Diary management

I work as a personal/executive assistant.

There is one question that always poses a head scratcher in my line of work when going to work for someone new - diary management.

It can mean everything from:

- a paper planner on boss' desk (lots of running in an out to check/add dates on my part)
- some form of computer calendar on both our desks (best case scenario)
- paper planner on boss' desk/computer version on mine shadowing the paper planner so the rest of the company can make appointments (very messy)
- paper planner on boss' desk (pocket planner for travel) - and computer on mine (major headache)
- some form of mobile gadget that is supposed to sync with computer calendar and boss' desk (and mine if I'm lucky)

Now I gather that most of us are passionate enough about our diaries and planners to manage our own, thank-you-very-much-for-asking. :)

For those of you who have to coordinate closely with other people and share the content of your planners - how do you go about this?

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managing someone else's diary isn't easy...

... as you know it can be a pain to get everything co-ordinated.

I'm not a personal assistant but I have been an assistant (guard dog) in the past

some form of computer calendar on both our desks (best case scenario)
Yes, a computer planner is the fastest syncing option. I prefer it because it's printable, instantly updated, and the office standard where I work.

But having an IT solution doesn't always work if your boss is the kind of person to make appointments in the hallway and forgets to put them in the computer straight away.
One of my least favourite boss-traits :)

When using paper planners, I've found that managing diaries is also about managing boss-expectations and the expectations of people expecting to speak to/with the boss.

This might be stating the obvious ro someone dumb, but just in case it's useful...

I'd contain the number of surprise changes to the bosses diary by doing simple things like
- arranging a daily meeting for 10 minutes each morning with the boss to go through the events of the day and his/her expectations, and checking the bosses diary for changes/surprises/appointments made over coffee that the boss forgot to put into their calendar, etc

- having set times each day to update the bosses diary and my diary, and inform my boss about any meeting requests as they may want to delegate/avoid/move-forward the meetings. eg. updates 8.30am, 11am, 2.30pm, 5pm. This means that almost no one gets an instant 'confirmed-time' entry into the bosses diary. They'd get a tentative time as the boss hasn't approved the appointment yet (my excuse in case the boss has made another appointment since the last update - but it's also because I wouldn't change/update the bosses diary until the next update time).
Shock - they may have to wait an hour or two for a confirmed time/date! Most people coped fine with this.
Except of course there's no wait for the bosses boss, important clients, etc who'd get an instant, confirmed entry.

- arranging very brief appointments at most twice a week for 'serial offenders' :) - those people who like to attempt to monopolise the bosses time each day but the boss doesn't want to see them daily - and then making them wait to see the boss until then

... another least favourite

... another least favourite boss trait is making multiple phone calls/changes to the paper diary and failing to keep track of what he erased (most of which really should have been rescheduled). Or track of just how many changes he made.

It did result in a very important person believing they may have been stood up and the boss eating a second lunch (and pretending it was the only lunch).

The only thing that saved me was his handwriting in the diary.

Anyway, I do like your idea for clumping the update times. At least that way you are not interrupting constantly and have more hope of getting a decision. I tried to implement that system in the last job but it never really took hold.

Have to go with computer on this one...

In our office (there are three of us - one boss and two assistants), we use Outlook. We each have our own calendars, but the assistants can see, add to, delete from the boss's Outlook calendar. You simply set this up in Outlook to have access to his/her calendar. So, when the asst's set an appt, we go directly to the boss's calendar to do so. When someone calls or stops in to make an appt, we go directly to the boss's calendar. Boss has a pda, so if he adds something while out of the office, he syncs when he gets back and we are all updated!

So, technology, I feel, is the only way to go on this one!!

This is definitely the best

This is definitely the best case scenario. For various reasons I have yet to take it on the road.

I usually work for the sort of person who gets offended when I go and buy a suitable planner for the year - rather than use one of the freebies sent to them at Christmas by a client/parent company.

I agree

This is definitely where IT comes in handy. Presuming you boss is computer litterate enough to use the Outlook calendar, of course.

I would personally use paper calendar, but have to keep Outlook updated so that co-workers can check my calendar when needed.

By the way, take a moment to check how the syncing is done (how often etc) and should you change the default settings. I guess I have to do this for my boss (even though I'm not his assistant) when I just manage to make him to contact our it-department to fix the whole syncing... (he's using the calendar in his cell phone only, because it doesn't sync at the moment - quite natural, but we others would need to check his calendar too!)

- customizing Filofax Personal -

My former specialty

I was actually a 'scheduler' to an executive. Really an EA/PA, but my main focus was truly her schedule so that was my job title. We did it all on networked computers using Outlook and that was the only way to go, most of the staff could see her calendar, but I was the only one who could change it.

I spoke to people at my previous company about the days before the network was created and they all did pretty much the same thing. There was only one paper calendar and it was on the assistant's desk. The executive had to learn to say: "that sounds like a good (event, meeting, whatever), please call my scheduler to put it on my calendar." The schedulers would then type up the day's schedule one day in advance (with appointments, locations, etc) and give it to the executive. If you have to keep someone else's diary, you have to train them to not ever make their own appointments, ever. It's not easy, but its the best way to avoid duplication. Make them carry your card as well as their own everywhere they go.


When using outlook and entering travel arrangements in your boss's diary, do you enter everything in local time and then include the GMT time in brackets within the entry? Or do you convert times back into GMT time and enter them that way? This always confuses me.
Also, do you block the whole time in the diary (eg for a flight) or would you just enter the departure time and then the arrival time as one off entries.
Any advice on this would be greatly appreciated!

Outlook scheduling

When I put travel arrangements, meetings or whatever in Outlook, I always use local time. It's the most convenient for the user who will be looking at airport clocks and listening to airport announcements in local time. GMT is meaningless to us since we don't live in that time zone and don't conduct work in that timezone. My boss doesn't have time to look for the conversion chart in her cell phone or whatever, she will more than likely reset her watch when she lands (or set her cell phone to reset to a local tower) and needs to know what is happening now. The only time I would add another time to her schedule is if she is due to make a phone call/conference call back to our timezone when she is traveling.

I block the entire time for a flight because that is time during which she is unavailable for any other commitments. Also, blocking off flight times makes it very clear at a glance that other appointments that show in that same time are FYI types of events or recurring events that she is missing because she is on a plane (or train or automobile). I suppose that if she was ever traveling to a timezone behind us I would not block off the entire time because it would be confusing (but I haven't actually encountered that issue yet).