9 July 2008

Having a good outlook when it comes to Outlook

Organizing someone else’s calendar can be challenging. It involves communicating what you have scheduled, and in most cases without direct contact with the person you are scheduling appointments for. In other words, you will probably not be able to speak to the person, but you have to communicate to them in some way that you have updated their calendar.

It involves an understanding that you have to look ahead and see what is in the calendar. Sometimes a calendar can change, a meeting gets cancelled or postponed and needs to be rescheduled. It is important to keep in communication with your boss on some level. It is ideal to have daily meetings to plan for the days and weeks ahead, but sometimes that is not possible if your boss is on the move. Your boss will need a high level of confidence and trust that whoever is doing the scheduling will have their best interests at heart and will not overbook them.

Communicating without communicating?

How can you communicate to someone that you have updated or changed their calendar? If you are not in direct contact with your boss and must make a change to their schedule, I find a quick e-mail to let them know you have accomplished the task of either making the appointment or rescheduling it goes a long way. Your boss should never think that they have to put the date in their calendar, but they are just being made aware of it and it is something they can mentally tick off their list of things that needed to be done.

It is always good to give your boss a heads up on what kind of a schedule they have to look forward to. You do not want to bother them with every appointment you put in their calendar, but they need to be aware of them. How can you accomplish that? I use appropriate reminders so the appointment doesn’t creep up on them unawares. You would not want your boss to find out about an important meeting at the last minute that they should have been prepared for.

I create the calendar appointment in my boss’s calendar and I always invite myself as a resource person so it also appears in my calendar as well. This can also be accomplished by creating a rule for the dates to automatically go in both calendars. I find this is a good back up system so we are both aware of upcoming appointments and commitments. You should however look in your boss’s calendar throughout the day to keep a good tab on what is going on, especially if they put appointments in on their own.

We have an understanding

The person who is having their calendar managed will have to look ahead in their calendar in order to plan their days and they will need confidence that you have looked after all the details. If the meeting is by teleconference you should have call-in numbers typed in the meeting notice. If the participants are in different time zones it would be beneficial to put that information in the meeting comments. If you need to book hotel, air or a car rental as part of the meeting planning, I put the appointment in the calendar with confirmation numbers and toll free numbers to call if they need assistance.

Nobody likes to be over booked. Make sure that what you are putting in the calendar is doable. Some people don’t mind the busyness of back-to-back meetings, while others want some breathing room to think and prepare before they jump into the next round of talks and decision making. You need to communicate with your boss as to what their expectations and limitations are.

Making it easier on yourself

You can’t remember everything and sometimes a calendar date you created in the future, gets lost in your memory of when you booked it. I use the “categories” section of my meeting date so I can do an advanced search and find the date quickly. For instance, if I am planning a meeting with a client, I will type the client file number in the categories section. If my boss wants to quickly know when the meeting is, I do an advanced search and type in the file number and all meeting dates relating to that file number will pop up on screen. The categories section in Outlook is located in the bottom right-hand corner of the meeting date.

Depending on what kind of an office you work in and what kind of appointments you book, you might consider putting the meeting type in the categories section so you will have easy access to all meetings scheduled for that purpose. For instance, if you are arranging sales meetings for the year it might be useful to put ‘Sales Meeting 2008’ in the categories section and if you ever need to know what meetings are scheduled, a quick search will give you the results. I do the same for vacation days. In the categories section I will type Vacation 2008. Then if my boss wants to know what vacation they have used or have scheduled, I do a quick advanced search for Vacation 2008 and all the dates will pop up at a glance.

Maintaining a good calendar is an important part of an assistant's job. You should be familiar with the special features of whichever calendar system you use and keep the communication open with your boss. You will then become an important part of their business and in the know of what they are doing and when. Where is your boss right now?