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6 Steps to Prioritise Effectively

We have all, at times, felt overwhelmed with the amount of work or tasks that is mounting up and the paperwork and admin that is becoming uncontrollable.

Whether or not you have a great Virtual Assistant on board, you may still have to prioritise some of your personal and business matters yourself.

So how can you prioritise effectively?

I apologise to those of you that are reading this and are saying to yourself ‘that’s easy’, ‘I knew that already’ or ‘this is basic stuff’.

It does come naturally to some people, however, I have been asked to write something about this very subject so for those of you that find prioritising easy, bear with me and by all means, please share your ideas with us!

1. A Positive Mindset

There is little point in tackling a mountain of paperwork and a ‘to do list’ if you have 7 minutes before your next call or meeting. Your head won’t be in it.

Give it the time it deserves. Set aside sufficient and uninterrupted time and give it your full attention to set out what is what and how to tackle it.

30 minutes, as an average, for an untidy desk with a reasonable amount of paperwork scattered over it should be all you need to achieve the objectives set out.

If this means that you schedule time in your diary, by sticking to that commitment you will come out of the task feeling productive and rewarded. If you keep putting it off because it is not the right time, it will irritate you and the notion of even beginning to tackle it will become demoralising and it will be pushed back further.

Taking control of being disorganised will be empowering if you have clear headspace in which to do it properly.

The first task is to clear your desk.

2. One Step at a Time

It may sound obvious but start at the beginning.

Having a clear desk will give you space to work. It also gives you a chance to do a quick spring clean, get the duster or antibacterial spray out and clean it while you can see it!

Plastic wallets, stapler, hole punch, post-it notes and a bin should be at the ready...

The piles of paper in front of you that is a combination of filing, unpaid invoices, draft notes, number crunching and general doodles are all mixed up and will not sort themselves.

Start from the top and take each piece of paper as it comes.

3. Categorising

Filing should be put in one pile, invoices in another, draft notes in a third pile, general doodles in the recycling bin and so on.

Labelled post-it notes are handy to remind you of which pile is which and do not get mixed up as the exercise progresses.

It can be tempting to ‘just throw’ certain pieces of paperwork away in the bin. It is important to be disciplined to ensure any private and confidential or sensitive documents are shredded or destroyed so they don’t fall into the wrong hands.

4. Logical Ordering

Once the mountain of paperwork has been tackled and is now divided into several labelled piles, you should find it much easier to focus on each pile separately and prioritise each task.

Leave those things that are most urgent at the top of the pile, and those less so, with a later deadline or for information only, towards the bottom. Add the deadlines to your calendar with a first reminder a week before and a second ‘to action’ entry a few days before each deadline.

If you have a cluttered calendar and prefer using a task list, this works just as well. You can then reset the first reminder with one week to go to a few days before each deadline.

When adding to the filing pile, it is easier further down the line to order each document in descending chronological order (with the oldest being at the bottom and the most recent at the top) so that when you come to file the paperwork, it is not mixed up and will be quicker to do. Alternatively, filing on a daily basis mitigates this.

5. Prioritisation and Strategising

Now that everything is in ordered piles with the things that need to be actioned at the top of each, it will now be much easier to work out how long each task will take you and those that can be delegated to a colleague or your Virtual Assistant so that you can get on and do other things that is a better use of your time.

Because you have diarised slots in your diary to tackle the things that need to be done, you can keep the relevant documents in a ‘bring forward file’. An expanding file (with numbers (for each date that it needs to be actioned on) works really well. Getting into a habit each day to check the numbered slot of that day and for a few days in advance (to familiarise yourself and forward plan) may take time but once you do, you will not forget to do something.

Setting aside 30-45 minutes of time to complete one or two medium to large tasks is important so that you can concentrate on the objective set and not leave something half completed.

It is also important not to discount the smaller and less urgent (or boring!) tasks because if you have just 5-10 minutes of time before your next scheduled meeting, pick one of those up as an easy win and the task list will soon become smaller.

6. Reward and Achievement

By physically ‘ticking off’ what has been completed and making a mental note to acknowledge the task list is becoming smaller is good for you.

It sounds daft but by doing this, your productivity will give you a sense of achievement and reward.

You will step away from the mountain that was with a clear understanding (and a clear desk!) of what needs to be done, when it needs to be done and how you will achieve this.

The diary has been scheduled for specific actions that are required to be done and a strategy has been formed.

Prioritising effectively is a great time management skill and puts you back in control of all that needs to be done.

The admin of your business doesn’t need to and shouldn’t bog you down. It does help if you know how to prioritise effectively but that can be learnt through discipline and habit.


To find out further what AKA Virtual Assistant can help you with, get in touch for a free, no obligation chat.



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