In a recent survey we conducted with the Practically Perfect PA readers we found that many Assistants struggle with the huge amount of work they have to get through in a day. The fast-paced environment, the never-ending deadlines and demands on their time seems to have become the norm. In this article we will cover how Assistants can keep up in a fast-paced working environment.
Assistants often work at an extremely high capacity and get through a ton of work. They are a huge asset to their organisations, however the speed in which they work can lead to burnout. So, for Assistants how can you survive and thrive in a fast-paced working environment? Let’s have a look at some points to consider.
How Assistants can keep up in a fast-paced working environment
Working in a fast-paced environment is challenging but something that is becoming much more normal in today’s world. There are always going to be competing deadlines and other people’s urgent needs and this is definitely something Assistants have to manage on the day-to-day.
Building resilience for this environment is essential. Assistants have to look after their mind and body so that they avoid high-stress levels and burnout.
The ability to adapt and change is also crucial. Flexibility is so essential for anyone working in this type of environment, but for Assistants, it is vital. We ensure our Executive’s meet their urgent deadlines, which in a fast-paced working environment can change from one hour to the next. So for Assistants, we can not be resistant to change. We have to embrace it, be flexible and move forward.
It doesn’t stop there.
Let’s look at strategies that show how Assistants can keep up in a fast-paced working environment.
Assistants have to ensure they are on the same page as their Executive at all times. This is only possible if you are able to constantly and consistently communicate with your Executive and your colleagues.
You have to know the priorities, objectives, deadlines, tasks and of course, when something changes.
It is your job to ensure the communication channels are effective.
This could mean that you have daily huddles with your Executive, or you have a regular weekly catch-up that does not come out of the diary. You could keep in touch via WhatsApp or send each other periodic emails.
Whatever the method you have to ensure you are communicating regularly and effectively. This will ensure you thrive in a fast-paced working environment.
It is pretty common for Assistants to work with multiple Executives or in large teams, which means that their work is generated across multiple departments and sources. Tasks come from many different areas of the business with their own urgency and deadlines.
This means Assistants must focus on the priorities of the business rather than individual priorities. They have to get to grips with the organisation strategy so they understand what should be completed first, what is essential, and what tasks are pushing the business forward.
Time management is a challenge when working in a fast-paced organisation, so prioritising becomes so much more important.
Assistants need to be laser-focused on their priorities and ensure they push back on unnecessary work.
An essential skill for Assistants is to counter and negotiate other people’s deadlines. You need to know if it is a deadline they have self-imposed or if it is a deadline for the organisation (or a client). Once you know this, you can decide where that fits in your with your other deadlines.
We have a fantastic Practically Perfect PA session on how Assistants can manage their time and workload and deal with deadlines and interruptions.
Assistants should make use of technology to support their work, this is especially true of Assistants working in a fast-paced environment.
There are a lot of project management and collaboration tools that Assistants can use to manage their tasks and prioritise their deadlines.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Make use of technology to help automate your administrative tasks.
This includes travel management, expenses, minute-taking, event planning, to name just a few.
Once you’ve decided on the tools, you want to introduce to your workflow. Champion that tool, use all of its features and make sure that you tell your Executive and your team. They might find it useful too!
Lastly, once you do use technology to support your role, think of the work that you can take on that pushes the business forward. The strategic work.
How do you get started with automation? You don’t have to start with technology. You can look at the tasks you do frequently and create a process that simplifies the work. We have a lot of great resources that can help with that.
There are so many Assistants I have met over the years who consider perfectionism to be a key skill in the role. I’m here to tell you. It is not.
Perfectionism leads to so much unnecessary stress and delay.
Assistants can spend so much time stressing over every detail, ensuring everything is perfect and worrying incessantly that deadlines are missed, and projects go unfinished. This, of course, can only and will only lead to burnout.
It is not unhelpful, particularly in a fast-paced environment.
It is important to remember that somethings things don’t need to be done, ideas can wait, projects can start later and sometimes what is essential and urgent to someone isn’t and shouldn’t be relevant to you.
When you do have to turn around a piece of work quickly, look at the primary level required to get the job done, check it over and send it out there into the world. The endless tweaking of work will slow you down.
Done is better than perfect.
When Assistants work in a fast-paced environment it can be easy to get completely caught up in the culture, especially if your Executive is leading the charge and demanding that everyone works at that speed.
Don’t get me wrong, it can be incredibly exciting to work full throttle, but you have to remember the things you are sacrificing to ensure all of your deadlines are met.
If you find that you are neglecting those crucial things in your life because you are continually working, make sure you take a break to reflect on what you need and your personal priorities.
Is the fast-paced environment good for you and is it worth it? For some Assistants, working in a fast-paced, non stop environment is amazing. It is exhilarating. For other’s it might not be a great fit. Make sure you take some time to assess your boundaries and your needs.
Last but not least, if you are an Assistant working in a fast-paced environment you need to taker regular breaks throughout the day. And you need to take your vacation holiday days. You need to rest as hard as you work!
Even the busiest Assistant needs downtime (switching off the phone and the laptop). Never be afraid to make that happen. It is so important and a key element of how Assistants can keep up in a fast-paced working environment.
We hope that thrive as an Assistant working in a fast-paced environment. Your skills are certainly needed when there are so many deadlines to meet and objectives pushing the business forward. Remember to start automating your simple tasks and get get started by download our Frequent Replies template.
We have a fantastic online course that can help you master all of the Assistant Essentials so that you can truly excel in the role.
Our Assistant Essentials course has you covered for ALL of the most important tasks an Executive or Personal Assistant needs to ace the role.
There are a lot of tasks Assistants have to master. Get started now.