We all struggle to prioritise and manage a busy day. You can start your morning with the clearest of intentions but then you open your inbox and your calendar and all hell seems to break loose. Someone wants a meeting rearranged, you are inundated with emails and everyone needs urgent video calls.
As a manager and a leader, learning to prioritise and being able to juggle your time and your responsibilities is a difficult task. The current climate means more virtual communications and an even busier diary and inbox. Conversations that could have been had across desks or in person need to be scheduled and often lead to long, lengthy email chains that even the most astute communicator starts to dread.
So what is the answer? If any of the above strikes a chord with you, and you need help, then asking for support to manage your diary and email is the perfect solution. Whether you’re a busy business owner and can’t afford a full time PA or you’re leading a large department and trying to reduce overheads, using a business support provider like SmartPA is the perfect way to win back valuable time and ensure a quality service. Our virtual assistants and secretaries focus on planning your working time to ensure maximum productivity and to suit you and your team both as individuals and as a cohesive unit. Do you prefer to take calls in the morning and travel at night? Communicate your goals to your SmartPA and explain what you want to get out of our support; is it more time to focus, is it better organisation or is it having priorities flagged in order of importance?
To help you get a better idea of how order can be restored in your inbox, read on for some of our tips and tricks:
Don’t just look at today, or this week, look at the whole month and think big; are there travel plans which means you might want a later/earlier start? Do you have a big deadline that needs an uninterrupted afternoon to do your best work… To make sure you plan your time well, you need to take a holistic view of your to do list, your inbox and your diary to make sure your time is planned effectively.
Have a contingency plan
We’ve all had those days; you open your laptop to find an urgent email or meeting that needs your attention. You don’t want to keep delaying meetings and if you have two urgent meetings at the same time; what do you do? Try keeping one hour a day spare for ‘In Case Of Emergency’ sessions, so you can always make time for those important and urgent sessions. To be able to prioritise effectively, you need to be a bit flexible; be ready to be both proactive and reactive.
Be (a bit) selfish
Especially when you run your own small business, but equally so when you run a large department, you can’t be everything, to everyone, all the time. You need to eat, sleep and do your own work, as well as answer emails and attend meetings. If you work better after a morning walk, block out that time every day and be strict with it. If you prefer no one book meetings after 4pm, spread your rule around your department and be clear it is a firm rule. If you start letting in exceptions that aren’t absolutely crucial, everyone will start sneaking in meetings under the radar.
You need a sense of realism. You can’t do everything, so this is where prioritising becomes incredibly important. Everything links in with company and department goals; if you need to know which meeting to attend and what area to dedicate time, think backwards. What will contribute the most to these targets, what activity is the most valuable and which will have the biggest impact? If you find you’re constantly putting off meetings and emails that have no involvement with these KPIs, then take a step back and consider if you need to be involved or if it belongs to another department’s remit. It is human nature to want to get involved with things that have even the vaguest connection with your role and purpose, but you need to be pragmatic with your commitments so your time can be spent where it is most needed.
For (even) more insight into the world of diary management, read our 15 useful tools for successful diary management.
Common mistakes here are often centered around trying to be everything to everyone and being too fixated on your inbox when working remotely. The world we live in currently means that methods of communication have had to change, and as a result conversations are turned into email chains and unnecessary meetings are booked in daily for something that could be a 5 minute chat while making tea in the office. As we say above, you need to be a little bit selfish. You have a job to do, a business to run, a department to manage, so being clear in your boundaries and making sure you have the tools and the time necessary to perform to the best of your ability is absolutely crucial. Learning to prioritise means you spend your time on things that make the biggest impact on performance.