Time management can be a challenge for a virtual assistant. For a start, you might be managing the time of a client, as well as your own. It can be difficult to keep track of every separate diary, agenda and to-do list, but with a little bit of planning, you can achieve time management perfection.

The importance of planning
Sticking to a schedule is hard. One unexpected phone call can leave you playing catch-up for the rest of the day.

One strategy to beat this is to set out your schedule over a longer time-period. Instead of planning only for the next day, set aside half an hour to make a plan for the following week.

Don’t plan every single hour, as flexibility is vital to avoid getting behind on things. By building-in a certain amount of flexible time, you can re-jig your work plan as priorities change throughout the week.

Get things done now, not later
Procrastination is one of the main pitfalls of home working. Sometimes it’s just too easy to watch Jeremy Kyle on TV or waste hours on Facebook.

To combat this, do things now, rather than later on. Even if you have a long time in which to complete a task, make a start on it soon after it is assigned.

Quiet periods can be used to get ahead with upcoming tasks, freeing up time later on. If something unexpected arises, it won’t cause a time-management disaster.

Turn off all distractions
Remote working, especially over the internet, exposes people to all sorts of distractions. Ever catch yourself checking your email inbox, only to find you have no new messages? That may only be a moment wasted, but those moments mount up

Email, social media, your home phone, your mobile, the radio, the TV, and constantly updated websites can all destroy concentration.

Regularly checking all of these things may only take minutes out of your day. But diverting your attention away from a complicated task will disrupt concentration for far longer than the time it takes to flick between browser windows.

You may lose your train of thought, or forget what you were working on and begin something else, leaving the original task unfinished.

The only solution may be tough, but it’s effective. Turn off everything that isn’t relevant to the task on which you need to focus. Set aside ten minutes every hour or so to check emails and social media messages, if strictly necessary.

Learn to prioritise
Some tasks are always more important than others, and it isn’t necessarily just those that need to be done in the shortest timeframe. Learn to organise tasks by priority.

The criteria for this differ greatly depending on the type of work you do, but always remember to consider the amount of time a task will take. Factors such as whether it requires a lot of up-front organisation. It is important the think about this outside the busiest time of the week – when under pressure from impending deadlines, any task will seem urgent.

How do you manage your time? Share your tips and strategies below.

Matthew Brown