Most assistants find that they are the absolute centre of their office, they are the fountain of all knowledge and the keeper of all secrets. This is generally a brilliant place to be and one of the main reasons assistants love their job. But! One of the draw backs is the constant attention (and adulation) from demanding colleagues.

It can actually be pretty constant throughout the day – it can pretty annoying too! Dealing with all the interruptions is a task in its own right and it can have a real effect on your productivity. Here are my top ten tips!

  1. Implement an Executive Voicemail system. In my roles I receives loads and loads of sales calls that were of no interest to my Directors and sometimes it was really difficult to get these types of people off the phone so I always asked the switchboard to put through any calls that sounded like they were from a sales person, or were callers asking for my Directors by job title rather than by name, through to the voicemail which I then checked a few times a day.
  2. At the start of each day print off a copy of your Director’s diaries so that when someone asks where they are or what they have on today you can refer to the piece of paper rather than stopping what you are doing on the computer and accessing their diaries via outlook. Or even better, if you have to screens keep one just for your outlook calendars.
  3. If you commute to work do take time on the train to prepare yourself for the day ahead. It’s worth taking a small amount of your own time so that you know how you want the day to pan out. I find it helps having a game plan particularly if you know it will be a busy day.
  4. Make it easy for people to have the information they need without having to ask  support staff. For example you could implement an open stationary cupboard that colleagues can help themselves to, on the condition they do not take things they do not need. One of my previous employers had a booklet which was given to every new member of staff. It detailed all of the department’s procedures including a large section on administration, such as holiday requests and ordering meeting rooms. When I was asked anything I could point them in the direction of the booklet rather than doing the work myself.
  5. Ensure you have everything at your finger tips. If feasible, have things like the letter tray and the printer close to your desk. The office equipment that you use the most should be near by so that you are not spending large amounts of your time walking around the office . I had to sort out a new printer cartridge at the beginning of the week. While I was in the shop I made sure I bought a few extra cartridges so that next time I will have spares next to my desk and I won’t have to hot foot it to the high street because of a printing emergency!
  6. Try and commit to getting a task completed every day. Even if it is a small task, it does feel good to tick something off of your to-do list and by the end of the day feel like you’ve achieved something.
  7. Don’t be on the back foot when it comes to people interrupting you. Try and be proactive to stop the same interruptions occurring. If colleagues are asking you the same questions all the time, why is this? Can they get the information themselves or is that you struggle to be assertive with lazy colleagues – can you say ‘no’ more often?
  8. If you are in the middle of a big task and can’t afford to be interrupted think about ways to let colleagues know not to interrupt you. In the past I’ve put up a little flag to notify people and also put in earphones when I don’t want to be distracted or involved in chit-chat in an open plan office.
  9. Have a backup plan, if you can’t complete one of your tasks what else can you be doing? It is always worth getting other tasks ticked off while you are waiting for someone else to get back to you.
  10. Take yourself away from your desk if you do have a big task that requires your complete attention. Borrow your boss’s office, book a meeting room, work from home or go to your local coffee shop.

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