Why You Should Give Your Calendar To Your EA
When it comes to offering advice, I try not to be too direct. But, in this case, I have to make an exception:
You really need to give up your calendar to your Executive Assistant (EA).
I asked Kristie, my EA, to document all the different personal and strategic considerations she uses to manage my calendar. When I first saw what she had written, I was blown away by the depth of her thought processes and attention to detail.
I decided to make her “Notes on Calendar Management” its own blog post to encourage you to rethink your relationship with your calendar. As you’ll be able to tell by reading Kristie’s notes below, allowing your EA to manage your calendar will free up a lot of mental space and alleviate a ton of stress from your workday.
Additionally, if you’re an EA reading this article, I hope you can take something useful from Kristie’s notes and apply it to your own calendar management process.
Kristie’s Thoughts on Calendar Management
My overarching philosophy toward calendar management revolves around arranging all the different puzzle pieces of Don’s schedule to help him be better at his job. I take a very strategic approach to managing Don’s calendar – and for good reason.
You need to have meetings to make things happen. And effectively managing meetings allows those things to happen more efficiently. From coordinating with other stakeholders to negotiating the value of Don’s time in specific circumstances, calendar management is the cornerstone by which he gets his work done. For this reason, strategically managing an Executive’s calendar should be one of the most critical aspects of an EA’s role.
Preparing for the Day
As an Executive Assistant, my goal for the start of each day remains the same: Ensuring my Executive has everything they need for their meetings so they’re not lacking for anything.
There are a number of different ways I accomplish this goal, and I start by asking a series of questions: How many meetings are scheduled for today? Which emails will Don need to reference to prep for those meetings? Do these meetings need an agenda? What information does Don need to be aware of before the meeting begins?
These questions often extend to myself, as well. I see my role as helping Don think as little as possible about what he needs to do that day, and that requires prep work on my end. I make a “weekly resource folder” in which I collect all the emails, agendas, and information that Don will need for his upcoming meetings, and I ensure that every meeting space is cleaned and prepped for an effective meeting experience (i.e. room is reserved, all technology is ready to go, whiteboard is clean, name tags are printed, etc).
It’s also important to remember that your Executive is a whole person. This may sound silly, but your Executive isn’t a machine. They’ll need space in their day for bathroom breaks, lunch, and brief periods of reflection. For some Executives, if you don’t work these breaks into their schedule, they’ll blow right past them without realizing it. If the day is going to be packed with back-to-back meetings, make sure to order lunch, and always keep their office well-stocked with snacks and drinks.
I also compile a list of Don’s “go-to” orders at local restaurants, so if we unexpectedly have to order lunch, I can just ask, “Do you want me to order [restaurant name]?” and (depending on his answer) I can order his go-to meal without offering him a menu to peruse.
I also make personal considerations when I set up Don’s schedule. For example, If I know someone he’s meeting with has a reputation as a “talker,” I’ll make sure to schedule a hard stop.
There are some types of meetings that Don told me he finds physically and emotionally draining, and there are other meetings that Don feels are life-giving and invigorating. If possible, I try to not schedule anything after a “draining” meeting that requires intensive participation, and I do my best to protect the “life-giving” meetings.
Another consideration is the building’s layout. If meetings throughout the day have to happen in different rooms, I try to make sure those rooms are close to one another (or at least on the same floor). It’s very easy for people to intercept Don as he moves between meetings, and I want to try to mitigate that as much as possible on busy days.
Meetings With Other People
Executive meetings can be broken down into two broad categories: External (meetings with people outside your company) and Internal (meetings with people inside your company). While there is a lot of overlap between external and internal meetings, I make some special considerations when it comes to meeting prep.
If someone from outside the company is coming onsite for a meeting, it’s important to show them you’re expecting (and anticipating) their visit. I always have someone available to meet the guest when they’re scheduled to arrive. Once again, I make sure the meeting space is stocked with snacks and drinks. I want to create a hospitable atmosphere around their meeting. Additionally, I find the LinkedIn profile of the guest and give Don a quick rundown of their professional resume.
I schedule buffer time before and after the meeting to make sure Don can make it to the meeting on time and give a little bit of margin in the event the meeting runs long.
If the meeting will take place over the phone or on Zoom, it’s vital to be aware of different time zones and schedule appropriately. When it comes to setting up meetings for Don, I begin with the availability of the most senior (or VIP) person and work my way down.
I approach internal meetings a little differently than external meetings, but not by much. For starters, employees don’t always meet with the CEO, so I’ll often “soften” a meeting invite with added details in the event description to ease any anxiety that might arise from a meeting request from the CEO.
I also try to determine if the meeting would be more productive (or personable) as an offsite (often lunch) meeting or having lunch brought to the office. If the meeting is with a direct report, I’ll make sure they know what the meeting is going to be about and if they need to have any materials prepared beforehand.
Specifically addressing local travel (in which Don returns to the office), I always build in additional buffer time to account for traffic and other uncontrollable factors. Sometimes, I’ll schedule a meeting for myself with Don to fill out that time slot.
I’ll also frame out Don’s calendar with vital information – like hotel address, meeting locations, flight numbers, agendas, etc – so all he needs to do is pull up the event in his calendar for all the information he’ll need while he’s away.
If Don is traveling to a different office, I’ll try to connect their EA and see if there’s anything I need to let Don know (i.e. how to enter the building, etc) and let them know (i.e. food preferences/aversions).
If all of this didn’t convince you to give up your calendar, then I don’t what will. I really want to emphasize the fact that Kristie actually does all of this, and she’s very good at what she’s described above. Prior to handing over control of my calendar, I had no idea how much time and energy I was expending trying to accomplish not even a fraction of what Kristie is capable of. Kristie’s calendar management skills have become so seamlessly integrated into my day-to-day operations that I seriously don’t know how I was able to function without her. If you haven’t already, now is the time to hand over calendar management to your EA.