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There will be a scrap of paper here, a post it there, a list on your iPhone, and perhaps a draft email with a few ideas.

So, before you've even started, you're going to have to waste valuable time trying to organise and prioritise the various tasks you've listed. No wonder a LinkedIn survey found that almost 90% of professionals are unable to accomplish all the tasks on their to-do list by the end of an average workday!

Secondly, the issue with recording tasks on a list is that it doesn't distinguish which stuff takes minutes, and what may take an hour. Inevitably then, we all too easily pluck the quick easy items for instant gratification, without necessarily taking on the most important things.

Don't bite off more than you can chew

Over-promising only leads to disappointment and frustration - hardly motivating! As a virtual assistant used to juggling multiple projects at one time my suggestion for a successful day is to review the list and tackle one big thing, three medium things, and five small things.

Inevitability, the one big ‘thing' is something that requires a lot of work or isn't something you are particularly looking forward to. But once done, it's likely something you will be pleased to have gotten out of the way.

The aim should be to get the big task done before lunch, ideally even before you check your emails in the morning. The idea is taken from author Brian Tracy, who's best-selling book on productivity called Eat That Frog! was adapted from the famous Mark Twain quote: "Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day."

Ditch the To-Do list altogether

Many of us overestimate how much we can get done in a working day. Research shows successful people move away from a To-Do list and instead account a time slot for each task in their calendar (Outlook, Gmail, etc.). That includes the likes of checking your emails - the sort of things that you consider important and eat up time but aren't necessarily something that would make a To-Do list.

Using your calendar can really help get more done, but don't feel just because a calendar entry is a 30-minute slot by default that everything needs to be at least 30 minutes long. I don't have to quote statistics on how unproductive meetings can be; it's totally OK to schedule a 20-minute meeting and not round it up to 30! Better yet, see if that meeting's objectives can be resolved with either a phone call first, or by popping into someone's office. Given my I am a ‘virtual' assistant, you can be amazed what can be achieved without meeting face-to-face!

Take responsibility for your time

Are you regularly interrupted? If you think a lot of your time is wasted by the same things over and over, you may have to face the reality that it is part of your working life - you just need to plan for it.

Diarising the amount of time you spend checking emails, talking with staff, or following up on meetings may help you realise that you need to change how you do things, or delegate some tasks to others. At the very least, it will stop you going crazy from believing you really did have a full 9 hours of time to fit in whatever you wanted into a working day!

Or you could free up some time by delegating some of those time-sapping administrative tasks. Clare Runham runs Miss MPS, a virtual assistant service which helps small business owners grow their companies by doing just that at a cost far cheaper than employing someone.