One of my first jobs was to manage the schedule of a major politician. The lessons I learned have served me well in my career. Here are my top tips.
Block in 15 minutes between each meeting or conference call
You're only human. Sure, you think you can do back-to-back meetings and calls but sooner or later, you are going to need to go to the washroom. Or eat a snack. Or answer an email. So give yourself 15 minutes between meetings (or conference calls). Not only will this give you time to breathe but will help ensure you stay on schedule.
Book for 45 minutes, not an hour
Before you book an hour for a meeting, ask yourself if you can do it in 45. Great business people can do a business meeting in 45 minutes, or less, and still do some small talk. Trust me, most 60 minute meetings can be done in 45.
Block out statutory holidays
Yes, your calendar may have a little note at top that says "ABC holiday." If the actual day is blank, you may accidentally schedule something on a stat holiday. Nothing makes you look more disorganized than having to rebook an important meeting because you forgot that the office was closed that day.
Schedule in travel time
Going to be out of the office? Be sure to book in travel time into your calendar. If it takes 45 minutes to get from your office to the meeting, you need to have that in your calendar. And don't forget to allow at least 15 minutes for parking, late bus, traffic or other issues.
Beware of meeting first thing Monday morning
Really? 7 am on a Monday? Are you sure you will remember? And that the other person will remember as well? If you are going to do this, be sure to exchange cell phone numbers in case one of you has to cancel. Because sitting in a Starbucks at 7 am and waiting for someone who is not going to show, is really a bad way to start off the week.
Always reconfirm a meeting the day before
You would be surprised how often I confirm a meeting the day before and the person will say "oh, I meant to let you know, I need to rebook" when I reconfirm the meeting the day before. When I reconfirm, I always include the street address, date, day of the week, and time. Because the only thing worse than sitting in a Starbucks waiting for a meeting that isn't going to happen, is waiting in the WRONG Starbucks.
Ann Rosenfield used to be a professional scheduler. She has trouble staying on time but she blames that bad habit on her family. You can find her at firstname.lastname@example.org.