Guide to Working Smarter not Harder

Guide to Working Smarter not Harder


Ever found yourself with a million things to do and no idea where to start?  Or perhaps you just keep putting off that big black deadline that’s hovering over you? Either way, getting your work space and you task list organised is a sure fire way to help get your head space back on track.  Our guide to helping you towards working smarter not harder will help.

Read on for our free, stress-busting survival guide…

1. Make Lists

Yes, you’ve heard it before, but it works!  It’s simple, the smartest way to unload your over-worked brain is to get it all out on paper (or for those that prefer something a little more high tech, a Smartphone, tablet, or whatever you’re most comfortable with).  Put down everything – every, little, thing.

There are a loads of apps that can help too!

  • Paperless
  • Wunderlist
  • Todoist
  • Trello
  • Toodledo

2. Now prioritise

Put a number, an asterisk, re-sort or highlight.  Get that list working for you.  Concentrate on the big stuff – the things you know are going to take the longest time.  Put them near the top, somewhere you can’t ignore them.  The sense of achievement when you manage to cross those bad boys off will be immense.  And then you can reward yourself with a few ‘little’ tasks to help break up the intensity.

3. Watch the clock

Your list is ready, your priorities are set, and it’s time to get down to business!  Set yourself a realistic deadline for each item.  Start by breaking things down by hours, half hours, quarter hours or even ten minute slots.  Make an appointment to meet friends, go out for lunch or get a haircut, and then organise your tasks around it, accordingly – it’s amazing what you can achieve when you have a ‘reward’ in sight.

4. BITE size, not supersize.

If you have a seemingly insurmountable task ahead of you, break it down into smaller chunks.  As you start to simplify the job into separate elements, you will be able to concentrate on getting it done, piece by piece.

5. DON’T procrastinate – delegate! 

Use reminders to flag up deadlines, set up rules on your email so that you can see when important emails need to be responded to.  Set your phone to vibrate and let voicemail take a message.  This way you can turn your full attention to the job in hand, without any distractions.

6. CALL in the professionals?

If you are still struggling to stay on top, and feel like you are slowly sinking under a pile of admin, then perhaps what you need is a bit of professional help – of the administrative kind!

Do you need someone to cast an objective eye over your accounts, or a willing soul to get help you get through your filing?  Maybe all you need is for someone to manage your travel and diary arrangements, whilst you concentrate on writing that report.

Whatever it may be, help is at hand.  Designated is a one-stop-shop created with you specifically in mind.  We are here to enable you to hand off tasks and concentrate on your core business.

With us by your side, you will find you are able to focus on productivity, deliver greater results and generally be free to be the high-flying executive you are meant to be.  Alternatively, you might find that you have a few less grey hairs and a lot less to worry about.

7. Get working smarter not harder

Speak to us about how we can help bring time saving and cost effective professional support into your business.  With Designated – where you’re in safe hands.  Call 0207 952 1460 or email us

March edition of Designated Digest

March edition of Designated Digest

March Designated Digest

Hello! and welcome to our March edition!

In this month’s newsletter we kick off with diversity and inclusion and recruitment, looking at resources tools and techniques. Now more than ever, HR professionals need to demonstrate the ability to develop D&I strategies to attract, recruit and retain a diverse workforce.

We also take advice from our friends at Xero, on how to manage small business cash flow. Xero’s small business trends report shows that 60% of small business owners are worried about their household finances running low.

Then finally we look at the top social media trends for 2022, there may be some surprises in there!

A quick admin note – our newsletter is now going to be moving to a quarterly issue, ensuring we bring you the most valuable content and resources to your inbox.

Best Wishes, 

Designated Team 

February edition of Designated Digest

February edition of Designated Digest

Designated Digest February

Hello! and welcome to our December edition!

In this month’s newsletter, we talk about recruitment. Hiring a PA or Personal Assistant might be your very first hire as a business owner. It can both be an exciting and scary step as an employer.

You will have new HR and Accountancy responsibilities but it is important to get it right from the beginning so that both you and your employee start off in the best possible way.

We also look at inductions in the role of the recruitment process as well as post-pandemic Accountancy support.

Best Wishes, 

Designated Team 

Finding the perfect personal assistant

Finding the perfect personal assistant


I need to employ a PA, but I have never employed anyone before. What are my responsibilities?

Becoming an employer is an exciting part of your journey and creating good processes as an employer from day one will ensure a positive experience. As an employer, you have responsibilities from a financial and accounting perspective as well as from an HR and management point of view. You must register with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) as an employer before you are able to pay your first employee. You will need to decide what salary to pay and ensure you adhere to the Government rules regarding minimum wage. You will also need to check if you are responsible for registering your employee for a pension. Check that your employee has the right to work in the UK and also arrange any checks; for example, a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.  All employers must have employers’ liability insurance with a minimum cover of £5m.  

Employment contract

Every employee must have a written statement of employment or contract of employment. This should confirm salary, holiday entitlement, sick pay arrangements and all other relevant terms and conditions. You must state clearly if the offer of employment is subject to any checks, which may include qualifications and reference checks. It is very important to ensure the contract is signed by your emp­loyee as soon as possible. Many employers produce a solid contract but then fail to follow through to the signature. 

As an employee and manager, you are legally responsible for providing a safe and secure working environment and you should check whether you are responsible for having a first aider. You must also ensure all of your employee’s personal data is stored securely. 

Given all of these responsibilities, you might wonder whether you are better to employ someone on a self-employed basis, but be aware that you need to take care to avoid falling into problems.

Employed or self-employed?

HMRC advises that you must check whether an individual is self-employed in both tax law and employment law. You can be held responsible for unpaid tax and penalties if a mistake is made. According to the HMRC website, an individual is probably self-employed if most of the following statements are true. 

The individual is:

 In business for themselves, responsible for the success or failure of their business and can make a loss or a profit;

 Able to decide what work they do and when, where or how to do it;

 Able to hire someone else to do the work;

 Responsible for fixing any unsatisfactory work in their own time;

 Paid a fixed price for their work by the employer – it does not depend on how long the job takes to finish;

 Using their own money to buy business assets, cover running costs and provide tools and equipment for their work;

 Able to work for more than one client.

The use of the words ‘probably’ and ‘most’ by HMRC make it hard to have 100% clarity and so it is best to proceed with caution. If you are in any doubt, please take professional advice. Becoming an employer for the first time is an involved process and it is important to make sure you get everything right from day one to avoid issues later on. 

If you are uncertain about the best way forward for you, then you would be wise to take expert advice which could save you time and money in the long term. 

How do I interview for the role of medical PA? What questions do you suggest I ask?

When interviewing for a medical PA, it is important to ask questions to understand experience and expertise.

You need to ensure an individual is qualified to do the role, but also to focus on the softer skills relating to dealing with patients, working with others on the team and dealing with the wider community, including insurance companies and hospital booking departments. 

Interviewing a PA

Ideally, you are looking to find the best medical PA to suit your practice, with the skills that you need and the attitude and behaviours that fit well within the culture of your team and in line with your values. 

Every individual in your team has an impact on the quality of patient experience that you deliver and choosing the right team members is of the highest priority.

Prepare for the interview by re-reading the candidate’s CV, highlighting any areas where you would like to explore in more detail or any gaps between employment that you would like to understand. 

Write a set of questions that ensure you explore the candidate’s CV. This will also provide a gentle opening to the interview by focusing on the individual’s past experience. 

Secondly, consider your job description for the medical PA role and highlight areas that have not been addressed by the CV. 

Start by ensuring the candidate has an adequate level of expertise and experience to undertake the role. Is there evidence of working in equivalent roles? 

Does the candidate know the systems you use? 

If typing is required, has the candidate confirmed their capabilities? You may want to test typing skills separately. Create a list of questions that allow you to check thoroughly for experience and expertise. 

Are your values aligned? I believe the best way to assess this is to use the competency-based interview technique. You should ask relevant questions about past experiences and how the individual handled them.

Get off to a good start in 2022

Get off to a good start in 2022

Taxes Self Assessment

As we head into 2022 and a promising new year, we have an opportunity to take stock and reset. This includes reviewing our more strategic plans and objectives and checking that the basics are well managed. Jane Braithwaite shows how to give your business a fresh start.

From a strategic perspective, I take time to review and plan every quarter. I make the most of the ‘back to school’ feeling in September and at the start of the new year, which is an obvious time to reflect on everything in life including business. April and July are the two other times during the year when I pause to review progress and make plans for the coming quarter.

Over the last two years, with the changing environment caused by the impact of Covid, my strategic planning has become less proactive, and my focus has been on managing the ups and downs caused by the Covid crisis. But performing in ‘crisis’ mode for such a long time is not healthy for us in either our personal lives or for the success of our businesses. So the start of 2022 is a more significant opportunity than it might normally have been for all of us to take stock and set our agenda for the coming year. My strategic planning will involve reviewing my previous plans and assessing what has been successful, what we have achieved and identifying the areas where we made less progress than hoped.

Purposely parked
To be honest, due to the challenges of the last two years, there are a few objectives that I set for my business that was purposely parked and I am sure I am not alone. Due to a lack of time to focus on the more proactive side of growing the business and to allow time for the day-to-day management of the effects of Covid some activities needed to be taken off the agenda in the short term.

The start of 2022 will provide a great opportunity to decide whether the time is right to reset those objectives and restart progress. I am also addicted to business plans and notebooks, and I have used most of the widely known business plans/journals.

Currently, my favourite is the Clever Fox Planner Pro, which I highly recommend for anyone like me who enjoys structure and handwriting out plans. Clever Fox allows you to set your strategic plan and then manage it on a day-to-day basis.

The new year is also a good time to check that business basics are being managed well. No business, can succeed and grow if the basics are not well organised.

Good processes
Most importantly, good processes and systems ensure that the business runs smoothly and that patients, clients and employees are happy.

Conversely, poor processes lead to a drain on management time with time spent addressing issues and firefighting reducing time available for patient care and more strategic activity.

Over the last two years, it is possible that many of us have taken less time to review the basic operations of our businesses and this is a good time to check and act if needed.

Customer experience
Are you capturing and reviewing feedback from your customers? This is an activity that may have been lost in recent months or even years and it is worth re-establishing good processes; firstly, asking your customers for feedback and regularly reviewing matters with your team.

Over the last few months, customer expectations may have changed and it is important to ensure that your business delivers against its current requirements to maintain an excellent reputation.

Employee satisfaction
The challenge of surviving the Covid pandemic has affected everyone to a greater or lesser extent and your employees may have been under increased pressure to deal with changes in their working environment.

Now is a good time to assess how your employees are feeling and to ensure that their well-being is being prioritised by you as an employer. An employee survey is a good way to gain feedback in an anonymous way to allow you to get a realistic picture of the challenges your team is facing.

The information gathered can be used by you and your senior team to develop an action plan to address any issues and ensure that your team know their well-being is a top priority for you.

Most businesses review their pricing on an annual basis to ensure they are competitive but also in line with inflation and the cost of running their business.

Is your marketing in line with your objectives and how well is it delivering against your objectives? Now would be a good time to re-assess your marketing activities and ensure they are delivering the results you are aiming for.

Are all of your marketing and communication materials consistent in their look and feel?

Is your website working well from a technical perspective and is it compliant in terms of cookie policies and privacy? Are you communicating regularly with your patients and referrers via a newsletter and/or via social media?

If you need any assistance with your fresh start in 2022, please feel free to get in touch. But, for now, I wish you a Happy New Year.