My Top 5 Productivity Tips for Executive Assistants
As Executive Assistants for both the private and public sector, we truly understand the benefits of increased productivity. We can see it clearly with our managers so why not think about your own productivity? I always seek out better ways of working and what can increase my efficiency so that when that inevitable time comes where you have to drop everything, you are ready and prepared.
Below are my top 5 productivity tips to help you stay in front of that wall of work that is heading your way, and the small things you can do to help stay focused and reduce wasted time.
Plan ahead – Map out your day
At the end of the day, I map out what tomorrow will look like. At what points of the day am I likely to be interrupted? When will I be pulled away from my desk to help with a meeting set up? When will my manager need me? Once you have this mapped out you will be able to tackle the day with a plan.
It is the nature of our roles to be interrupted during tasks but by taking 5 minutes to plan it will limit the number of times you will be stopped in the middle of a large task.
Plan for yourself like you would your manager.
Hour of Power
This is something I swear by!
When you are planning your day, look for that sweet spot where you can lock yourself away for an hour of power. That means an hour that is just for you to work uninterrupted. For me, the first hour of the day is my hour of power. I have decided that emails are something that I need to clear out first thing in the morning, but for you, it could be anything from minutes to board preparation to organising those big meetings.
During my hour of power, I only answer calls from people I know I need to speak with, otherwise I can call them back. I also ensure I am not distracted, that means sticking strictly to my inbox, my aim is to clear as much out as possible in this time. I limit distraction and unwanted communication.
The hour of power would line up with an hour meeting in your manager’s diary to ensure no interruptions, look for that prime spot daily and take it.
Technology is our best friend. As Executive Assistants we should be at the forefront of technology and understanding what is out there to not only assist our managers and teams but also to utilise this to increase efficiencies.
I am a big tech nerd, I love anything that will make my job/life easier. Over the past 12 months I have made my role completely paperless. This of course came with challenges, such as finding the right group of apps/software to make this work efficiently, but the benefits have far outweighed the difficulties during the learning period. I am still required to print paper for my manager but the rest of the time I am paperless, including when I hand write notes!!
The top products I have found to increase my productivity are:
- Gmail – We are lucky enough to use this as our work email client. If you are also lucky enough to have this as your work email, make sure you turn on some of their key features to help you speed through your emails. My top two hacks within Gmail are, “send and archive” and the “priority inbox”. If you want to read more about these check out this great link https://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2018/04/26/40-gmail-hacks-and-tricks-every-marketer-needs-to-know/#64ee40496afa
- Doodle Poll – This has been around for a while and I love it! I use this for all meetings with more than 5 attendees. It really is a very helpful tool to coordinate busy diaries and eliminates wasted time waiting for a call back. This can be found at www.doodle.com
- Notability – What an app! Notability is a note taking app for iPad and iPhone. This has replaced my sticky notes, and if you are like me, you will save a mountain of time searching for the lost sticky note with the important item on it! Once you have finished a note you can also PDF and email it to yourself or your manager. Fantastic! https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/notability/id360593530
- G Suite/OneDrive – I have used both of these to take my committee support digital. I type my minutes directly into the online document and that means all I have to do it fix up spelling and grammar and send for review. Heaven!
- Monday.com – This was my most recent discovery. Monday.com has really helped me plan out my work. I use this to list what I need to action and it allows me to track these through to completion and keep a track of my workload. www.monday.com
Use technology to make your work easier, don’t be scared to go digital. It will change how you work!
Utilise your networks
Networks are your lifeline! Don’t be afraid to reach out to the connections you have made to ask if they know an easier way of working. Everyone works differently so don’t struggle alone.
Ask another Executive Assistant if they have any hints or tips, or ask someone who has expertise in that area. I am not afraid to ask for help any anytime.
Networks are powerful if used correctly.
Finally, learn how to read your manager’s signals. When you are catching up with your manager you want it to be as productive as possible. This means knowing when you can ask the big questions and when to ask to catch up.
For me, I know my manager likes to have a briefing with me first thing in the morning. We are both morning people so we catch up for 15 minutes at the beginning of each day and discuss what the priorities are. We then also need to catch up in the afternoon to go through the diary for the next day, it is then that I need to read the signals. If my manager is having a busy day filled with meetings that aren’t altogether pleasant then I am going to forfeit this time or only talk about the items that are critical. By doing this you can make sure your time with your manager is always productive.
If you don’t read the signals the meeting can end with you achieving very little of your ever-growing to do list.
Hopefully these will help you as much as they have helped me. Feel free to reach out to me directly if you have any questions in regards to my tips. I am always happy to help.