By Kristina Schneider & Megan DeLaGarza, Executive Assistants
It’s hard to believe that it’s already December. What this time of year typically means for us is that we are usually preparing Phil’s calendar for the next year so that we can maximize the best uses of his time, while also making sure that we don’t overlook important items that need to get onto his calendar. Here are some tips for laying out the 2014 calendar for your boss so that he or she can kick-start 2014 in the right direction.
Calendar the Basics
The first thing you will want to do is to calendar out the basic items that you know need to make it onto the calendar. This may include, but is not limited to:
- Holidays, including:
- National Holidays
- Religious Holidays (pertinent to your boss)
- Office Observation of Holidays (noting when the office will be closed)
- Reminders pertaining to holidays (such as purchasing or sending gifts, making reservations, etc.)
- Vacations, including:
- Your boss’ vacations (or at least time blocked off where vacations can later be scheduled)
- Your vacations
- Vacations of any other associates or staff members that your boss would want to know will be out of the office
- Spring/Winter/Summer Break for any young kids that may be in school
- Important Deadlines, such as:
- Tax Filing Deadlines
- Court and Other Legal Filing Dates
- Trademark or Copyright Renewals
- Corporate Tax Returns
- Corporate Minutes
- Continuing Education and Certification/Designation Renewals (note reminders and deadlines – – even if they’re 6, 12 or 18 months away – – and you may even want to note how many credits are needed as a reminder to double-check how many have been earned and are still needed)
- Flight and Hotel Reward Point Expiration
- Various Business Renewal Dates and Deadlines
Creating a Calendar Template
The next step to kick-starting your boss’ calendar in the right direction will require some discussion and brainstorming with your boss. This involves creating a calendar template of some kind that creates some sort of structure to the calendar. This will also require that your boss do some of his or her own reflection about the way they want to work.
Here are some steps you may want to take in order to figure out a template with your boss.
First, give your boss these questions that will help your boss determine how he or she may wish to lay out such a calendar template:
- What times of the day are you most effective?
- When are you most creative?
- When are you most energetic?
- How many client meetings do you need to have each week? Per day? Which days?
- How much time do you need each week to work on your client cases?
- How many hours per week do you want to work?
- What kind of hours do you want to work on the weekdays? Weekends?
- What days tend to be the slowest (for client appointments)?
- If you have satellite offices, how often will you need to be at a satellite office? (drive time will need to be scheduled)
- Do you need any other time for working on the business?
- How much time do you need for research and development?
- What CE programs (teleconferences and conferences) do you know you want to attend?
- Which staff members and associates do you require regular meetings with?
- What kind of regular trainings and meetings do you need (monthly, quarterly, annually, etc.)?
- What kind of personal scheduling needs do you have (kids, doctor, groups, clubs, organizations, weddings, family vacation, etc.)?
- Which projects or tasks can be consolidated into one day?
- Any other pertinent scheduling items that need to get onto the calendar?
Then, once your boss is able to answer some of these questions, sit down with him or her and start to lay out a typical weekly template for each month. Should each week be exactly the same? Perhaps there are certain meetings, trainings or seminars that you might need to add to certain weeks of the month? Perhaps some meetings happen every other week? Whatever that template may look like, having this structure for you to start to lay out your boss’ 2014 calendar will make it easier to start organizing things and catching any potential conflicts.
Based partly on our boss’ calendar preferences and what we think would be a typical attorney’s calendar, which may include time to meet with clients and also review files, we put together a sample weekly calendar for a month so that you could get a general idea of what you might put together. (Click to View Sample Calendar Template)
Having a general idea of what your boss’ days and weeks are going to look like are not only going to make him or her more efficient, but it’s also going to make scheduling things easier. For example, when a client calls in and wants to know an available appointment date, you will be able to see from the calendar where there are spots open. Having this template will not only help you but make sure that your boss has time to actually do everything that needs to be done to effectively and efficiently run a business. As you can see from this calendar template, there is time blocked to meet with key staff members, market the business, meet with clients, review client files, get CE credit, work on the business, and take phone calls.
Everything in this calendar is strategically placed in order to create efficiency. Staff meetings are done on Mondays since Mondays tend to be slower with client appointments. Plus, it kick-starts everyone’s week with different goals or tasks, instead of doing that meeting on Friday and then having everyone go home and forget what was discussed. It also helps ensure that it gets done. Work time is blocked off in a way that morning time is allotted for projects and creative work. Then, any phone appointments are set so that they do not interrupt scheduled work time. As you can see from the sample template, they are scheduled closer to lunch and right after lunch, rather than having three hours of work time with one, two, or three interruptions. That interruption takes away from the time, focus and creativity needed to get tasks done.
Use this calendar template to fill in the rest of the months throughout the year. Obviously, there may be some things unknown or things that may change. For example, seminar dates may not be known that far into the future; however, having those typical days for seminars open or pre-blocked on the calendar as possible seminar dates that can be scheduled is a great way to help your boss lay out the marketing schedule. Another thing is that you may find that you will need some time to adjust the template as well as you get into it.
Recommended Calendaring Procedures (and Stick With Them!)
Last, but not least, we highly recommend that you put into place the following calendaring procedures, if you aren’t already doing so, which will help maintain the effectiveness and integrity of the new calendar template.
- Recommended Calendaring Procedure #1: Only one person (you!) should have access to make changes to the calendar. This doesn’t mean that others (including your boss) may not have access to look at the calendar. It simply means that there’s only one person authorized to add, remove, or make changes to any calendar items. Whenever we found our boss’ calendar to be a complete mess, we typically figured out that this procedure was being violated and was creating havoc on Phil’s calendar.
- Recommended Calendaring Procedure #2: Train your boss to come to you whenever he needs to schedule something. This might be a hard one, because it involves possibly retraining your boss in how he or she may work. If your boss currently manages his or her own calendar, it’s very possible that they’re also the very person messing things up and not looking at the calendar, as a whole, to figure out what projects, deadlines, and necessary “work time” is needed. It doesn’t mean that your boss can’t have access to view his or her availability. It simply means that they won’t officially book anything without going through you. For example, Phil would call us when he was at the doctor’s office and booking his next appointment to make sure that he was booking an appointment on a day or time that worked. If your boss is more self-sufficient and wants to be able to schedule his or her own appointments, allow them the access to view their appointment and tentatively schedule something, but then pass off to you the task of approving (or disapproving) and confirming the appointment time.
- Recommended Calendaring Procedure #3: Staff meetings should be inviolable appointments. Let’s face it. Nobody really likes going to meetings, but what most people don’t realize is that all of the interrupting of one another throughout the workday actually creates a lot more inefficiency and chaos in the office than any business should desire. Having set staff meeting times each week will allow people to differentiate what’s bothurgent and important to require an interruption of some kind. Everything else can be deferred to be addressed at the set weekly staff meeting time.
- Recommended Calendaring Procedure #4: Confirm the calendar a day or two in advance. Whether it’s a client appointment, a phone call (with a client or for a non-client matter) or simply looking at the calendar to see if there are any items needed to have readily available for your boss to work on, having a set of confirmation procedures to make sure that the items you scheduled stick on the calendar will also help ensure that there’s no fire drills to now accommodate a task or meeting, which may affect the calendar template and structure. This, of course, requires that you (the assistant) be constantly looking ahead a few days and a week before to see if there are any issues with the calendar.
Many of these tips, tools and procedures may seem like common sense to you. If so, then hopefully that means you are already practicing a similar calendaring system that maximizes your boss’ time and effectiveness for your firm. More often than not, however, we find that many estate planning professionals have extremely inefficient and unorganized calendars. This results in a lot of chaos and unnecessary “drama” around deadlines and scheduling of appointments. It doesn’t have to be that way and hopefully this article can give you (and your boss) the necessary guidance to help you better prepare the 2014 calendar! Good luck!
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ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Kristina Schneider is the current Executive Director of The Ultimate Estate Planner, Inc. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Pepperdine University in 2004 and was hired right out of college to work for the Law Firm of Kavesh, Minor & Otis, coordinating and facilitating Philip Kavesh’s “Missing Link” Boot Camps while also providing administrative support to Mr. Kavesh as his Executive Assistant for over seven years. Through her direct hands-on experience in Mr. Kavesh’s law firm, Kristina has been able to assist numerous estate planning professionals through The Ultimate Estate Planner and, equally as important, many of their staff members, in the successful implementation of Ultimate Estate Planner’s products and systems. You can reach Kristina at (424) 247-9495 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Megan DeLaGarza is the current Director of Operations of The Ultimate Estate Planner, Inc., having joined the company in May 2011. Megan graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice. As Director of Operations, she handles a variety of tasks that include customer service and teleconference facilitation. In addition to her duties as Director of Operations, Megan also wears a second hat, serving as Philip Kavesh’s Executive Assistant, providing him direct administrative support and managing his busy calendar. You can reach Megan at (424) 247-9337 or by e-mail at email@example.com.