How to keep up in a fast-paced working environment

In a recent survey we conducted with the Practically Perfect PA readers, we found that many Assistants struggle with the massive amount of work they must complete daily. The fast-paced environment, the never-ending deadlines and the demands on their time have become the norm. This article will cover how Assistants can keep up in a fast-paced working environment.

Assistants often work at an extremely high capacity and get through much work. They are a tremendous asset to their organisations; however, the speed at 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 can Assistants keep up in a fast-paced working environment?

Working in a fast-paced environment is challenging but becoming much more expected today. There will always be competing deadlines and other people’s urgent needs, which Assistants must manage daily.

Building resilience for this environment is essential. Assistants must look after their minds and bodies to 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 Executives meet their urgent deadlines in a fast-paced working environment that can change from one hour to the next. So as 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.

Constant and consistent communication

Assistants must always ensure they are on the same page as their Executive. This is only possible if you can constantly and consistently communicate with your Executive and 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 you have daily huddles with your Executive or 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 must ensure you communicate regularly and effectively. This will ensure you thrive in a fast-paced working environment.

Focus on your priorities

It is standard for Assistants to work with multiple Executives or in large teams, which means their work is generated across various departments and sources. Tasks come from many different business areas with their urgency and deadlines.

This means Assistants must focus on the business rather than individual priorities. They have to get to grips with the organisation’s strategy to understand what should be completed first, what is essential, and what tasks are pushing the business forward.

Time management is challenging when working in a fast-paced organisation, so prioritising becomes more critical.

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 a deadline for the organisation (or a client). Once you know this, you can decide where that fits in 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.

Automate your work and use technology

Assistants should make use of technology to support their work. This is especially true of Assistants working in a fast-paced environment.

There are many 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, and 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 helpful too!

Lastly, once you use technology to support your role, think of the work 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 frequently do and create a process that simplifies the work. We have a lot of great resources that can help with that.

Replies for frequent requests

Replies for Frequent Requests

This template gives Assistants quick replies to standard requests

50 Chrome Extensions for Assistants

50 Google Chrome Extensions

The guide lists 50 great Chrome Extensions for Productivity and time management.

Done is better than perfect

There are so many Assistants I have met over the years who consider perfectionism to be an essential 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 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 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 into the world. The endless tweaking of work will slow you down.

Done is better than perfect.

Understand your boundaries and respect them

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 exhilarating to work full throttle, but you must remember what you are sacrificing to ensure your deadlines are met.

If you neglect those crucial things in your life because you are continually working, take a break to reflect on what you need and your priorities.

Is the fast-paced environment suitable for you, and is it worth it? For some Assistants, working in a fast-paced, non-stop environment is fantastic. It is exhilarating. For others, it might not be a great fit. Make sure you take some time to assess your boundaries and your needs.

Work hard and then rest equally as hard

Last but not least, if you are an Assistant working in a fast-paced environment, you must take 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 critical to how Assistants can keep up in a fast-paced working environment.

Being an Assistant can be demanding, and the pressure of obtaining a high output level in such a short amount of time can be overwhelming. This article has just analysed some tips and tricks to overcome the challenges Assistants face in the fast-paced working environment to ensure success without sacrificing their well-being.

Considering all these factors, you should structure your day-to-day tasks in the most effective way possible. If you are able to identify how best to manage yourself, you will become an even better asset for your organisation. But remember, it is important to not focus on work 24/7; it’s vital that you take time for yourself amongst your responsibilities as an Assistant and practice self-care.

We hope that you 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 started by downloading our Frequent Replies template.

So, if you’re looking for further guidance on surviving and thriving as an Assistant in a fast-paced environment, consider signing up for the Effective Assistant Online Course – here, you’ll gain invaluable advice on building strong administrative skills coupled with strategies designed specifically for those who reside within constantly busy workplaces.