In my first blog post I posted a question, how difficult will it be to stick to a routine that will enable me to maximise my productivity? What obstacles will I meet and, will I be able to be productive while dealing with constant distractions and interruptions? And lastly, how can I go about minimising interruptions when they occur?
Over the last few days I’ve had a chance to reflect on last week and from the outset it wasn’t easy following a structured routine simply because as an EA I do have to put other people’s urgent priorities above my own, in other words, I have to stop what I am doing all the time.
Although I didn’t manage to follow the routine most days, I do feel that having something in place to remind me of what my day could look like was very beneficial. I was more organised and did manage to get a lot done so that I will keep the routine in mind for the future. Nevertheless, the constant distractions and interruptions are a problem and make it difficult to complete tasks.
During the week I got to thinking, I might not be able to stop the interruptions, but I can certainly try to minimise them. Here are a few ideas to help reduce the distractions and maximise productivity.
- Implement an Executive Voicemail system. In my current role I receive loads and loads of sales calls that are of no interest to my Directors and sometimes it is challenging to get these types of people off the phone so just after I started here I asked the switchboard to put through any calls that sound like they are from a salesperson, or are callers asking for my Directors by job title rather than by name, through to the voicemail which I then check a few times a day.
- 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.
- 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 to have a game plan if you know it will be a busy day.
- 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 an extensive 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.
- Ensure you have everything at your fingertips. 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 nearby so that you are not spending large amounts of your time walking around the office. I had to collect a new printer cartridge from the ground floor at the beginning of the week. I’m up on the 5th floor, so this took about 15 minutes to sort out, while I was downstairs I made sure I ordered a few extra cartridges so that next time I will have spares next to my desk and I won’t have to make the journey downstairs.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
I hope some of my tips help; it is never easy juggling all of the things we are asked to do as PAs/EAs but minimising interruptions and distractions can help us to be more productive. We also have a great session on dealing with interruptions from our fantastic PA panel. You can view the recording here.
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