Effective Time Management

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Time management is extremely complicated for assistants. Not only do you have to manage your own time but also the time of your manager and those around you. It is easy to be blindsided by life and lose control of your schedule. By taking the time to implement a few time management techniques, you can maintain control of your time and increase your productivity.

Calendar Management

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Calendar management is essential to your time management. It is important that you keep both a personal and professional calendar, and sync them, in order to prevent overlap and confusion. Fortunately, there are countless applications that allow you to easily manage your calendar at home and at work. Outlook is popular and provides a color-coded system and pop-ups that help you keep track of your schedule. If you are in charge of your manager’s calendar, be sure of what you are allowed to schedule.

Steps to Management:

  • Schedule recurring meetings and tasks for each month.
  • Include time to travel and follow up for each activity.
  • Include personal and vacation time early or you never will.
  • At the end of the day, review tomorrows schedule.
  • Schedule daily tasks.
  • Schedule single meetings or tasks.
  • Schedule time to reply to emails and return calls.

Prepare for Changes and Surprises

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No matter how carefully you plan, there will be surprises and changes that disrupt your schedule. While some surprises and changes are emergencies, most are interruptions that eat up your time. In the case of an emergency, you will have to change the schedule. Most of the time, however, you can take control of the situation if you plan ahead. You need to schedule time to handle surprises in your day and take a few steps to limit the interruptions in your workday. 


  • Analyze the surprise: Determine if you need to address the interruption immediately or if it can wait.
  • Say No: Obviously, you have to use this one carefully. However, it is appropriate if an employee who wants help with a minor project if you are in the middle of a major project with an upcoming deadline.
  • Schedule: Plan time when you will not be available to handle surprises and times that you will.
  • Limit time: If someone does surprise you, limit the amount of time that you spend with the person. Get straight to business, and do not chat.

Keeping Others on Track

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As an assistant, it is your job to help keep other people on track, particularly your manager. As the person in charge of scheduling, you are responsible for making sure that you manager arrives at meetings on time. You need to remind your manager about meetings and help keep them on schedule. Reminders can be set through email, given in person, or over the phone. You may also need to extend the reminders to other people attending the meeting. 

Project updates will probably be sent to you as well. You should establish timelines for updates, and check in with employees when if the updates do not show up on time. It is not your job to hover over other employees, but staying aware of updates on the timeline will help you keep other employees on track to complete their projects on time.

Urgent / Important Matrix

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Being able to differentiate the urgent from the important is essential for time management. The urgent / important matrix is a useful tool that will help you identify which tasks need to be addressed first. Urgent tasks, such as picking up dry cleaning or fixing the printer, often take up too much of our time. Urgent tasks do not help you meet your goals and can become distractions. Important tasks help you meet your goals and the activities that reach the goals. For the best productivity and time management, give priority to the important tasks. However, you have to identify the important tasks first.


Case Study

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Jane scheduled her calendar every day, but she was never able to stick with it. She felt like she spent her time putting out fires, but today was going to be different. Jane planned on checking email and voice messages in the first 15 minutes of her day. One of the employees caught her on the way in and he was in a panic. He told her that he lost the itinerary for the meeting the next day and did not know what to do with his calendar. She retrieved one for him, and he spent the next 20 minutes asking her questions about the meeting. As she was checking messages, someone ran in and told her that the printer was low on toner and she needed to change it. By the time that was done, she needed to remind her manager about a meeting. He left her with a project to research while he was gone. She would need to work through lunch to complete it along with her regular tasks. Once again, her schedule seemed to be a waste of time.