The Productive Assistant Mindset
This chapter looks at the characteristics and strengths Assistants need to maximise their productivity.
Assistants have to be laser-focused to ensure they can work through their to-do list and help manage their Executive’s responsibilities. It takes a productive mindset to make that happen. In this chapter, The Productive Assistant Mindsetwe cover all of the characteristics and strengths Assistants need to create a productive way of thinking.
Assistants face many challenges when it comes to productivity. Firstly, they work with extremely busy Executive’s who demand a lot of their Assistant’s time. Still, they don’t necessarily have the time themselves to dedicate to keeping their Assistant in the loop.
Assistants are often pulled in many different directions and interrupted by colleague’s who don’t quite understand what they do or rely on them for information about the organisation and day to day aspects of the office. This leads to many Assistants feeling distracted and unable to focus.
Assistants are often working for more than one Executive, which means they have multiple, conflicting priorities, which can feel overwhelming and makes it hard for Assistants to know where to start.
Lastly, Assistants work on tasks that do not drive the business forward or add value because they are used to working on administrative tasks that keep them busy. The strategic tasks get delayed or pushed back because they require time and the quiet space to concentrate – something which is often hard for Assistants to find.
It is a challenge to create the right productive mindset that allows Assistants to entirely focus on the work that supports the business and makes a difference.
This chapter, The Productive Assistant Mindset, will cover the strengths Assistants need to deal with those challenges. We will cover:
Thanks to Annie Croner, Founder of Whole Assistant for this great opening section.
As Assistants, managing details to ensure things run smoothly is a big part of what we do. We take pride in our detail-oriented nature as it relates to all that we produce, from professional email correspondence to travel arrangements to company-wide projects and initiatives.
We are the doers and the boots-on-the-ground, working “in the weeds” while simultaneously holding a 10,000-foot view.
BUT, what happens when our detail-oriented nature crosses the line into perfectionism?
Have you ever spent 45 minutes wordsmithing an email? How about 2 hours researching the “perfect” restaurant for a critical lunch meeting? I know I’ve been guilty on both accounts.
There are so many pitfalls that accompany perfectionism:
- Loss of the big picture. When we are fixated on producing a “perfect” result all the time, we tend to lose sight of the bigger picture.
- “Perfect” is a moving target. What is perfect for you may not be perfect for your Executive or colleagues.
- We are more likely to operate out of a place of fear and anxiety. We tend to fixate on not making mistakes or disappointing others, never taking risks that could move us forward in our careers and provide us with greater work satisfaction.
- Perfectionism robs us of so much, not the least of which is productivity.
It is this last point which I’d like to drive home.
Think of all we could have accomplished in the 45 minutes it took us to craft that “perfect” email.
Meticulous & Detail Oriented or Obsessed Perfectionist?
I have had to work very hard at defining for myself the line between being meticulous or detail-oriented and an obsessed perfectionist. With my website and blog, WholeAssistant.com, I’ve had to let go of typos and imperfect grammar to allow myself to be a more effective blogger.
My day job (also my passion) as a full-time assistant coupled with my commitment to having a happy and healthy family life leaves a limited number of hours per week to spend on Whole Assistant.
If I were to get too obsessed with everything being “perfect”, I would never write or produce anything. Ever.
Unfortunately, this has resulted in occasional typos which well-meaning friends and colleagues will bring to my attention. I kindly thank them for their feedback, but I’ll let you in on a little secret.
I. Don’t. Care.
I’ve had to let my perfectionist tendencies fall by the wayside to get ideas and strategies out in the world that will actually, I hope, help my fellow assistants live happier more fulfilled lives.
I didn’t make this decision flippantly.
I know some people will only listen to what I have to say if it’s packaged correctly. At some point, I had to realise these people are probably not meant to be a part of my audience or tribe, and that’s okay! I’m much more interested in catering to assistants who aren’t afraid to put themselves out there, even if that means making occasional errors. That, to me, is The Productive Assistant Mindset.
I also hope that Whole Assistant will inspire other Assistants to step up and share their ideas and strategies as well; without fear of having to say everything correctly.
Of course, this looks a little different in my work as an Assistant.
Catching typos and errors is a part of the job. This brings me to the first significant mindset shift I would like us all to consider.
It’s Okay to Adjust Our Level of Detail to the Circumstance
No, really, it is okay!
Not every task requires or calls for the same level of weight or detail. We need to ask ourselves, “Given the big picture, does this matter?” Sometimes the answer is absolutely yes. Examples of such situations include making any reservation, data entry, or anything dealing with money.
Frequently the answer to the question above is probably not. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve found myself or my fellow administrative professionals sweat the small stuff.
Nobody’s going to remember the china I picked out for that event or whether I choose white or eggshell napkins. Think about what they will remember and invest your time and energy in those things.
If you are anything like me (a recovering perfectionist) you are probably thinking, “Okay Annie, but I care about the china and the napkins.” To this, I say, good! It’s good to care about these things, just not to the point of perfectionism. It will be hard for us to operate at optimal productivity if everything must be perfect all of the time.
Trade a Perfectionist Mindset for an Excellence Mindset
I love Webster’s definition of excellence: the quality of being very good of its kind: eminently good.
Which differs significantly from Webster’s definition of perfection: freedom from fault or defect.
I find it fascinating how the words used in the definition of perfection are in and of themselves negative — freedom from fault and defect. I don’t know about you, but the use of the words fault & defect invoke a tinge of anxiety in me just reading them! We could spend an excessive amount of time seeking freedom from fault or defect (perfection) only to fall short because perfection is quite often a moving target.
On the other hand, excellence (the quality of being very good of its kind: eminently good) has no negative connotation or association.
By definition, excellence is very good! To do your work with excellence means to create a fabulous result without the pressure of creating something perfect.
I know for myself that loosening the grip on “perfect” has freed me up to be more productive and accomplish more in my days. I find I go through my days calmer and more self-assured because things no longer have to be perfect all the time. Operating from the mindset of excellence (B+ to A- work in my mind) has led to more trust from my Executive and increased levels of responsibility.
I suspect this is because, whether he’s aware of it or not, the energy I give off is increasingly calmer and more self-assured.
Letting Go of Fear of Failure
Fear of failure perpetuates perfectionism, which results in a myriad of negative things, including decreased productivity. We’ve been conditioned to believe a mistake is the worst thing that can happen because our mistakes will lead to others’ disappointment in us.
What if instead of fearing our mistakes, we shifted our mindset to embrace them as opportunities for growth? With every mistake, we get an idea of what didn’t work. This information is invaluable!
Take Thomas Edison, for example. When asked about all the failures he had with his lightbulb, he said, “I have not failed, I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Can you imagine if Edison had been a perfectionist and afraid of failure? Who knows how long it would have been before the lightbulb was created. Instead of avoiding mistakes at all costs, let’s get curious about our mistakes and what we can improve for next time.
When we release the fear of missing the mark, we are allowed to go through our days focused on more positive and productive thoughts, including what we can contribute, along with new and innovative ways of approaching our work and life as a whole.
As I’ve developed as a business owner, I’ve come to realise how vital self-discipline is for success.
I work from home, and I set my hours, which, as you can imagine, can lead to a lot of procrastination and a lot of time-wasting. I also can spend way too much time working, when I should be spending that time with my family, exercising, reading a book or anything else that makes me happy and relaxed.
It is a balancing act and self-discipline helps me manage my time and get through everything important to me in a day.
I know the same is true of Assistants and the productive Assistant mindset.
You have so much to do, your focus is often pulled in lots of different directions, and you wonder how you are going to get out of the office door to see your friends and family.
It is relentless.
This is where self-discipline can help Assistants gain some more control over their lives.
Here are my tried and tested methods, that I have put into place, that can help you gain some self-discipline in your roles.
Know precisely what is expected of you.
You will be much more aware of what you need to do in your working day when you know precisely what is expected of you.
I know this is tricky when you are an Assistant with a sketchy job title, but you should at least have a conversation with your Executive about expectations.
Once you have a clear idea of what your Executive expects, you can start to plan out the areas that require a little more self-discipline.
You don’t need to change who you are.
You are awesome!
You don’t need to wake up tomorrow at 5 am, meditate, drink a protein shake and power walk to the office. Instead, think about changing up a few habits that are holding you back from having the day that you want.
Pick one thing that you feel keeps you back or stops you getting through all your work, or makes you feel overwhelmed.
If you don’t have enough hours in the day, can you start to use a better to-do list that can help keep you focused, maybe you could set that alarm half an hour earlier, so you get into the office while it is still quiet.
You will be amazed at what the little adjustments help you achieve.
Embrace your limitations.
We often stress over all the things we have to do and think to ourselves. There is no chance we can get through all of this work. Well, that is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If you tell yourself you can’t get through it all, you won’t. Instead, you have to train your brain. Keep telling yourself that you have a certain amount of hours in the day, what are you going to achieve today?
I have just started to give myself three tasks a day that I have to complete (generally I do a lot more, but I have to get these three tasks done).
Only three things, it isn’t a lot, but I feel so much better now that I have that structure in place because I know I am getting stuff done every day.
Do it, even when you don’t want to. I know this one sucks!
There are so many things I don’t want to do, but I make myself because I am a grown-up, and that is what we have to do! It is true in the Assistant role, make sure you get all of those tasks done that you don’t want to do, speak to the people you don’t want to, go to the meetings and events you would prefer to miss.
Self-discipline is all about getting stuff done even when you don’t want to. The same is true of the productive Assistant mindset.
Keep a focused to-do list and log your time. Having clear expectations will help you here.
If you know what is expected of you, have clear objectives and goals, you will be able to move from one task to the next without doubting yourself or what you are doing.
At the start of every day, review your to-do list, so you have a plan in place and know what you want to achieve.
It helps if you make your plans while considering the day ahead. So for example, on your to-do list, every day will the ‘check emails’. Make sure you give yourself a time limit, say 20 minutes and stick to that time.
This makes it easier to be disciplined when you set yourself a deadline.
As the saying goes, you can’t be all things to all people.
As a people pleaser, this is something that I have had to come to terms within my career.
While working as an Assistant, I wanted to help people as much as possible and got pulled in all directions. It soon became apparent that I really couldn’t do everything if I wanted to leave the office at a decent time or concentrate on a big project without getting interrupted.
I would imagine that a lot of you are nodding while reading this. Assistants do tend to want to please everyone and will forego their boundaries to help out their Executive’s and colleagues (and sometimes boundaries are stretched by overbearing Executive’s and colleagues).
If the idea of setting boundaries scares you, let us have a look at how you can start the process and then I will show you what can happen if you put boundaries in place. This is the foundation of the productive Assistant mindset.
Where to start when setting boundaries
Can you say no?
I’m going to throw this one out there straight away.
You might not be able to say no to your Executive, but can you say no to colleagues that might be able to do the work themselves? This is worth thinking about if you are working incredibly long hours and find it challenging to achieve a work-life balance.
What are your priorities? If you are not spending much time with friends and family because you are doing work that other people should be doing, then you probably do need to say no more often.
Work smarter not harder
This is a phrase that always comes up when you talk about work-life balance.
All of the self-help books in this area offer tips around smarter working. Some are more useful than others. In the case of our profession, it is a good idea to have procedures in place that make it easier to get things done.
My favourite tip is putting an administrative manual together to give to colleagues so that they can do a lot of admin work on there own (for example getting their stationery, printing their documents, getting their coffee, finding the toilet on their own…)
Leave your work in the office
So you might have to work long hours but when you eventually leave the office do try hard to make sure that your work is left at the office.
In other words, do not bring your work home with you – either physically or in your mind. This is much easier said than done, but if you can master this one, it makes for a much better work-life balance.
Drop your standards?
As we have already discussed, nearly every Assistant I have ever met is a perfectionist and those that do not have seriously high standards. This is such a barrier to the productive Assistant mindset.
When you are working ridiculously long hours it is worth asking the question – does this need to be perfect or can it be good enough so that I can get home at a reasonable hour tonight? Only you can answer that question, and it does depend on the work and who you are doing it for. Maybe a more important question to ask yourself and the person you are doing the work for is – ‘is this urgent?’ Can it wait until the following day so that you can get home and sleep?
I want to look at what happens when you set boundaries.
What are the consequences and what can you hope to achieve when you stick with your limits and say no more often.
Every Assistant I have talked to on this subject says the same thing.
When you set boundaries, and you have clear communication on your expectations, you become a better Assistant. This is because everyone knows where they stand. The boundaries could be around the type of work that you do or the hours that you work. Whatever they happen to be, once you have set the boundaries, you can then start to communicate your expectations. If you are strong and you stick to your boundaries, people will understand what they can and can’t ask you what to do. This makes expectation setting much more straightforward and communication much clearer.
Unless you set your boundaries, other people will set them for you.
Once you have your boundaries in place, you can start to prioritise your workload and your personal life. If you have your well-being in mind and prioritise that over everything, again, you will be a better Assistant for it. It isn’t a wrong career choice to prioritise your well-being, even if you work in a very fast-paced environment.
Make sure you check in with yourself regularly and note if anything is slipping that is important to you and then give yourself a nudge back in the right direction.
Communication is the fundamental skill that makes Assistants great and setting boundaries helps you communicate clearly and concisely.
The reason is that you have defined your limits and expectations, and you can communicate what you want and how you expect to be treated. Ultimately you will appear more transparent and gain more respect because you are projecting how you want people to talk to you and work with you. It is compelling stuff.
So you’ve set some boundaries.
What happens now?
You’ve got to own them! You have to live your life by them. The more you believe in your boundaries, the more people will respect and trust you (and if they don’t, it makes you see what kind of individuals you want to work with).
Saying no more often leads to so much more.
Think about it if you say no to all of those requests that people should be doing themselves. What can you do with that time? Make your Executive more successful, take on a new project, go home on time, get to the gym, chill out in front of Netflix. Whatever it happens to be. You deserve to live your life, making choices for yourself and your career, rather than have them made for you.
What struck me as really interesting was the extent that so many challenges could be resolved with setting boundaries and respecting yourself.
Take, for example, the fact we are now connected with our Executive’s 24/7 through technology. How do we make sure that we are not working crazy hours or are expected to answer every email, every phone call? We set boundaries. That is easier said than done, though, right?
We all get told that setting boundaries between your personal and professional life are essential, that we need a balance and shouldn’t be taken advantage of when our wages certainly don’t reflect the hours we work. And of course, those boundaries can easily slip when your Executive travels extensively, or works long hours and needs your support. It is beyond tough.
I’ve found over the years, and particularly since I’ve become self-employed that getting the balance between work and life is never quite going to work out, instead I’ve decided that a mixture of the two over the day is a good thing.
So work long hours, sure, but during those hours take some time out, have a long lunch break, meet up with friends for a coffee say at 3 pm, do the school run, get your kids to bed and then open up the laptop once you’ve caught up on your favourite TV over dinner.
A blend, I’ve found is much better than a balance. But saying that, sometimes, so that you don’t get taken advantage of, you have to start with the boundaries so here are a few ideas to get your work/life blend into some sort of shape!
How to set boundaries between your personal and professional life
My first point is this.
You can’t be all things to all people. You can’t be a super amazing Assistant, who lives and breathes your job and offers 100% support as and when it is required without it affecting your personal life – be that your family at home, or seeing your friends. Something has to give, and decisions have to be made around what you want your life to look like. But know this, life is pretty challenging to juggle, and you won’t always have the right balance, and that is okay. We are not after 100% perfection here!
I’ve done it myself, tried to be an amazing career woman while raising a young family, still having a social life, keeping in touch with friends and seeing the inside of a gym on occasion.
The routine didn’t last long, and I was failing at all of it. So I had to set boundaries. It was the only way at that time to get any sanity and not always feel guilty that I was letting everyone down. It started by not being so hard on myself and then allocating time to each part of my life. Now, sure sometimes I will check my emails while my kids are having dinner, but that is part of the blend because I know that I spent two solid hours with him at some point during the day that was just our time with no distractions.
What are your priorities?
This has to be personal to you. Your priorities will change over time, and you should adapt your boundaries accordingly. It is okay if you have been a 24/7 Assistant that wants to be at home more because you have other responsibilities. That’s okay. Make sure you check in with yourself regularly and note if anything is slipping that is important to you and then give yourself a nudge back in the right direction and build the productive Assistant mindset.
Work week by week and make adjustments
I’ve found over the years that the best balance comes when I plan my week and know what I have coming up and where my time and focus will be needed.
Visualise how you want your week to look and write that down! Schedule your day, if you’re going to finish at 6 put that in the diary. Have to pick up your kid from school? Make that spin class? Put it in your diary and share your schedule with those that need to know where you are and what you need to do. Let people see what you have to do. Then they will know you have a life outside of work and a busy schedule at work.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Communication is key
You need to communicate your boundaries with your boss, your friends, your family. Tell colleagues you are leaving at 6 pm for whatever you need to do so that you don’t get that death stare when you up and leave before they do! Let your Executive know you aren’t going to be online this evening, but you’ll check in early tomorrow. Communicate your boundaries and then try hard to stick to them. Communication is so essential for the productive Assistant mindset.
Yes, there are times that emergencies will occur and you will need to be flexible and adapt, but this should be the exception, not the norm.
When I talk to people about some of the traits that are typical in an Assistant there are two that come up quite often. They are people pleasers and pretty agreeable types. They are doers who take on lots of different projects and manage lots of different tasks.
They will usually say yes more often than they say no. Sound familiar? It is undoubtedly true that saying ‘yes’ can have a fantastic impact on our careers and can lead to incredible opportunities. However, the question in this section is, should you say no more often and will that improve the productive Assistant mindset?
This question is something that has come up quite a bit in our recent series of events. The idea of pushing back on work and saying no is a tricky subject for Assistants.
Our role is so much about helping and supporting our Executives, teams and organisation that it just doesn’t seem in our nature to say no.
But, at the same time, a lot of us are overworked, a lot of us try to do everything and find ourselves not being as productive as we could be and a lot of us are doing tasks that other people should be doing when we could be concentrating on more exciting and strategic projects.
So, saying no isn’t necessarily a bad thing and here is why.
Successful people say no
Think about it. How often do you hear your Executive say no? How often do you say no on their behalf? All the time, right? Successful people have no issue with saying no.
They most definitely say no more than yes, they don’t soften the blow and they don’t worry about offending or hurting anyone. Why is this? Because they know their objectives, they have a goal, and they have a clear strategic path that they are following towards success.
If somebody asks something of them that doesn’t fit within their strategic aims, they simply say no.
Who should you be saying no to?
Who should you say no to and how should you say it?
This is something that Assistants need to take a stand on. For me, I wouldn’t say no to my Executive. A considerable part of the role is supporting their needs, and anything that needs to be done should be done in support of their objectives.
It is up to you when you deal with their requests and how you priorities their needs, but I would say you have to do as much as you can to support them.
For me, saying no starts with colleagues and team members.
As an Executive Assistant, I got a lot of requests for my time, and that doesn’t help build the productive Assistant mindset.
I was asked to help with all sorts of things, and often I had to say no for two reasons. Firstly, because I didn’t have the capacity to do the work and secondly, I had set some boundaries around what my role meant to me. I was there to make my Executive productive first and foremost, so all of my work was geared towards their success and that of the organisation.
This meant that my role didn’t involve doing other people’s admin and taking on tasks that took time away from things I wanted to be involved in. Saying that I was a team player and if I wanted to help someone, I would. Or I would come back to them when I had time – if they asked nicely!
For me saying no is absolutely part of the role. Saying no to people who wanted my Executive’s time and saying no to people who wanted my time!
Understand why you are saying no
Your role is strategic.
You are there to help your Executive execute success.
So, you can not be doing work that does not reflect those goals. If, for example, someone asks you to help them with an administrative task, they should be doing themselves.
Yes, you could be helpful and do it for them, and if you have the time, go ahead and give them a hand. If, on the other hand, you are mega busy with a report that you need to get to your boss for their 3.30 pm meeting, you have to push back and say no.
Getting the balance right
I think it is worth noting that as an Assistant, you have to get the balance right. If you are an EA that says no to EVERYTHING.
Then, of course, you are going to develop a reputation that is frankly far from helpful. That is not what you want. As the saying goes, we are all in this together, and everyone in your organisation will need a hand now and again.
Remember saying yes (to the right stuff) can lead to some pretty remarkable experiences too. So, pick your yes’s and your no’s carefully. Saying no a little more often – if you say yes a lot – will be useful for you.
Think of all the extra time, think of all the tasks that have been on your to do list and think of how much extra support you can give your Executive?
You know that sinking feeling when you come back from a long break, and you have a vast number of emails to sort through, you have loads of paperwork to read, and everyone wants you to deal with their urgent issue first?
Yes, well, welcome to the life of an Assistant!
That sinking feeling is an everyday experience for us. We look at our packed to-do list, and we have to make a decision which tasks to tackle first when all of the work is a priority with imminent deadlines.
We also have our colleagues interrupting us with their urgent questions and multiple bosses wanting attention. Of course, we also want to please and be helpful; no wonder the role of an assistant can be quite overwhelming!
Due to the nature of our job, we have to remain flexible while handling multiple priorities, so how do we do this and where do we start?
Is it important?
Over the years, I have come to understand what people mean when they ask me to do something “urgent”. There seems to be a varying degree of how vital something is. Is it urgent, or have they left this to the last minute? Is it urgent, or are they just a bit overdramatic? Is it urgent because they want to be a priority?
Is it urgent but the work you do for them then sits on their desk or in their inbox for the next week? The answers to these questions are unfortunately determined after you have completed a few tasks for these individuals. However, once you master how “urgent” urgent is, according to these colleagues, it is easier to handle their expectations and priorities and schedule your work.
The secret is for Assistants to look like they are dealing with the work urgently, but you are dealing with the work like a typical day to day request.
The boss comes first
Many Assistants are now taking on work outside of the 1-2-1 support for an executive.
We all seem to have added lots of strings to our bows, but I think the priority still has to be the support we provide our bosses. This should be made very obvious when taking on extra work, and we should communicate this to our colleagues. We must also make our bosses aware of the extra work we take on. When it comes to juggling multiple priorities, we really shouldn’t be dropping any tasks for the boss.
They do write our performance reviews, after all! Make sure you have clear communication with your manager so that you both have the same expectations when it comes to additional projects.
Make yourself organised
As you all know I love, love, love a list, and I pretty much live by them so you will be correct to assume that I think the best way to handle multiple priorities is with lists.
Getting organised, working your way through tasks and being focussed will ensure you have a little wiggle room to say yes to your colleague’s urgent requests: this will make you appear flexible and helpful. If you are up to your neck in work that day, you can at least let your colleague know when you can take on their work and when you will deliver the results.
Flexibility has to be on your terms; otherwise, you will find yourself drowning.
Roll up your sleeves and get the job done
Sometimes you have to dig deep and get the job done, which means working longer hours to make sure you meet all of your deadlines. It also means not putting off the rubbish tasks until the last minute. It is a good idea to get the rubbish jobs done as quickly as possible so that you can take your time with the fun stuff. I always like to help the colleagues that don’t often ask me for things or delegate much work.
I think all Assistants should have a little time put aside to provide support for those under real pressure.
You can’t do everything
Assistants can’t be flexible if they take on every piece of work that is left on their desk. Colleagues will take advantage, and ultimately, you will be working all hours without any help or support.
If you have colleagues that are lazy and do take advantage, you have to push back and say no. Your time should be used to support your Executive first and foremost, and then you can take on extra work and help others as and when you can.
It is so much fun being able to help with additional projects or work with different departments so do try to be open to various opportunities, remain flexible and helpful in your approach but also remember that flexibility has to be on your terms and in line with your workload and priorities.
A few years ago I was working as an EA in a large insurance firm. I’d been there a few years, I know the job inside out, I liked my colleagues and the work was okay.
I would go into work every day, do my thing and leave at 5.30 pm without a backwards glance.
Good times, right?
Well, actually no. Not for me.
If truth be told, I was really bored and completely unmotivated. It wasn’t like I was quite stuck in a rut, but I certainly wasn’t going to get a promotion anytime soon or be offered any exciting work because I was pretty much cruising.
What made it worse is that my boss at the time was very astute and knew that I could be doing more if I got my ass into gear.
It all came to a head during one of our quarterly reviews (thankfully not our annual review!)
She asked what was up and after a long talk we figured out that I was lacking motivation and the only way I was going to get more interesting and exciting work was if I sorted myself out. Pronto!
I didn’t want to leave the organisation (they had a free canteen – there was no way I was leaving!), so I had to work out how to get motivated again and regain some of the excitement I felt when I first started in the role.
It was pretty easy, and now when I’m feeling demotivated, I use the same techniques to build myself up again.
So here goes, here are some methods to kick start your motivation:
Motivation is such a personal thing. It is the thing that gets you up in the morning. It is your passions and your dreams. So, here are some of my quick tips on kick-starting your motivation when you just want to get back under the duvet.
- Make the tedious tasks more fun: As office professionals, we all have tedious tasks. So I always always make sure I listen to music. Fun music (think ‘What a Feeling’ from Flashdance or anything by Wham!) I did this when I was processing expenses, printing board papers or anything else that sucked, but needed to be done. This made the tasks much more fun and didn’t suck the life out of my very soul.
- Be Accountable: This was a big one for me and something that my boss said to me. I lacked motivation in a lot of ways because I didn’t see the benefit that I was adding to the organisation. I was doing my work but just felt like a cog in the machine. It was unbelievable the difference I felt when I started to be accountable for my work and my part of the little world in which I worked (as it turned out, it was a pretty big world). Be accountable for your work. Think about why you do what you do and get behind the ethos of the organisation.
- Take a break: Take a break and go and make your self a cup of tea, take a break and have a walk outside, take a break and go over to speak to your favourite colleague, take a break by booking some vacation time, either to be at home or go travel somewhere. Breaks are the most necessary thing because they help you to refocus and think.
- Change your routine: I generally love routines, but if your current one isn’t quite working then think about changing it up a little bit. Maybe you go to the gym after work, why not introduce a morning spin class instead? See what happens to your motivation during the day? If exercise isn’t your thing, how about making sure you take one lunchtime a week to go shopping or see a friend?
- To-do lists, people: I’m not going to repeat it! Okay, I am… Have a to-do list. Seeing everything that you have to do visually is a great way to stay motivated. Get competitive with yourself! How many tasks can you tick off in a day?
- Wear something new to work: Okay, I know this is a bit random, but I love clothes and I always really liked wearing something new into the office, and I just tended to feel better that day. If your motivation is taking a bit of a battering, sometimes just treating yourself to something nice helps kick start those feeling again.
- Read a book: I’m a big believer in self-help books. Okay, they often tell us stuff we already know, but the outstanding ones give advice that you can implement into your life and career. Whatever the reason is that you lack motivation, there will be a book that can help!
- Take on a new challenge: For me, the first thing I do when I’m feeling demotivated so look for a new challenge. I thrived when I had a goal and some deadlines in place. This is in all aspects of my life and why I always sign up to do races because I just won’t go out for a run otherwise. So in work, put your head above the parapet and take on some extra responsibility. Just don’t neglect all the other stuff you have to do! But a new project might do you some good.
- Network: Talking to other people about your experiences are a brilliant way to kick start your motivation and to share the pain points (and the excellent things) about being an Assistant. Find your tribe and do some networking. Or if that’s not your thing, talk to the other Assistants in your office. You will soon see that your experiences are similar.
- Get some outstanding objectives: Following the conversation with my boss, I had a really good think about what motivates me and what I wanted from a career. This took a while, but once I had some ideas, I made sure I set some excellent objectives to help me achieve them. Once my Executive saw what I had planned, she offered to pay for some training to help me get there. Hello, project management qualification!
- Think about all the things you have accomplished: My motivation can take a knock when I get stuck in the inertia of detail and all the tasks that seem to take forever. Sometimes I have to stop and think about how far I’ve come and what I’ve achieved, and then I get my mojo back and can get through stuff. Even if the wins are small, you should own them and use them to kick start your motivation.
- Do stuff that makes you happy: Lastly, do stuff that makes you happy and that you are passionate about. Try and find projects at work that make you excited. If you don’t have anything that puts fire in your belly, go and ask for something because you should be motivated at work and your organisation should want motivated staff!