If you want to develop your time management and/or planning skills, using a diary effectively is a good place to start. Below are five tips for good diary management. Although they are primarily for the office, the same principles apply to managing a personal diary.
Keep it all in one place
Ideally you should only keep one diary, however in reality you may need a portable diary (on your tablet/phone or paper) for making entries when you are out and about and a static calendar or diary that can be accessed by other people in your office. If you are keeping records in more than one place, it is vital to ensure that they are all kept up to date with the same information, otherwise it defeats the object! These days you can sync electronic devices, which makes it easier. Whether you use paper or are online, make a habit of ‘syncing’ diaries on a regular basis – the start or end of the working day, for example.
Start as you mean to go on
At the start of the year transfer any recurring dates onto your diary, such as when reports are due, auditing, year-end, and annual appointments. It may take half an hour but it definitely saves time in long run. If you keep an electronic diary you can enter dates as recurring, which will save you the trouble of adding them in every time.
Don’t be afraid to use colour to differentiate between different types of diary entry. It means that you can tell at a glance whether you need to travel, stay in the office or make a phone call, and also whether something can be rearranged if needed. Electronic calendars such as Outlook make it really easy to use colour, and you can give colours a tag so that you are consistent.
Allow time for work
Don’t just use your diary for meetings and appointments – make sure that you schedule in time to carry out specific pieces of work. Take out cancelled appointments, particularly if they have been rearranged for a later date (you may want to schedule a reminder to rearrange a cancelled meeting or appointment). Try to leave some ‘unplanned’ time, so that you can deal with emergencies or just get on with the day-to-day stuff!
Keep on top of it
Review your diary at the start of the working week as well as at the start of each day (or the end of the previous day) so that you know what’s coming up and there are no surprises. This also gives you the opportunity to prioritise and reschedule items to take into account anything unexpected that may have come up.