If you’re an administrative assistant, chances are good that you’re supposed to rock at everything related to “time management.” This vital job skill might not come naturally to you, but it is something you can learn (and become great at) over time. Even if you’re on top of things, it’s always possible to streamline even more.
Here are 8 strategies for how to manage your time effectively (or even more effectively) while on the job.
1. Stop procrastinating.
Getting a sense of just how much you procrastinate is often a good motivator to beat this common habit once and for all. Put a little tick mark or “X” next to a task on your to-do list for every time you think about doing it, but then put it off for later. Start noticing how many tick marks pile up. Pretty crazy, right? Wouldn’t it take a lot less of your mental energy just to get something done? Then, you could cross it off and move on!
Tackle your tasks promptly. Handle each email or piece of paper only once, and then get it off your desk. It’s not doing anyone any good just sitting there.
2. Keep your inbox clean.
Letting emails and snail mail pile up in your inboxes is the kiss of death. Learn how to quickly process information, synthesize it, and turn it into action. When you get a message of any sort, deal with it then. Sort your emails into file folders, leaving only the actionable items. Then breeze through those until you’ve got a blank slate.
3. Don’t try to multitask.
Unless you’re a whiz at doing lots at once, multitasking often ends up meaning you don’t do any tasks. Tackling a lot of little things will decrease your productivity, no matter how good you are at splitting your focus. Practice mindfulness at work. Take it one task at a time. Go a little slower, and you’ll find your productivity and quality of output both increase. Dare to work slowly—if you do it right the first time, you’ll save time overall.
4. Eliminate interruptions.
Of course, you’ll get interrupted throughout the course of a day. Just don’t let each one derail you. Keep interactions short, and don’t put down your pen or change your body language to answer questions. Keep coworkers from lingering for a chat. Be friendly, but dismissive when you’re really in the zone.
5. Cultivate efficiency.
Don’t make extra work for yourself, and take unnecessary steps. Organize tasks in like bunches–for example, aim to make two trips to the copier per day instead of twelve. Plan your errands to maximize efficiency.
6. Set a schedule.
Set times for each day where you will check your email, then turn off your notifications—except for things marked urgent. You don’t have to read each one the second it comes in. As long as you’re checking multiple times a day—say for five minutes every hour, or ten minutes every two or three hours—you’re not going to miss anything crucial. (And see step 2: when you do take the time to read messages, deal with them then and there!)
7. Prioritize in order of importance.
Always manage your workday so you’re dispatching the most important things first. Log an hour first thing (perhaps even before that first cup of office coffee and that first email check) on your most important project. Even if you can’t get that task done in that hour, you’ll have made serious progress and will be more likely to get back to it and complete it that day.
8. Organize the spaces around you.
Keep your desk clear of clutter. Keep your web addresses sorted alphabetically, and by category. Keep your to-do list lean and mean by revamping it every afternoon before you leave. If all elements around you are neat, clean, and orderly, it’s much easier to be efficient. Time spent looking for things is time better spent on completing tasks!