By: Chili Sauce
"The struggle is real."

Every day, most of us deal with many tasks that are either urgent or important, that sometimes we lose our grip as to which one to do first. It's a never-ending dilemma. It's an ultimate fiasco. Most of us know what to do in the ideal world, but the stress and pressure of needing to deliver our tasks make it a tad bit harder to make a sound judgment. We only aim for efficiency and excellence. However, our ardent desire to achieve the same could lead us into inadvertently doing something, let's say, crazy, or excuse my word, stupid.

Consider this as my way of helping those who need it and are continuously struggling with this ordeal. I have to remind you that whatever you will read on this column is not an expert opinion but a mere experience. These are the things that I came up with during my five-year stint as a legal secretary/ executive assistant in a law firm. Are they effective? No. THEY ARE EFFICIENT (at least for me). You can also ask the professionals I previously worked for (who, modesty aside, gave me outstanding, if not VS, performance ratings). P.S I was not an employee of the month material, I do not even think that I am the best-hire of the century, but I can proudly say that I did better than I thought I would.
Urgent vs. Important. (my understanding of the words based on how they are defined)

Urgent. When time is of the essence, but we need to beat it at the same time. It sounds like a son of all the ironies. There is a need to act immediately or else… Who knows what's next to "else"? We wouldn't want to know. That is why when something is "urgent" we tend to do it immediately.

Important. It is necessary. It's something of value. It holds significance for something to continue working. Without it, everything might fall apart.

I would like you to refer to Eisenhower's Matrix to find out how to prioritize, urgent and important; not urgent but important; urgent but not important; not urgent and not important. My former Boss explained this to me. You might want to consider it because it might work for you.
Side note: It is just for reference. I am not in the position to explain as I have my way of prioritization. Which I will be sharing in 3…2…1…

In no particular order:
MODE OF DELEGATION. You have to consider the way your supervisor delegates the tasks to you. Emails would sound urgent, but not to a degree to make you feel flustered. Short Messaging Service (SMS or text messages) has more than a hint of urgency. If an email could mean within-the-day urgent, a text message might be within-the-next-hour urgent. You know what is up when le boss calls you about a task. You do not have to panic but most of the time, it means urgent as in NOW. You do not have to worry because it is not the case all the time. That is why you need to read the next one.
CONTEXT AND MAGIC WORDS. You need to read the message carefully. Find the words that can give you a hint of how "important" and/or "urgent" a task is. "Immediately", "Now", are indications that you need to do the tasks right away. "Please call Mr. Dela Cruz today", "I need the copies for our meaning later at…" could be done later after you do the more urgent matters. It is necessary to understand every task clearly because that is when you will create your pace and how and when you will finish the tasks. Take this as an opportunity to create your rhythm and establish momentum.
CREATE A LIST OF THE URGENT/ IMPORTANT TASKS ASIDE FROM YOUR ROUTINE TO-DO-LIST. I do not know about you, but it makes me more focused on the things that I need to do first. I have a problem with concentration. I am easily distracted by so many things, and my routine tasks linger in my head most of the time. Even if I know that they can wait, I feel like they always put weight on my shoulders. I have to give myself something to focus on, thus, the different list.
GAME PLAN. Create your strategy. What will you do to maximize your time and to ensure that none of your time will be put to waste. In my experience, I do it before the business hours starts. Sometimes while I am in transit to work. I know that it can be hard if you are only new in the job but once you already have an idea of your everyday tasks and office processes, this is just, as they say, easy-peasy. Write your strategy or strategies down. Put them in your phone's note. Make sure to put them in a place where you have a vantage point. You need this to create a system and memorize it by heart.

This can include the time you go to work. The time you will start working. How you will prioritize tasks. What you will do if there are unexpected tasks. I hope you'll include your emails. Do not bury a single one. Compounding emails can kill productivity.
ASSESS YOUR PERFORMANCE AT THE END OF YOUR SHIFT. This is an opportunity to improve every aspect of your professional life. What did you do wrong? What can you do to not commit the same mistake/s again? What motivates you? What distracts you? Should you ask for help when needed? When is the best time to call for help? There is no right or wrong. You just have to know what works for you without judging yourself. You can apply your takeaways in your next shift.
GO TO WORK EARLY. This might not work for everyone because we have different commitments in life. It worked for me. I was able to prepare everything even before my boss arrive at work. I am also more relaxed and I just calmly start the day. He usually texts me tasks so I address what I already can, right away. In doing this, I could have more time in addressing the other tasks for the rest of the day. I had time to relax in between. I feel like if I do not go to work early, I am not in control of my shift. Going to work early makes me feel like I am set-up to succeed for that day.
KNOW YOUR BOSS WELL. Need I say more? Yes, I guess. You can easily figure out the above-mentioned steps if you know your boss well. What does he like? What does he not like? What makes him angry? What triggers his other emotions? No matter how hard he is to deal with, if you know everything about him, everything will just be a walk in the park (hopefully not a Jurassic Park as the joke goes). You need to know if knowing him in a more personal level could also help. If it is not relevant, then there is no reason to dig that deep at all.
KNOW YOUR JOB WELL. If you are familiar with your job, everything will run smoothly. You can easily address issues and think right on your feet. For example, if you know that your boss allows you to make certain decisions, then you do not have to ask him all the time if something comes up. Sometimes, you can just decide and if everything goes south, then you can always justify. Again, you do not make any excuses, you justify. Meaning you give reasons why you need to come up with the decision. This way, you do not have to dwell on it while all other tasks pile up on a heap.
CONTINUE LEARNING. Read books. Talk to people. Learn what is good. Unlearn the bad. Take criticisms positively. Learning is a continuous process. It should never stop. Through this, you will have more wisdom on how to manage your shifts and how to continuously make progress. You can adapt your colleagues’ good practices and customize it in accordance to what will work for you.
SPEAK UP. Be honest about what you need to function well in your position. Do not assume that they know it. You are the only person who knows the extent of your needs to do your tasks efficiently. If something is bothering you, do tell. If your printer is not working, report it right away. If you need a better printer, ask. The last thing you want is, your boss printing something at 1:55 p.m. for a 2:00 p.m. meeting and your printer suddenly decide to act up.
DON’T BE HARD ON YOURSELF. Chill and make sure you are not pushing yourself into your limits. This will exhaust you and exhaustion can lead to a more serious problem. If you are a greenhorn, take every mistake, every failure, and every day as a learning experience not an opportunity to blame yourself and sulk over it. Do not be afraid to ask for help. If you are a more tenured employee, you will have more time to learn new things, upgrade your skills that will help you do your job even better.

Again, I am not an expert. I only listed these things because they worked for me and I am hoping that somehow, someone will get something valuable and meaningful from this article. It is a constant battle that I guess every employee has to fight. However, it gets easier as time passes by. One day, you’ll realize how you can manage all those things “kahit naka pikit.” The bottom line is, finding your own system, your own pace, your own flow and your own power. After all, as the famous quote say, different strokes for different folks. You will figure it out!(CJ/CS)

-, January 31, 2024

The Calbayog Journal (also known as CJ)
is an on-line news service covering Eastern Visayas area.
CJ aims to offer unbiased coverage of the people and events in Eastern Visayas.

(c) 2015 - 2019