9 Strategies for Optimizing Your Schedule

By Neha Singh Gohil | Updated: 04 Jun, 2012

Prialto knows that executives face many challenges when they first begin to delegate admin services to an assistant, especially in areas such as calendar management. In essence, scheduling relies upon managing time slots well—incorrect management can play havoc on your productivity, eviscerating the value of working with a scheduling assistant in the first place.

How to Optimize your Calendar

By implementing a few of these nuanced, yet simple strategies, you can both raise your productivity in the workplace and better market yourself to valuable meetings:

1. Make sure your calendar is always up-to-date

It is important that your calendar accurately reflects your schedule. Here at Prialto we train our virtual assistants to keep calendars fully up-to-date so that if you need to quickly self-schedule a meeting with a key client, you can accurately see available times.

It is equally important for you, the executive, to keep the calendar up-to-date. This empowers the assistant to quickly make decisions scheduling a meeting on your behalf without creating scheduling conflicts.

2. Use tentative time holders

We train assistants to mark meeting times offered to contacts as tentative in your calendar. This not only prevents double booking, but also reduces the number of ping-pong emails exchanged in order to schedule a meeting.

Most popular calendar applications, such as Outlook, offer the option of scheduling tentative meetings.

3. Offer discrete time slots:

Instead of offering entire mornings or afternoons, have your assistant select discrete 30- or 60-minute time slots to send to your contacts. Assistants who offer single, broad time slots for several prospective meetings get clobbered when multiple contacts accept the overlapping times. By offering discrete time slots, you also indicate that you are busy and, thus, encourage others to better value your time; your contacts will respond quicker, often by selecting one of your options.

4. Offer fewer time slots:

Don’t offer too many time slots to one contact. Offering fewer time slots conveys more urgency to the contact, who is therefore more likely to select one of your options. Have your assistant offer just a few select slots to the contact.

For a slightly softer approach, have your assistant add a sentence following the suggested time slot options, such as “Of course, if none of these times work for you, please feel free to suggest some alternatives.”

5. Offer more slots to more valuable people:

This may seem contradictory to the previous strategy but, by offering more slots to those who are more valuable to your goals, you are opening yourself to more opportunity.

You should not treat every contact the same way; nevertheless, one should not provide too many choices, even for these most valued meetings. Train your assistant to offer just one time slot to a low-priority contact and 3 to 4 to high-priority ones.

But how do you sensitize an assistant to the value of different contacts? We recommend using a CRM as the engine for all such ongoing training between the executive and the assistant. We also help executives create email vernacular for use when their assistant is copied, acting as a cue for proper valuation.

6. Offer asymmetric blocks:

A contact may have an internal meeting each morning at 10 a.m., and if your assistant offers meeting times on three days at 10 a.m., all of those are automatically declined. To avoid this, have your assistant offer a variety of times and dates; so that 10 a.m.–noon is offered for Tuesday, for example, and 1–2:30 p.m. is offered for Wednesday.

This asymmetric list of suggested times will provide the additional benefit of appearing more authentic, in keeping with your active business life.

7. Alphabetize your options:

When sending a list of available date/time options, use letters instead of bullet points:

A. Wednesday, June 13 @ 2 p.m.
B. Wednesday, June 13 @ 5 p.m.
C. Friday, June 15 @ 10 a.m.

This allows the recipient to easily identify their preferred selection, instead of repeating everything back to you; they can relate it to you simply:

Let’s schedule B.

8. Consider location:

You don’t want to spend your time running across town. You can train your assistant to offer time slots that, if all are accepted, won’t create chaos in your day. Consider having your assistant schedule calls when other calls will be made, and arrange for a few meetings in the same city to maximize your travel efforts. We make sure all contacts in a CRM networking program are classified by location and that the assistant knows typical travel times. This will enable them to more effectively manage your calendar.

To back all this up, make sure your assistant is adept at researching travel times between meeting places. Careful usage of tools like Google Maps takes much of the speculation out of this process.

9. Don’t hold times too long:

When contacts are busy, they may not respond quickly. We suggest that your assistant creates a simple title starting with an expiration date for tentative time slots offered to a contact.

For example, “6/12 - Bob Smith (call).”

Make sure your assistant deletes it from your calendar if you haven't received a response by that date. The time range we suggest holding a slot is 1 to 4 days, depending on the value of the contact. After this, contacts are much less likely to respond. If they do respond later, they will respect and understand that the times you offered are no longer available. Once expired, empower your assistant to offer the newly freed time to another contact.

Scheduling management is vital; your calendar is the final record for both you and your assistant to know your availability. As you collaborate together, you should ensure that when a meeting is scheduled, your assistant removes the other offered time slots and immediately adds the confirmed appointment to the calendar.

Likewise, if the contact cancels, the assistant should immediately remove the meeting and follow-up with rescheduling.