Can you think of anyone you know who’s not busy?
In the connected world, we are under ever-increasing pressure to navigate a sea of digital distractions, tackle a relentless to-do list and manage crammed diaries.
Throughout my career as a PA, I’ve worked to help busy Directors maximise their productivity. Here are some tips we’d like to share:
- Start tomorrow today
The best way to ensure the optimum start to your day and make sure it is a productive one is to start the day before. Before you leave your desk, or before going to bed, spend 10 minutes planning the next day. What tasks are a priority? What are the 3 things you MUST get done and can’t be missed off the list? The busier you are, the more vital it is that you do a quick review the day before. This ensures that you waste no time in the morning deciding where to start, or gathering information (and finding out that item isn’t available when you need it).
- Write It Down
Is your head buzzing with all of the things that you need to get done? Taking the time to write down every task and commitment means that it’s out of your head and frees your mind up from having to remember details. The first step to managing your time is getting every task out of your head and into a reliable system. There are a range of digital tools out there to help you, such as the GetitDoneapp, but even a simple pen and paper can get you started.
- Check email in the morning
By checking your email first thing, you will ensure that it does not eat into your working day and distract you from other tasks.
- Tackle the task you dread first
What is the one task that you are in danger of procrastinating on because it is not one you relish? Everybody has an item on our list that we are not looking forward to tackling. Perhaps it’s a challenging phone call you don’t want to make, updating your sales forecast, writing blog posts, administrative tasks, or perhaps a project that just overwhelms you because of its magnitude. Whatever it is, it stresses you out, distracting you with guilt because it keeps getting pushed to the next day and the next. Do it first thing. Start to chip away at that difficult task. Yes, you might not finish it in one day, but you can at least get started. Just do it! The satisfaction of crossing this task off your list will motivate you and lead you into a positive and productive day.
- Schedule a break
List all the things you want to do on your break, be it browsing the web, checking emails or social media. Squeeze these activities in between work time but schedule these activities for a capped time e.g. 15 minutes.
- Set a timetable for your tasks
When you’re assigned a task, set a timetable for each step. For example, here’s how you might break down the tasks required for sourcing a venue for an event.
09:00 - 09:15
Set up a folder or project management tool for you to put all information relating to the project in one place.
09:15 - 10:00
Internet research for different venues
10:00 - 10:45
Compare pricing options
10:45 - 11:00
11:00 - 12:00
Draw up a shortlist of preferred venues
12:00 - 12:50
Contact providers via the phone/send emails to get further information, check availability for dates and negotiate rates.
12:50 - 13.20
Schedule reminders in your calendar or CRM for follow up calls.
By breaking the project down into bite sized pieces, you can create manageable deadlines to get things done. Setting a specific time to finish a task creates a time pressure to get the task done.
- Get Exercise
Be sure to get some exercise every day. Take a walk around the block, do something to get your heart pumping. It will enhance your general wellbeing and your ability to think more clearly. Take a break from your desk!
- Learn to Delegate
This is tricky for the best of us. Sometimes it can seem more hassle taking the time to explain a task to someone else than to just do it yourself. But by doing everything yourself, you are not necessarily maximising your productivity. Evaluate that to-do list carefully; What tasks must be done by you? Which tasks could be done by someone else, freeing up your time to focus on the things only you can do? Who is available to do some of those tasks? A family member? A paid helper? An admin assistant? A crucial key to productivity is doing those things that only you need to do and allowing other people to get on with the rest.
- Say NO!
If you try and please everyone, you will end up pleasing nobody. Whilst there are always going to be different jobs, different people in your life competing for your attention, it is up to you to take control and decide which ones to focus on. Just remember what the opportunity cost of one task can be. Is that distraction the one that you should be prioritising? Has it eaten into your time and made you stay late at the office and feel resentful?