We all like to think that we are great multitaskers, but in fact we aren’t. You may think you’re doing many things at once but we “switch our attention from task to task extremely quickly;” according to the story “Think You’re Multitasking? Think Again” by Jon Hamilton on NPR. We at Virtual Virgo strive to manage our time and our clients’ time to make their jobs better. Managing your time well allows you to focus on the right thing at the right time.
Here are five things that we have found work for us.
- Think About Your Schedule Ahead of Time – Spend some time at the end of the day thinking about tomorrow or in the morning before you start your workday looking over your schedule. I do both. One of the last things I do before I end my work day is check my schedule a week out. It helps me to keep what I’ve got scheduled top of mind. I can plan things like making sure there’s enough gas in the car, getting an outfit dry cleaned or planning a load of laundry. I am a natural planner so this is a priority for me. Then while I have my coffee in the morning I take a look at my schedule for the day. If I have an early meeting, I take a cursory look at my e-mail, just to be sure that nothing has changed. I put both of these 15-minute items on my calendar to be sure that there is time allowed to do them.
- Manage Distractions-In this, the information age, we are all barraged by so much information it’s no wonder that we have to fight distractions. Phone Calls, email, text messages, instant messages. It is sometimes difficult to resist the urge to be available 24/7 in a world in which you can have access to everything, right in your pocket on your smartphone. Often times there is a project that needs your undivided attention. For me writing blog posts take some uninterrupted time and focus. Utilize your voicemail, do not disturb features (if you have an iPhone, you can set it to ring when on do not disturb when someone on your favorites list calls) and close (yes you read that right) your email box to help keep your focus. If you are in a noisy environment in an office, try using headphones and music to help keep noises from getting your attention, when I first started working virtually, when the headphones went on it was a signal to my then husband that I was at work and didn’t want to be disturbed. Block out time on your schedule for these times, let your coworkers know you need some time to focus. You will be distracted less, and well on the way to checking some of those important items off of your to-do list. I am not recommending that you do this all day every day, because we need to be in touch with people to get our jobs done, but once a week, even an hour a day, will help you to feel as though you were accomplishing something.
- Use a Planning Tool – One of the biggest disappointments was working to help a busy executive with her electronic schedule only to find that she didn’t look at it! We’d spent hours transitioning her to an online calendar and making sure that everyone had the right access to it and that it was active on her smartphone. Weeks later we found out that she was still writing on her paper calendar! The important lesson here is, it doesn’t really matter if you like the Outlook Calendar, Google Calendar or a Paper Calendar it won’t work if you don’t use it. You can make your planning tool as complicated or as simple as you like. Find the one that you like and then use it. We, of course, recommend that you utilize a virtual calendar, that way you can assign others to help you with your scheduling. One of the best ways get the most out of a virtual assistant!
- Avoid Procrastination – Getting started on a project is often the hardest part. Try breaking large projects down into smaller tasks and enter those into your schedule in order to help fight procrastination. Even when some tasks are not enjoyable it is easier to commit to smaller pieces of them over time rather than trying to tackle them all at once. For me, that one to do item that is sitting on my list that I’m not really looking forward to doing gets done first. That way once it’s done, I can move on to more enjoyable parts of my day and relax because that big bad task didn’t get the best of me.
- Give Yourself a Break! My first virtual job was as a Business Systems Analyst for a 24/7 newspaper operation with locations across the country. There were times that I got a distress call and a systems issue had literally stopped the presses and revenue loss was eminent. When I knew the answer it was much easier to push through and get the system back up and running. Sometimes I would work and work for hours and still be unable to figure it out. The hardest thing to do in that situation, yet 90% of the time it is what was needed was to take a walk. Sounds easy right? Get up take your hands off the keyboard and take a short walk. In other words take a break. After taking 10 minutes to clear my head and change my perception 90% of the time I came up with a solution. As hard as it seems to unplug, it is a necessary part of managing your time. Take your lunch break, walk outside for 5 minutes when you feel as though you’ve hit the wall. You will see that once you do this your to do list will seem less daunting and those items will be checked off faster than ever.
If you need help, you can always ask us we are here to make your lives easier and better. Tell us your best tips for time management in the comments. We’d love to hear from you! You can reach us here.