This week my colleague and I were bemoaning the extent of our respective “to-do” lists and the lack of hours in the day. Before we knew it, lunchtime was upon us and our lists weren’t getting any smaller.

Given the extended job role of an assistant (event/conference planner, travel agent, book-keeper, all-round miracle worker), it’s no huge surprise that there aren’t enough hours in the day sometimes.   You have every intention of smashing through the to-do list, but you get caught up on emails, or interrupted by colleagues wanting to chat, or your boss makes an unscheduled demand that blows everything else out of the water… sound familiar?

As assistants, effective time management is imperative. In my case, I realised I’d have to apply a few time management tricks to make the best use of the afternoon.  Here are a few top time management tips…

Plan Ahead

Organising your week ahead in terms of meetings, task lists and various projects helps you to hit the ground running each day, with a good idea of what needs to be achieved on a daily basis.  To help you with this, download the Exec Angels ‘Week Ahead Planner” and user guide.

Prioritise

Before you set out doing several different jobs, break each of your projects down into mini to-do lists. Assign different items to different days, with the most important jobs first. Focus on your high value activities.  You’re never going to get through 100 items on in one day.  The benefit of this is that, if you can get the majority of your daily tasks done, you’ll feel considerably less overwhelmed than trying to do everything at once.

Writing your to-do list

I’m still a big fan of a coloured pens and notepads, but if you want to save some trees, go paper-free. You can use your Microsoft Outlook tasks for a standard list, or a project management software such as Trello.

Reduce distractions

If you want to increase your productivity, restricting constant interruptions is a must.

  • This could be noisy colleagues – can you work from home or somewhere quieter? If not, be straight with your colleagues and tell them you’re getting your head down for a couple of hours to work on something.
  • For the majority of us though, it’s the ping of a text, tweet or Facebook notification! Set yourself a couple of hours where you don’t check your phone. Social media can cope without you for a couple of hours at least. Switch it off, or put it away for a bit.

Shake it up

Change your tasks after an hour.  Most people can’t concentrate on the same task for longer than an hour.

Set expectations

It’s important to manage the expectations of your boss. If you don’t think you can finish something as planned, it’s better to say something sooner rather than later.  Or if you think the project deadline is unachievable – say so.  It’s okay to say no sometimes.

Delegate

A problem shared is a problem halved. Is there anything you could pass on to anyone else?  If you’re struggling to get everything done, ask a colleague for some help.

Look after yourself

It might seem wrong to take breaks when you’re so busy, but it’s important that you make time to get away from your desk to recharge your batteries. Take a lunch break, even if it’s a short one.

Good luck and may you smash your to-do lists this week!