Sharon C. Cooper

Just thinking…

Get it done! Part 1

There are 24 hours in a day. How do you use yours? Martha Stewart is known for many things, one being – she’s a good time manager. When asked during an interview how she managed to accomplish so much in a day’s time, her response was that there are 24 hours in a day – and she uses them. If you think about it, 24 hours is a long time. Imagine what you could accomplish if you took the time to plan out your day.

As a virtual assistant, part of my success is dependent upon my time management and organizational skills. At any given time I might have four or five projects for clients going on at the same time, and there are times when the deadlines fall on the same day.  So having a schedule is a priority. Listed below are just a couple of things I do to stay on task and get things done.

  1. Master To-Do-List: One of American Express’s slogans is – Never Leave Home Without It. Well, I have a slogan– Never Start Your Day without a To-Do-List. Most of us have so many responsibilities until we can easily get overwhelmed. Not only should you have a daily list of things to do, but have a master To-Do-List. The master To-Do-List  is where you add every single thing you want or need to get done (at some point). Everything from getting the hallway painted, to downloading telephone numbers from your cell phone to the computer. Since the master To-Do-List is usually ridiculously long, you then break it down over numerous days (or months for some) – this is the start of your daily To-Do-List.
  2. Daily To-Do-List: Keep your daily To-Do-List doable. Don’t go putting 10 things on the list if you know that each item is going to take 4 hours.  When done that way, you automatically set yourself up for failure. For large projects (things that will take several hours or days) try to work on them over a couple of days (that means planning ahead), because at the end of the day, you want to feel like you’ve accomplished at least a couple of things on your list. I usually include 2 or 3 things I know I have to get done, then one or two things I want to get done (1 or 2 fun things –like clean the bathrooms or finish the painting that goes over the fireplace). I also start my list w/ something that might only take 30-60 minutes before I dive into those items that will be more than an hour. And just for fun, when I complete something on my list, I scratch the item off the list. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that you’ve accomplished something.

Stay tuned for Part II of – Getting It Done.  In the meantime- what are some of the things you do to stay on task – and get things done?


July 11, 2011 - Posted by | Just Thinking


  1. I make a daily To Do list in a spiral notebook that I keep on my desk. This is something I can’t function without. Of course I may not get everything done on the day that it’s written. When that happens though, I move the particular item over to the top of the list on the following day.

    Recently I’ve begun keeping a project To Do list just for the books I’m working on. This is particularly helpful for scheduling marketing/promotion features and interviews.

    Comment by Chicki Brown | July 11, 2011

    • I’m with you, Chicki, I can’t function without my To-Do-LIst either! And, you bring up a good point. I also transfer the things that I don’t get done over to the next day. I almost have the scheduling down to a science to where I don’t have to do that too often, but I’ll talk about that in my Part II segment. As usual, thanks for stopping by and sharing your wisdom!

      Comment by sharonccooper | July 11, 2011

  2. Excellent tips and reminders for good time management. As a business owner for over 30 years this is still an area where I have lots of room for improvement. The days that end with the greatest feeling of accomplishment are the days I start with my list and review it at the end of the day. I’m also in the process of limiting the time I respond to emails and facebook. Emails and facebook have proven to areas that drain my time. Lastly, I’d like to add the importance of managing our energy. I’ve learned the importance of not allowing my list to control me to the point where I’m not fully present with those I interact with. I don’t want family, friends and potential customers to feel rushed or that they are not a priority when I interact with them. Its all such a balancing act. Sharon, thank so much for reminding me of these very important tips!

    Comment by Carmen Ray | July 11, 2011

    • Hey Carmen! Thanks for stopping by!
      As busy as you are, I’m sure you work off of a list! 🙂 Glad to know that I was able to be a reminder for you though. One thing I didn’t mention is -that it is great to do your To-Do-List the night before that way you can mentally plan…or at least have the day mapped out by the time you wake up the next morning. That seems to work better for me than putting the list together that morning.

      Part II will include some time wasters to look out for and some tips on how to get them under control. Stay tuned!

      Comment by sharonccooper | July 11, 2011

  3. Sharon… “…”1 or 2 fun things –like clean the bathrooms”… Will you please come live with me?! 😉

    I was thinking about you the other day and how organized you are! I downloaded a couple of apps for my phone and my computer that are helping me keep track of my projects. One is called “TimeJot” and the other is “Evernote”. Of course I will never be without my trusty pad of paper and pen. Old school technology is best!

    Comment by Diolinda Brickman | July 11, 2011

    • Lol, Dio!!! You know, Al and I have been entertaining the thought of living in S.D during the summers (the ATL is a sweat box). I’ll let Al know that you want us to live with you guys (big smile). But come on now…you know cleaning the bathroom is fun!! 🙂

      I’m going to have to look into the Aps you mentioned. Are they just for telephones? There was a time I used the calendar on my telephone for my daily list…but I seem to stay on top of things a little better when I write it out (old school). Although, I have been entertaining the thought of using one of the programs on my computer (and sinc it w/ my cell), but so far I haven’t been able to lose the pen and paper. 🙂

      Stay tuned for Part II where I share a few more thoughts and ideas. And thanks for stopping by!

      Comment by sharonccooper | July 11, 2011

  4. I still use some of the tips that you taught me. Like organizing my file folders alphabetically, not by categories – it is so much easier to find things. I love that you are so organized!

    I don’t know what I would do without my Outlook calendar. I use it for meetings and appointments but mostly for blocking my time. I have so much to do and, as most people who work in the non-profit sector, I am doing the job of three employees. I block time for various projects and tasks and I color code them, too. This helps me remember what I need (and want) to do and focus on one thing at a time – multitasking is a myth! We need time to focus and to get into the zone – then, the work just tends to flow.

    My other tip: music. When I’m working on reports or progress notes, I listen to music. Not soft stuff. I like hard rock when I have a lot of work to get done. What can I say? Linkin Park helps me be productive:) Looking forward to Part 2!

    Comment by Jaime | July 11, 2011

    • Hey Jaime! Thanks for stopping by. Speaking of alphabetizing – I can’t help but think about a conversation I had this past weekend when my sister found out that I alphabetize my coupons (okay maybe I’m a little anal). But just like w/ files – its so much easier to find what you’re looking for – instead of going through every coupon to see what you have. She got off my case though when I showed her the container that I use – its specifically for coupons and it’s divided up by the letters of the alphabet…which makes it easy to put things in ABC order. Of course I picked it up from my favorite store – The Container Store (some things haven’t changed).

      I have used the Outlook calendar in the past and really like it (especially the color coding and tasks options). I think as long as you’re using something, you can’t go wrong in staying on task.

      As for music, I believe my friend Chicki also works well w/ music. Occassionally, I’ll have music going while I’m working – no hard rock like you (smile), more like some Gospel/Inspirational like Kirk Franklin, or Forever Jones. I use to always listened to music when I worked in an office setting, but not so much here in my home office – maybe because I tune things out so fast, until I forget the musics even on. 🙂

      Multi-tasking is a myth, hmm…sounds like a great title for a blog segment! I’ll have to keep that in mind since I have mixed feelings about it being a myth. 🙂

      Talk to you soon!

      Stay tuned to Part 2!

      Comment by sharonccooper | July 12, 2011

      • I love that you organize your coupons! I developed a training for my staff (one person) on effective time management. I’ll send it to you – there is information about multi-tasking vs. focusing on one thing & getting into “the zone”. It might spark some ideas!

        Comment by Jaime | July 15, 2011

  5. Sharon, I so need to get you to help me with my office. LOL. I just pile everything up until it gets out of control then I throw things away. Not a good filing system. 🙂

    Comment by Alicia McCalla | July 12, 2011

    • Lol!! Too funny, Alicia! Don’t let me have to come over there and talk about you! Just let me know when you’re ready, and I’ll come over and set up some office systems that you’ll love! You know where to find me (smile)!

      Comment by sharonccooper | July 12, 2011

  6. Hey Jaime, definitely send me what you have re: multi-tasking and “the zone” I’m sure it’ll smark some ideas :).

    Comment by sharonccooper | July 16, 2011

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