Administrative Assistant Skills: Prioritizing and Task Lists

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August 15, 2018
Author: Tamala Huntley
Organization: Tamala Huntley International


Brain Dumps & Task Lists

Why this is important: This is one of my biggest weapons! Talk about being distracted… there’s nothing like being distracted by the thoughts inside your own head. Now I’m not talking about being psychotic… I’m talking about when you keep replaying that “action” list in your head over and over and over again. You must put a halt to this!

Here’s how to master the approach:

  1. Take a piece of paper and dump it ALL out. Whatever’s in your head… just dump it out. No matter how large or small of a task it is.
  2. Now take that list and clean it up. Group similar tasks together. Prioritize the items on it.
  3. Now take your new list, pick the 3 that you absolutely must complete TODAY and get busy.

One of my web community members recently wrote me an email and she was so excited because this one method had worked so well for her that she’d done more in a week than she had the previous month before!

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Sometimes you are on the go and need to capture instructions, tasks or “runaway” thoughts. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Use post-it notes to jot down tasks until you can add them to your checklist.
  2. Call your office phone and leave yourself a message with details of the assignment.
  3. Send yourself an email or text message from your cell phone.
  4. Always carry a mini digital recorder to quickly dump information into.
  5. Use the voice record feature on your cell phone.
  6. Use a dry erase board to quickly write notes on until you can transfer them

to your Brain Dump List.

I use all of these “tricks” regularly and they always help me stay on top my assignments.

Eliminate Procrastination: “Chopping It Up”

Why this is important: You’ve probably heard the age old saying that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Well, that’s all this item is about… taking big jobs and break them up into smaller ones.

Here’s how to master the approach:

  1. Procrastination and dread can come for looking at the magnitude of a project. So break it down into smaller tasks and jump in.
  2. Ask for help. Ask a colleague, mentor or business partner to help you figure out the best way to approach the task and to help you break it up. Sometimes an outside eye sheds new light on things.
  3. Once a task is broken up, if possible, delegate to another department, request approval to outsource it or even enlist a friend to help you with the smaller portions. Now you build momentum without YOU even having to start it. As gross as it may sound (smile), eat that elephant. Chop that baby up and get to work!

Prioritizing: Eliminate Some Stuff

Why this is important: Years ago I heard someone say this and it has stuck with me ever since. We choose what to add to our lives. We choose to have our children involved in every activity…or to over commit ourselves. And just as easily, we can choose not to. Let’s face it, our work and personal lives are always affecting one another. More time spend on one means less time to spend on the other.

Here’s how to master the approach:

  1. Resign from some extracurricular activities. You don’t have to do everything right now. Nor do your children. Maybe this quarter they do one sport rather that 2 or 3. Or maybe you choose to only be a part of 1 social/networking/business group instead of 4!
  2. Don’t let people make you feel guilty for not participating. YOU know best how you need to manage your time. Don’t sacrifice yourself and the things most important to you because someone wants to make you feel guilty.

Once you accept that what you do is a matter of choice, you’ll master this approach. Everything you do is a choice. Take ownership of that and the rest is easy peasy.

Prioritizing: Plan Your Weeks and Days… In Advance

Why this is important: There is no substitute for being prepared. When you don’t plan your day ahead of time, you are asking for someone else to come in and tell you what to do with it. You’ll get pulled in 15 different directions and you’ll get to the end of the day wondering what happened!?! Have plan for each day. Have goals for what you want to accomplish and then have a process for making them happen.

Here’s how to master the approach:

  1. Plan your week, every Saturday or Sunday before. Simple enough, right?
  2. Plan your day, every night before. Again, simple enough.
  3. Know what major tasks you need to accomplish when you get in the office the next day. It gives your time purpose.
  4. Allow for breaks and unexpected things. You don’t have to be so rigid that you don’t allow for unexpected phone calls or meetings that you have to take.

The key here is to not let others take over your day with their emergencies and poor planning. Stay in control of your time. Stick to your schedule as much as possible and don’t be afraid to ask someone to come back or put a time on when they need something by. More often than not, if you ask “Can I get it to you by 2?” They’ll say yes.

Knowing When to Say No

Why this is important: Don’t be afraid to tell people no. You can do it in a nice way… but realistically, you cannot do everything. No matter how badly you may want to.

Here’s how to master the approach:

  1. Suggest a different time for completion that fits better into your schedule.
  2. Suggest steps the person can take to complete the task themselves.
  3. Just outright say no. You can’t fit it into your schedule or it’s not within your duties.
  4. Suggest others who may be able to help the person with their task.

However you approach it, just stick to your guns and don’t let fear or guilt or even a “soft heart” cause you to over commit yourself.


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