How do you manage your time? Time slips by too quickly and can leave you wondering what you have achieved each day. Following on from Part One, here are some more tips that can be helpful in organising your day.
- Time track yourself. See how much time a task really takes. Perhaps you put things off thinking they take too much time or you think something will take half an hour only to emerge from it two hours later. Time each task for a day or so, so that you know how long your principal tasks generally take and then you’ll be able to create a realistic work schedule.
- Don’t procrastinate – do it! If it’s on your list, do it. Don’t waste time.
- Stop for lunch. Decide on a lunchtime and stick to it. If you decide on 1pm, stop then and take a break. If you find yourself eating at 2pm you’ll lose your focus and again find yourself trying to catch up.
- Mail. Dealing with both regular and electronic mail can eat up a lot of your valuable time and you can end up feeling swamped by paperwork or emails. Delete or throw away adverts, don’t waste time on them in case they might be useful. Action as much mail as possible immediately. If you think ‘I’ll do it later’, chances are you will find it still sitting there days later. You can answer some mail with a short email or note. Choose a certain time each day for dealing with mail, depending on the time that it arrives. If the mail arrives at 10am, choose 10 to 10.30am for it and include emails too. Choose times that are best for you and your business needs.
- Calls. Make a list, and choose a time to do them as for the mail. Decide roughly how long each call should take and try to keep to this.
- Finally, be flexible. Your schedule is not set in stone, it has to fit in with your day and take into account out of office meetings, urgent calls, sudden urgent work, etc. However, it can give your day structure and purpose.
How do you manage your time? Have you found, when working on your own, whether from home or not, that you need to be disciplined and structure your hours, or time can slip imperceptibly through your hands and you can end up wondering what you have done with your day.
Here are some tips that I found helpful to get you started.
- Get up early! This seems too obvious to mention, but if you’re ready to go at 8am you’ll get more done. You may be a night owl and not an early bird, but if you start after 9am or take too long over your morning coffee, you’ll find that you spend the rest of the day trying to catch up.
- Write a to-do list. Obvious too, but how do you use this useful tool? Write it at the end of the previous day so that it is ready for you in the morning. Divide it into two. One will be a list of things that cannot be completed in one day but need regular time scheduled for them. The second will be a list of what you have to do in the day.
- Scheduling. This is linked to the to-do list. Decide on a time for each task, both large and small. With your long-term tasks, block in half an hour or however much time you plan to spend on them, on your schedule – this could be useful for administrative tasks that need to be done regularly for your business, such as bookkeeping. Stick to the time you have allocated, use a timer if you have to, or else you’ll find you’ve spent all morning on one task and are again trying to catch up.
- Do two or three quick tasks first. This will get you going and also it will feel encouraging to have crossed two or three things off your list quite quickly. Then you are more motivated to tackle the bigger tasks.
If you are a small business owner, you know that time is a precious commodity. How much of it do you spend on administrative tasks when you could be growing and developing your business? As time goes on, you can find that you can’t do everything on your own and that office management tasks can start to take over the time you want for creating your business and increasing your productivity and profits. However, you may not want to employ an administrative assistant to deal with the more mundane tasks. You might not have the space to hire an in-house assistant, you might not want to pay the extra costs in taxes, insurances and benefits that hiring a full or part-time employee would involve, or you might not have all the office equipment necessary for an in-house assistant to work with. This is where hiring a Virtual Assistant could be the answer. Virtual Assistants are a group of independent professionals who provide all your administrative, technical or even creative needs at a fraction of the cost of hiring a full or part-time administrative assistant. They can do everything from general correspondence, maintaining websites and social networking profiles, writing brochures and press releases, to copy and audio typing, follow-up calls and diary management. Virtual Assistants can also specialise in website building, blogging, internet research or translation services.