Chapter Two

The Productive Assistant Mindset

This chapter looks at the characteristics and strengths Assistants need to maximise their productivity.

Assistants must be laser-focused to 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 Mindset, we cover all the characteristics and strengths Assistants need to create practical thinking.

Assistants face many challenges when it comes to productivity. Firstly, they work with an extremely busy Executive who demands much of their Assistant’s time. Still, they don’t necessarily have the time to dedicate to keeping their Assistants in the loop.

Assistants are often pulled in many different directions and interrupted by colleagues 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 often work for more than one Executive, which means they have multiple, conflicting priorities, which can feel overwhelming and make 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 quiet space to concentrate, which is often hard for Assistants to find.

It is a challenge to create the right productive mindset that allows Assistants to focus entirely 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 the following:

Moving past a perfectionist mindset to achieve increased productivity

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:

  1. 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.
  2. “Perfect” is a moving target. What is perfect for you may not be perfect for your Executive or colleagues.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 to define the line between being meticulous or detail-oriented and an obsessed perfectionist. With my website and blog,, 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 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 an absolute 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 using the words fault & defect invokes 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 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 outstanding! To do your work with excellence means to create a fabulous result without the pressure of creating something perfect.

I know 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.

Self-discipline for Assistants

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 procrastination and time-wasting. I also can spend too much time working when I should be with my family, exercising, reading a book or anything else that makes me happy and relaxed.

It is a balancing act; 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 many different directions, and you wonder how you will get out of the office door to see your friends and family.

It is relentless.

This is where self-discipline can help Assistants gain more control over their lives.

Here are my tried and tested methods that I have put into place to 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 must 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 plan the areas requiring 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 a few habits holding you back from having the day you want.

Start small!

Pick one thing that you feel keeps you back, stops you from 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 everything we must 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. Tell yourself that you have a certain number 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 those tasks done that you don’t want to do, speak to the people you don’t want to, and go to the meetings and events you would prefer to miss.

Self-discipline is 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 and have clear objectives and goals, you can move from one task to the next without doubting yourself or your actions.

At the start of every day, review your to-do list to 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, ‘check emails’ will be every day. 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.

Setting boundaries as a Personal and Executive Assistant

As the saying goes, you can’t be all things to everyone.

As a people pleaser, this is something that I have had to come to terms with in 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 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 tend to want to please everyone and forego their boundaries to help their Executive’s and colleagues (sometimes limitations are stretched by overbearing executives and colleagues).

If setting boundaries scares you, let us 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 who can do the work themselves? This is worth considering if you work 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 others should be doing, you probably 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 for smarter working. Some are more useful than others. In our profession, it is a good idea to have procedures that make it easier to get things done.

My favourite tip is putting an administrative manual together to give to colleagues to do a lot of admin work (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, try hard to ensure 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, 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 whether this needs 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, depending 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 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 you do or the hours you work. Whatever they are, you can start communicating your expectations once you have set the boundaries. If you are strong and 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 more transparent.

Unless you set your boundaries, other people will set them for you.

Once you have your boundaries, you can prioritise your workload and personal life. If you have your well-being in mind and prioritise that over everything, again, you will be a better assistant. Prioritising your well-being isn’t the wrong career choice, even if you work in a fast-paced environment.

Make sure you check in with yourself regularly, 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 will help you communicate clearly and concisely.

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 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, and 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 by setting boundaries and respecting yourself.

Take, for example, the fact we are now connected with our Executive 24/7 through technology. How do we make sure that we are not working crazy hours or are expected to answer every phone call? We set boundaries. That is easier said than done, though, right?

We all get told that setting boundaries between personal and professional life is essential. We need a balance and shouldn’t be taken advantage of when our wages certainly don’t reflect our work hours. And, of course, those boundaries can easily slip when your Executive travels extensively or works long hours and needs your support. It is beyond challenging.

Over the years, particularly since I’ve become self-employed, I’ve found that getting the balance between work and life is never quite going to work out. Instead, I’ve decided combining the two over the day is good.

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, you have to start with the boundaries so that you don’t get taken advantage of, so here are a few ideas to blend your work/life into some 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 required without 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, which is okay. We are not after 100% perfection here!

I’ve done it myself, tried to be a fantastic 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 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 allocating time to each part of my life. Sometimes, I check my emails while my kids are having dinner, but that is part of the blend because I know 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, that is 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 who need to know where you are and what to do. Let people see what you have to do. Then they will know you have a life outside work and a busy schedule at work.

Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Communication is key

You must communicate your boundaries with your boss, friends, and 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 go before they do! Let your Executive know you won’t 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 when emergencies will occur, and you must be flexible and adapt, but this should be the exception, not the norm.

Should you say no more often?

When I talk to people about some of the typical traits in an Assistant, two come up quite often. They are people pleasers and pretty agreeable types. They are doers who take on many different projects and manage many 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 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 has come up in our recent series of events. 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, many of us are overworked. Many of us try to do everything and find ourselves not being as productive as we could be. Many of us are doing tasks others should be doing when we could concentrate on more exciting and strategic projects.

So, saying no isn’t necessarily bad, 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 a clear strategic path they are following towards success.

They say no if somebody asks something that doesn’t fit within their strategic aims.

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 prioritise their needs, but 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 many requests for my time, which didn’t help build a productive Assistant mindset.

I was asked to help with various things, and often I had to say no for two reasons. Firstly, because I couldn’t 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 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. I was a team player, and if I wanted to help someone, I would. Or I would return to them when I had time – if they asked nicely!

For me, saying no is part of the role. I was 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 do work that does not reflect those goals. If, for example, someone asks you to help them with an administrative task, they should be doing it 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

It is worth noting that you have to get the balance right as an Assistant. If you are an EA that says no to EVERYTHING, then you will develop a reputation that is 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 also lead to some pretty remarkable experiences. So, pick your yes’s and your no’s carefully. If you say yes a lot, saying no a little more often will be helpful for you.

Think of all the extra time, the tasks on your to-do list, and how much additional support you can give your Executive.

How to remain flexible while handling multiple priorities

You know that sinking feeling when you come back from a long break, have many emails to sort through, 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 must decide which tasks to tackle first when all the work is a priority with imminent deadlines.

We also have our colleagues interrupting us with 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 pretty 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 understood 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? Unfortunately, the answers to these questions are determined after you have completed a few tasks for these individuals. However, once you master how “urgent” it 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 it like a typical day-to-day request.

Your Executive comes first

Many Assistants are now working outside of the 1-2-1 support for an executive.

We all seem to have added many strings to our bows, but I think the priority still must be the support we provide our bosses. This should be obvious when taking on extra work; we should communicate this to our colleagues. We must also make our bosses aware of our extra work. When juggling multiple priorities, we shouldn’t be dropping any tasks for the boss.

They do write our performance reviews, after all! Ensure you communicate clearly with your manager so that you have the exact expectations regarding additional projects.

Replies for frequent requests

Replies for Frequent Requests

This template gives Assistants quick replies to standard requests

Outlook Hacks for Assistants

Microsoft Outlook Hacks

Change the way you use Outlook with these hacks.

Make yourself organised

As you all know, I love, love, love a list, and I 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 through tasks and being focused 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 at work that day, you can at least tell your colleague when you can take on their work and when you will deliver the results.

Flexibility must be on your terms; otherwise, you will be 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 colleagues that don’t often ask me for things or delegate much work.

I think all Assistants should have a little time 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 left on their desk. Colleagues will take advantage, and ultimately, you will be working all hours without any help or support.

Not good.

If you have lazy colleagues 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 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.

Kick start your motivation

I worked as an EA in a large insurance firm a few years ago. I’d been there a few years, I knew the job inside out, I liked my colleagues, and the work was okay.

I would go to 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 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 cruising.

What made it worse was 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 lacked motivation and that the only way I would 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 going!), so I had to work out how to get motivated again and regain some of the excitement I felt when I first started the role.

It was pretty easy, and now when I’m demotivated, I use the same techniques to build myself up again.

So here goes, here are some methods to kickstart your motivation:

Motivation is such a personal thing. It is the thing that gets you up in the morning. It is your passion and your dreams. So, here are some of my quick tips on kickstarting your motivation when you 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 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 my boss said. I lacked motivation because I didn’t see the benefit I added to the organisation. I was doing my work but just felt like a cog in the machine. The difference I felt was unbelievable when I started to be accountable for my work and part of the little world in which I worked (as it turned out, it was a pretty big world). Be responsible for your work. Consider why you do what you do and get behind the organisation’s ethos.
  • Take a break: Take a break and go and make yourself 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 travel somewhere. Breaks are the most necessary because they help you refocus and think.
  • Change your routine: I generally love routines, but if your current one isn’t working, think about changing it slightly. 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 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 to the office, and I just tended to feel better that day. If your motivation is taking a bit of battering, sometimes just treating yourself to something nice helps kickstart 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 advise you to implement it into your life and career. Whatever the reason you lack motivation, there will be a book that can help!
  • Take on a new challenge: The first thing I do when feeling demotivated is looked 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 won’t go out for a run otherwise. So at 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 is a brilliant way to kickstart your motivation and share the pain points (and 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 considered what motivates me and what I want from a career. This took a while, but once I had some ideas, I set some excellent objectives to help me achieve them. Once my Executive saw what I had planned, she offered to pay for 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 kickstart your motivation.
  • Do stuff that makes you happy: Lastly, do stuff that makes you happy and passionate about. Try and find projects at work that make you excited. If you have nothing that puts fire in your belly, ask for something because you should be motivated at work, and your organisation should want motivated staff!

In conclusion, productivity is an essential element for a successful Assistant. It’s imperative for them to stay organised and laser-focused when completing tasks. Productivity needs to come from within, and by mastering the characteristics and strengths that help create practical thinking, they can maximise their potential. Thus, being able to help their Executive most efficiently.

Ultimately, equipping yourself with knowledge is the key to success. If you are interested in applying what we discussed in this guide, then make sure to enrol on our Effective Assistant Online Course today! By learning to stay productive, efficient and organised, you will become a high-performing Assistant that your Executive can rely on.


Next Chapter

Tools, tips, techniques and technology to effectively manage your time
Chapter Three