Steps to take to minimise the impact of an ever-growing workload? Guest blog by Julia McGinn

What is your time management strategy? We understand the importance of prioritising your daily tasks, activities and jobs so we asked Julia McGinn at Stone Moor Business Services to share some of her admin tips with us.

I’ve heard it said over and over that we all have the same amount of time but often, even the most organised of us can feel overwhelmed, lacking motivation and feeling like we’re just not accomplishing anything. So, what steps can you take to minimise the impact of an ever-growing workload?

The first step is to understand your workload and to identify if tasks are important and/or urgent. You may have heard of the time management matrix originally introduced by Stephen Covey. He also wrote a fantastic book called The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – well worth a read. Anyway, back to the matrix. The matrix has 2 scales – importance and urgency. For every task in your workload, plot it on the matrix. It will fall into one of four quadrants:

  1. Important, urgent
  2. Important, not urgent
  3. Not important, urgent
  4. Not important, not urgent

Here’s a brief overview of tasks in each area:

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So, what exactly do you do with this information once you have it? There are many ways to work and you need to find the one that suits you best. I know of people that use a system called the 4 Ds: Do it, Defer it, Delegate it or Dump it (After all, if a job is not important and not urgent, why is it on your list at all?) That is certainly one way and will work well for some people.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • If you’re really finding it hard to keep your head above water, have a think about where your time is going. If you’re struggling to answer that, you may find it useful to undertake a short time tracking exercise. This can be done using pen and paper or one of the numerous time tracking apps out there. You will probably be quite surprised by the results!
  • As time goes by, priorities will change. A task that wasn’t previously urgent will obviously become urgent as it nears the deadline. Being aware of your upcoming deadlines will allow you to schedule time to work on those tasks before they become urgent and you go into firefighting mode.
  • If you can delegate a non-important task, do so! Even if you work on your own in your business, there are options open to you if a task is not important but is urgent. Looking for other businesses to outsource those types of tasks to will increase the time you have available to work on the tasks that require your focus. You will work more effectively if you have the right person with the right skills doing the right job at the right time.
  • Time management works best if you have long term plans and goals. These will keep you focused on what is really important. Are tasks going to get you closer to your goal or will they take you further away? I highly recommend you speak to a business coach for help with this.
  • Once you have your long term goals, you can then ensure that you are scheduling time to work on these actions as well as any day to day actions.
  • If you are struggling to meet a deadline, do keep all parties updated. If you can’t avoid missing the deadline, do let people know as early as possible.
  • Don’t over commit – it is much better to under promise and over deliver. That approach will delight your customers and colleagues!

I thought I’d end by sharing details of how my team cope with time management and their workload.

  • All of our tasks are entered onto an online to do list – we use Todoist but there are lots of apps out there to choose from. Every task is assigned to a team member and a note of the deadline added.
  • The assigned team member then prioritises the task as P1 – must be done today, P2 – would be great to get done today or P3 – can be rescheduled to another day if needed. Our software has these P1/P2/P3 flags built in to make it simple.
  • If a task isn’t completed that day, it is rescheduled and the priority is then re-evaluated the next day and so on until the task is completed.
  • When we get really busy and a very important task is looming, we sometimes book time into our diaries to work on the task so we don’t get booked for a meeting or other appointment at that time. My business coach advocates a “default diary” where you have daily/weekly/monthly appointments booked out in your calendar to work on specific tasks.

There are a lot of great resources out there if you want to know more. The book by Stephen Covey that I mentioned earlier is certainly a great place to start. It was originally written in 1989 but is still very relevant today.

I hope you find this a useful introduction to time management strategies. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and wondering how to find time to work on this, please know that it will be hard at the start. Just remember that once you get your workload prioritised correctly and delegate or dump any tasks that you don’t personally need to focus on, the whole process will become a lot clearer. And hopefully, you’ll feel a lot more in control of your workload. Good luck!

Julia

About the author:

Julia McGinn is the owner of Stone Moor Business Services, providing flexible admin support to small businesses across the East Midlands. She has gathered a wealth of experience working in varying admin roles from post room and reception duties right up to office manager and PA to Director level working for several blue-chip companies over the past 25 years.

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