How far ahead can you plan your business diary? The one thing you should always expect in business is the unexpected - circumstances, scenarios and events which force you to change course at short notice.

While you can never be sure exactly where you'll be at any given point, or which tasks will be your most immediate priority, it is vitally important to plan ahead as far as possible. As a business leader, your year needs a degree of structure - week by week, month by month. This gives you the best possible opportunity of achieving both short and long term goals.

Notwithstanding the need for flexibility and the reality that you may have to change your plans at a later point in time, you should be put key dates in your diary and honour these commitments where possible.

Take trade shows, for instance. You know when and where these events are going to take place, often a year or more in advance. Understanding the importance of attending and playing an active part in these shows, you should make every effort to attend.

If your diary is built around the most important shows on the calendar, then there are likely to be fewer reasons - or even excuses - for not being there in person. You're less likely to double-book yourself, by committing to other asks when you should be out promoting your brand. Ideally, you don't want to have to send somebody else to key shows in your place.

Both prospective and existing customers will be expecting your presence, and the last thing you want to do is let them down. They want to have the opportunity to engage with someone with high-level product and service knowledge and expertise, not a junior member of the marketing team. Your absence could end up costing sales.

There will always be times when it's necessary to choose between competing priorities, and miss events, meetings or other functions you would prefer to have attended. But the further you plan ahead, and the closer the attention you pay to your diary, the less likely it is you'll find yourself torn between important engagements.