.6 Downtime Planning
Your executive needs some downtime to refresh and recharge himself. So, take care of his calendar in a way that includes lunch breaks, meditation, stretching, etc. Slot these tasks at the same time blocks so that it becomes a routine.
Executives are always mentally juggling various issues. You can help him take a breather by ensuring there is at least a 15-minute gap between back-to-back meetings. There’s only so much that we can handle and therefore, going directly from one meeting to another may not give your boss the breathing space to get into the right mode and to run over the agenda.
3.7 Meeting Filtering and Timing
Only allow those meeting schedules where your boss can contribute and not waste his time. You are the gatekeeper between the executive and the office, clients, and other stakeholders. Therefore, it’s up to you to turn down meetings. Instead, suggest another way like messaging through Slack or use Trello to prevent time-wasting in update meetings. Such software shows the status of each project and therefore, physical attendance is unnecessary.
You must set a start and an end time for each meeting to keep things to the point and efficient. Unless it’s a board meeting that reviews the whole year, any meeting should be given a maximum of 30 minutes.
Therefore, you must have a fair knowledge about the discussion topic to assign the right amount of time to it. Also, make sure that every meeting scheduled with the Executive goes through you. That’s because you are in charge of the calendar for your boss and you should know every minute detail.
3.8 Using tools and technology
Nowadays, there are plenty of tools that help you handle your executive Calendar seamlessly. Try the messaging platform widely used in the office – Slack. You can have calendar integration with Slack so that it extracts the meetings and shows them for the group to see.
Google Calendar is another tool that can be accessed from anywhere, edited, and shared. You can save your own template here and save time without having to create templates for recurring events.
Alternatively, you can use readymade templates from Google Sheets to create and customize an executive schedule. Since you can share this with relevant team members, anyone can add their input and save the file for the rest to see. Even the executive can add notes or ask questions on the same sheet. This approach helps solve the problem of double booking as each person knows which time slots of the executive are free.
3.9 Weather And Traffic Updates
You should get an alert on weather and traffic updates so that if the executive has to attend a meeting outside, you know exactly when he should start for the meeting, whether he needs to carry an umbrella, and what the traffic conditions are like.
3.10 Schedule Assessment
All the events and appointments in the calendar are not carved in stone. Situations may arise that need adjusting the schedule. Hence, you should keep a close eye on any new developments that can throw a spanner in the accepted routine.
Remember that any change in the executive calendar will also change yours. Therefore, always assess the schedule of your boss so that you are not caught unaware.
This is where weekly calendar reviews play a huge role. Review the weekly schedule every Sunday night before the week starts and at the end of Friday when the week ends. This will ensure both your and your executive’s calendars are up-to-date with buffers for unexpected events.
Don’t forget to let your boss know of the calendar edits. At the same time, request your boss to let you know if he makes any changes so that both of you are on the same page.
4. Apps & Software That Can Help You
To arrange your diary efficiently, some of the widely-used software and apps are here. Tools like Zoom, Trello, and others will help keep both you and your executive on the right track.
Zoom negates the necessity of a physical meeting and you can integrate your calendar with it to arrange meetings and participants. Any changes are automatically updated so that all concerned are aware of the updates. There is no time wastage as attendants can join and start meetings at the touch of a button.
Connect Calendly to your Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Exchange, Outlook Desktop, or iCloud for seamless integration. There won’t be any double booking in your schedule as both your official and personal calendars are taken care of.
Minimize status meetings and unnecessary
back-and-forth with team members that are a sheer time waste. Organize and set priorities for all tasks by making use of the boards, cards, and lists. Use the calendar for assigning deadlines.
4.4 Google Workspace
5. Managing An Executive Calendar The TimeTackle Way
Go the distance with TimeTackle, a meeting scheduler that allows you to add useful info to your calendar to give each event more meaning. You can integrate your Google Calendar easily with your TimeTackle account.
5.1 Add layers of info
The calendar tag feature in TimeTackle lets you add short, one-word hashtags so that you know the details of an event at a glance without ruffling through your papers. Labels of events are broad categories. But when you want to add details like priority, task nature, attendees, department, etc., it’s only possible with TimeTackle. It has been designed to do so with your convenience and productivity in mind. Color-coding has its limitations as you can’t add much detail except in the description box.
5.2 Customize and Control
TimeTackle calendars allow you both an overview and a microscopic one, depending on the level of info you have added. It’s in your hands to what degree you want your schedule to be customized. So, instead of the calendar controlling you, you control the calendar!
5.3 Maintain privacy
Besides, your privacy is maintained as each tag you add to your calendar gets recorded in an encrypted format that only you can see. Therefore, only you and your executive are privy to details.
You can ease the burden on your boss’s shoulder by proactively giving him a report of the data entered in the TimeTackle calendar. The Analytics tool extracts the schedule data and produces bar and pie diagrams to show you where and how your executive has been spending time. Match between what he intended to do and what he actually did. For example, to get more sales, how much time did he spend on networking vis a vis visiting high net worth potential clients?
This analysis will help you both to improve productivity and address areas of improvement.
1. How do I manage my work calendar?
To handle your work schedule, simply follow a few tips. Keep a day of the week free from meetings so that you can focus on your tasks and get them out of the way. Schedule a meeting with yourself. If you can’t afford to have a full day to focus, assign blocks each day of the week for your tasks.
Don’t let email alerts derail you from the task on hand. Just take a glance and if you see that the email is nothing that needs your immediate attention, keep it for reading later. Allocate a specific time of the day when you go through and reply to your emails.
Free time scheduling
Schedule your free time by putting it into your schedule to handle it better. When you can foresee that you will have a hectic day or week, factor in some free time right after such a period. Stick to it and either start late or leave early.
Block scheduling helps you to put similar jobs within the same time block. Instead of switching back and forth from external meetings to staff meetings, make sure you dedicate a few hours to get all your outside office meetings done.
To care for your calendar more efficiently, don’t automatically agree to meetings that last for more than 30 minutes. Give a good thought to the meeting agenda and see whether half an hour will do.
Bird’s eye view
When we are too engrossed in following all the scheduled activities in the calendar, we often miss out on the bigger picture of how we are utilizing the time. Take a bird’s eye view of your schedule and try to identify if you’ve been spending more time on tasks that someone else could have done.
2. How do you effectively manage a diary?
Managing your diary requires some creative, logical, and networking skills. Effective diary handling is not hard to do if you keep some factors in mind.
If meetings need to be rescheduled, you should have the flexibility to do so. Board meetings and AGMs are annual events that you can’t move to another date as these have been fixed much earlier and there are many parties involved.
However, you can reschedule some meetings when you assess the importance of the situation. If there’s an urgent meeting involving a high-priority agenda, it should definitely make a way in your diary.
Communicate with your boss
Talk to your boss and find out which meetings he can attend, which ones someone else can attend in his place, if some of these require rescheduling, and which ones need to be sent apologies to. When you need to shift meetings, try to do so when these involve the company’s people like direct reports.
Keep good relations with other EAs so that you can discuss with them first before moving meetings.
Organize your diary
Make a list of meetings by their title and organize them alphabetically in a folder. Then take a printout and discuss with your boss so that you can label each of these meetings as must-attend, others can attend, must send an apology to, or no longer attends.
This folder organization will help you later when one of the organizers calls you and you need to respond. You can quickly refer to your meetings folder and respond accordingly. Such a folder will also help you to see where your boss’s priorities lie so that you need not refer to him or her all the time about how to handle certain meeting requests.
Use the “All-day events” option
The all-day event shows an event that occurs throughout that day. As it remains at the top of the calendar, your boss can easily look at such events where his attendance is not needed. It helps to remind you as well what your boss is not doing.
This works great as a future reference as your executive may ask you later about the status of the all-day event and you can confirm that the right action was taken. Such actions may include canceling the meeting, delegating the meeting to someone else, or sending an apology.
3. How do you manage an executive assistant?
While executives need to be organized by their assistants insofar as their calendar and scheduling are concerned, the other way round is also valid. Meaning, you ought to know how to handle an executive assistant.
When executives delegate responsibilities to their assistants, they develop in their role and become more valuable to their boss as they can make many decisions by themselves, leaving the executives free to focus on business development activities.
The EA is a reflection of their boss. They know every detail of all the ongoing and upcoming projects. So, if you’re a senior executive, make your assistant a business partner so that you can delegate some responsibilities to him. Ease him into a supervisory role so that he can attend meetings instead of you, contribute to planning and organizing, run data through software to generate management reports, etc.
Build a trusting relationship
Take your assistant to your confidence. Let him see what kind of a person you are, where your priorities lie, how you are as a leader, how you handle unexpected situations, and whatever that arises all in a day’s work. Without any verbal cues, intelligent executive assistants know what you want and how you want it.
You can win the empathy of your assistant only if you share all your concerns with him. Therefore, when situations arise, the executive assistant knows exactly how to respond and take full responsibility.
Training and Development
Encourage your assistants to take time out and invest in personal development by taking courses that would augment their position and help them have more say in business decisions. Many executive assistants are encouraged to learn a new language to compete in the global arena. Try to make them tech-savvy so that they can use software and app effectively and help you to maintain your calendar more efficiently.