The official definition of time management is ‘the ability to use one’s time effectively or productively, especially at work’.
Throughout my career, I have been asked the same question in interviews, “Can you manage your time effectively?”. The actual wording may change, but it always boils down what is my time management like.
As an experienced administrator, PA and now VA, I have got juggling tasks down to a fine art. And there are times when it does feel like a juggling act, especially when working for 4 directors at the same time. There are also days when I look at my to-do list and go “where the hell do I start?” It is those days, that I also get the “I can’t get motivated” feeling, and no matter how much I stare at that screen or look at my ever-increasing to-do list, there is not much coming off it.
Well as I said above, I have a to-do list. It is made up of tasks, and projects that I have to do, as well as those things that crop up in emails. I also have days when my head is whizzing that much with things that I have to do, that I have to do a ‘brain dump’. That is, write a list of everything that needs doing, including my shopping list, and housework. What I do, is from my main list, is to pick things off that either in order of deadline, importance or impact, and put them on a daily to-do list. I, therefore, have a list from a list. It may sound weird, but it works. It keeps me more focused. I am no longer looking at a list and thinking about if I have bread to make son’s toast for breakfast. I have also seen it as Eisenhower’s ‘Urgent/Important Principle’.
Busy is not productive
But making the list(s) is only a small part of it. I need to build my day so that it is productive. As a VA, if I am not productive for clients, I don’t get paid. But, I also need to ensure that I am productive in my business, or I am not going to get clients. Being busy does not always mean being productive. Making a list and planning the day, is not everything. When I have worked in a busy office, there can be lots of distractions and interruptions.
Even now, to help me to stay on track, and reduce the interruptions, I stick on my headphones and listen to classical music. It is just loud enough to dim any noise, but also not be too loud as to distract me itself. This is where working from home can be advantageous.
As a VA, I use a time tracker. It enables me to track my time, especially for clients by the project. I then use this to invoice.
The image below are just a few ideas, activities and tasks to get you back on track and reduce the distractions.
All work and no play…
Time management does not just mean in the workplace. It is also how it impacts on your work-life balance. My work is wrapped around family time. That does mean that some days, like today, I can be working late. As a look at the clock, it says 10 pm. But you know something, I enjoy what I do, and I do not think of this as a sacrifice. A part of me looks at this as a way of keeping me out of the biscuit tin.
There are times when it feels like there are not enough hours in the day. Then again, it is a VA’s job to assist clients so that it frees them up to better utilise their time.