Time Management Toolkit...

As a Virtual Assistant (and therefore have to be super organised in the office) I am often asked by entrepreneurs how to cut down their 'to do' list or how to get through their mile long list of tasks. I will be working with one lady next week to do just that and I'm relishing the test.

Entrepreneurs are great - they are the toughest time management challenge as they are very 'ideas' oriented and have lots going on. Often multiple projects at differing stages of completion, many demands being made of them and a short attention span. Life is too interesting to focus too much in one area but they also have to knuckle down in their various projects otherwise nothing will get done.

So I was thinking today of how I organise myself and it really boils down to a tool-kit which I carry round and use to help me plan out the many (many!) commitments I have - both in business and in my personal life as a mum. As the very minimum, here's what I suggest:

a diary & pen
a pack of Post It Notes
a phone (for texting and calls)
a few envelopes (I use the free ones that come with store card bills - they are just for helping me to organise my tasks- I'll explain more later!)
some small white stickers (for labelling stuff or using in place of correction fluid when diary plans change - you can write immediately on a sticker!)
a dictaphone for capturing ideas but an alternative to this is a phone with a voice messaging capability (to email a voice message to yourself) or you could just 'call home' and leave a voice message on your answer-machine, as long as no-one who hears it will steal your ideas or think you are mad!

This little lot will easily fit into a small space (you don't need many envelopes and stickers as you 're-stock') but it will be enough to help keep you organised. When you are 'out and about' you can use the pockets of downtime you may find (10 minutes whilst waiting for your next meeting etc) to plan out your diary. The Post It Notes are for marking pages in a booklet that you want to come back to, or writing out a reminder to yourself for a certain day but that you don't want to clog up your whole diary space with that reminder - for example, you can write a shopping list onto a note and remove it from the diary page after you have been to the shops and therefore keep the rest of your diary uncluttered.

The envelopes I use for containing several items that need to be kept together but in a neat way so they don't get lost or over-clutter my handbag. I am having a weekend trip with my girlfriends this week, so I have one envelope with my train tickets and hotel confirmation in, so they are easily found when I need them but I can put the envelope onto my dressing table until Friday when they will be needed. However they are kept together safely.

The other major thing I use when organising myself are those plastic baskets that you can buy cheaply (I get mine from a Pound Shop!) I have several - they are all the size of a ring-binder but I have them on my desk, stacked with different items in them that I need to keep safe or transport from my home to office. I also keep a spare basket in the back of my car so when I'm out I can put things like used plastic bottles in (after the kids have finished their drink and I want to take the bottle home to recycle), and wet trousers (my son is still in nappies) will go into the basket for washing when back at home. Also magazines that have been read and need taking back to be passed onto friends go into the basket, as well as any rubbish for the bin, or shop bought items that don't need to come out again until we get home etc. Once we are at home I don't have to spend ages in the car gathering up all the various items that have been stuffed in there - I just pick up my basket and take into the house for sorting.

By having a handy tool-kit to use whilst you are out and about, it's easier to keep on top of jobs as you go, which is a massive help when you are juggling multiple tasks. It's very time consuming to have to re-visit certain things when you get back or when you are alone later, rather than completing jobs as you progress through the day. I learned this the hard way, I'd often attend meetings and take scruffy notes which I'd then have to type up later and then diarise certain spin off activities. I felt that I didn't want to 'hold anyone up' whilst I took time to write my notes properly, but nowadays I'd rather have them wait an extra few minutes whilst I take care to do my planning in front of them. The person you are with can see that you are carefully considering where to put their task or when the job will be done, and you don't then have to re-visit everything later on!

When you are dealing with a lot of different activities it can be easy to become muddled so having your own tool-kit, adapted to the way you work will make light work of all the 'admin/maintenance' so you can get on with enjoying what you are up to!

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  1. Some great ideas there. I'm definitely going to put some envelopes in my bag to keep bits together!

  2. Really interesting post, I love the idea of the basket in the car, will definitely start that.


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