Time management is key to running a successful business, and an organised life. A well-managed diary is much more than a glorified to-do list. Effectively use your calendar to save time and free yourself from stress. Here are our top tips on how to tackle diary management confidently and efficiently while managing the multiple administrative tasks related to it.

Create a routine
No matter what you are working on, create a routine. Block times for specific activities and stick with the plan. Turn your calendar into a bunch of blocks and put activities into those blocks. Whatever is not planned, you don’t do. If you want free time, plan it. Your routine may change through the year, but at any given time it’s better to have a plan. For example, if you are working on launching a company, and need to do customer discovery, coding and hiring, then prioritise and block specific times for each activity. A calendar app is a very useful tool.

Using a colour-coded system can help you to see what you’ve got coming up at a glance. Work out a system based on your work style, assigning colours, including highlighter colours, and create a key on a page at the front or back of your diary.

Schedule buffers
Schedule in time between meetings to allow for travel, preparation, and overrunning. Don’t cram in meetings back to back, allow for flexibility with a realistic buffer in between.

Recurring appointments
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 meetings are frequent, I would suggest 6 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 it is worth revisiting the meeting details with your Executive and the attendees. Are the meetings still worthwhile – would it be best to schedule them less frequently, should they take place over the phone rather than face to face.

Create a meetings reference folder
If you are new in your role or work for a boss that has hundreds of different types of meetings to attend that occur frequently (the banking industry springs to mind – many directors sit on numerous project groups, or working committees, with the same meetings taking place at least every 4 weeks), then make a list (or print out the diary entry from Outlook) of the regular meetings that come up.

Schedule downtime into your diary
Leaders are hardly immune from overwork, burnout and stress. Yet a company is unlikely to thrive if the boss can’t think straight, not least because employees will model their behaviour around their leader. People are more likely to pay attention to work life balance if they hear their leader actively talking about it.

In conclusion…
A diary is an entrepreneur’s secret weapon to ensuring she/ he stays prepared for business meetings, deadlines and even lunch dates with important connections. Benjamin Franklin said, ‘by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’, so keeping a diary will help you remain prepared and as far away from failure as possible. Every day, every week, every year offers a blank slate where you can turn a new page on the path to success.