Time Management 101: How to Handle Competing Priorities

By Robert Half June 13, 2014 at 7:00am

Are you struggling to keep up in your office support jobs? Here are some time management tips for staying calm and focused when faced with competing demands as an administrative professional.

Scenario: Your assignment requires you to support three busy executives. Each has given you a project that must be completed by 9 a.m. on Monday. You want to do a good job, but how can you effectively prioritize at work so that it all gets done, done right and done on time?

How to Win: Following are three time management tips will help you effectively accomplish your workload.

1. Communicate

Discuss details and deadlines with managers to come up with a workable situation that satisfies everyone.

By asking questions, you can clarify priorities and may discover one manager only needs a report summary for a 10 a.m. conference call, not the full report.

Get communication tips to help you convey what you mean effectively and with confidence.

2. Create a timeline

Having a timeline and regularly informing each manager of your progress reduces scheduling conflicts. Often your bosses are not fully aware of the amount of time a project will take to complete. Does it require that you stay late? Come in over the weekend? Will it involve members from other departments or tech support? Effective time management means letting your managers know if project demands are not in line with what was shared at the beginning.

If it looks like you may not finish a project on time, don’t wait until it’s too late fix the problem. Let your supervisors know as soon as you become aware you may not make the deadline so there’s time to find a solution.

Learn how to effectively communicate with your managers so you better understand their needs and the office's priorities.

3. Get help

If you’re struggling with time management when you have to manage competing priorities, reach out to your coworkers and see if another admin is available to help out. You may also want to create a shared document folder that lists all of your projects and lets everyone know exactly what you’re working on. If you go this route, make sure you aren’t violating any confidentiality issues.

These three tips apply to all office support jobs, so regardless of your role, following them will help you perform better.

Gentleman, Gentlewoman's Rule of Thumb: You don’t want to be the person who’s always asking for help but is never available when someone else needs support. Whenever possible, offer to assist with future projects. Your coworkers also have to deal with time management issues, so lending a hand when you can shows that you understand what they're facing and are grateful for those times they pitch in to help you.

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