Personal development

Ten top tips to make the most of your time

As the Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive of the Directory of Social Change, these are my top ten tips to make the most of your time.

Juggling various deadlines, meetings and tasks can be tricky business. That’s why we have ten top tips to help you make the most of your precious time!

1. Schedule in your lunch hour

When we have important deadlines to meet it is often easy to forget that our body needs fuel and some time away from a screen. By scheduling your lunch hour into your diary, you firstly remember to eat (it’s incredibly important!) and you have a schedule to work around. This seems like an obvious tip, but it’s scary how many of us forget to get to eat. And don’t ever have lunch at your desk!

2. Diary Colour coding

Using the colour coding function in the diary means that at a simple glance you can see if you’ll be travelling, at an internal meeting or an external function. I have found this simple system saves so much time when I’m trying to find an open diary slot quickly. This is even more effective if you manage more than one diary (like I do).

3. The diary is your friend

Although when you have a huge workload, it may feel like the diary is your enemy, it’s actually your helpful friend. Use your diary to schedule in everything, time to complete tasks, to make calls and to follow up with colleagues. Every morning I have half an hour in my diary to catch up on emails (delete the junk and see what’s urgent), this is my preparation time and helps me feel more confident about the day ahead.

4. Check lists

This is a word that makes people either shudder in despair or get incredibly excited. I have to admit I am on the side of checklists. I live by them and have a checklist for basically every part of my job (and life). Checklists save me time on tasks and mean I don’t need to triple check that I’ve done things. For example, I have a checklist for new starters that I can ping straight to Managers that have a new member of staff about to start. I have a checklist for setting up rooms for Full Board meetings and a checklist for when my boss receives a speaking request.

5. Write down everything

I always have my notebook by my side, trying to remember actions from earlier conversations wastes time, and things slip between the cracks. If you constantly have your notebook you can jot down notes from every conversation, phone call and meeting. This information can then be fed into your to do lists and diary allocations.

6. Be prepared to say come back later

If you have a strict deadline or project that needs all of your attention, have the confidence to say ‘come back later’ if you’re interrupted by a colleague. This is a hard habit to get into but is much easier if you follow step 3. If you have allocated time in your diary for certain tasks, you can ask people to come back when that allocation is over. Remember you’re not being rude, you are managing your time well!

7. Prioritise

Prioritisation is a skill but as they say, practice makes perfect. At the beginning of the day make time to look through what you have to do and what needs urgent attention. Always be prepared, an urgent email may come in that takes priority over your less urgent tasks. Make sure you have some empty space in your diary every week, this means if something urgent comes in, you don’t feel like your whole schedule has been compromised.

8. Easy tasks

It’s very easy to get the simple, enjoyable tasks out the way first, get things ticked of your to do list without ever tackling the much bigger, harder to get your head around stuff. I throw this idea on its head and do the opposite. Get the boring stuff done first. You don’t want the end of the day to come round and all you have left to do is the stuff you hate.

9. To do lists

This is a big one and again a fond favourite of mine. To do lists, although sometimes used as a tool of procrastination, can be a life saver. The satisfaction of ticking something off your to do list is next to none. Everything you have to do in the week should be written down. I tend to do mine on a Friday afternoon so I know my tasks for the week ahead. Often things get added throughout the week but things also get ticked off (yay!)

10. Look after you!

When you’re so busy it’s easy to forget that you need to look after yourself. If you feel stressed or like there’s too much to do, step away from your screen, take a walk, get some air and breathe.