Written by Jade Macbeth
As a Personal Assistant, a huge part of my job is managing, not only my own time, but my employers time as well. When I'm juggling a myriad of conflicting priorities and adapting to the unpredictability of each day, it's so important to have systems and processes in place to save time.
1. schedule everything
My day-to-day work life runs off schedules and lists. I would, quite literally, be lost without them. The best piece of advice I could give to start off your journey to mastering the management of time is to find yourself a calendar program you love and use it; schedule everything (Seriously. Everything.), colour code (this means you can see everything that's happening and everything that's coming up at a cursory glance) and use the reminder function (it adds another layer of protection in the quest to avoid letting anything slip through the cracks).
I use MS Outlook. I also use it as my email service so it's another plus that I only need one window open for scheduling and emailing.
2. make lists
To-do lists are my jam. I start and end each day with a to-do list. I've even designed my inbox to work like one (more on that next). I include EVERYTHING on my to-do list, no task is too small. If I'm feeling particularly overwhelmed by the number of tasks on my list, I start by numbering them in order of priority. Then I make it a point to take each task one at a time, giving my entire focus to that particular task. I find, spending too much time focusing on the list as a whole is overwhelming and unproductive. At the beginning of each day, I complete the three most critical tasks on my list before making my way through the rest. This process helps me to feel I'm on top of my workload.
I swear by lists, I really do. I imagine you'd be hard pressed to find a PA/EA who doesn't!
3. manage your emails
I would not be anywhere near as efficient in my role if I had an inbox full of emails every day. I have set up a system inside it so that everything has it's place. I have folders pertaining to specific areas of my work and once I have actioned an email, I put it straight into that folder. All that's left in my inbox are emails that require action. I aim to have emptied my inbox at the end of each day.
Another thing I cannot recommend enough? Templates!!
If you're sending out the same emails a lot, create a template for it and save it in your drafts. That way, when you need to send one, all you have to do is fill in the blanks and press send. No more wasted time spent typing out the same thing over and over again.
4. implement filing systems
Knowing where everything is at a glance is a game-changer. You can cut out all of the time spent searching for that document someone needs, that list you made yesterday, those forms you had to send out etc. and have it in your hand in a split second. All it takes is some well-labelled folders either on your computer, or in a filing tray on your desk. It's simple but it's so, so effective.
5. know when to switch off and switch on
This is a big one for me. When I'm in the office? My phone is always on silent. I try to limit distractions and the temptation to procrastinate wherever I can.
When I'm out and about? I use "waiting time" to GET. THINGS. DONE. If I'm waiting in the line at the bank? I'm responding to candidate/client queries on email. In a uber to a client? I'm editing a blog post or making phone calls. I spend a fair amount of time running errands, dropping things off, picking things up etc. and once I started using time I spent waiting in lines or travelling to get the "little things" out of the way, it left my time in the office open for other things.
6. take a break
Take a break. It's actually less productive to overwork yourself. Go for a walk. Grab a coffee. Step away from your desk, your emails, your phone. Get some fresh air. Stretch your legs. Give your brain a break. You can't maintain for focus for 8 hours. Your mind and your body need a break to function effectively.