As an administrative professional for well over 30 years I can tell you that the number one, most challenging responsibility I have ever had was to manage time, both my executive’s and my own. I thought I was pretty good at it in my early 2o’s and didn’t really think much about it but then…
I became the executive assistant for one of the busiest, fastest paced executives in the world! Suddenly time was one of the most precious commodities I owned and managed!
From the beginning of that first day on the job, I realized that I was working for a literal tornado. A quote from one my favorite former executive assistant partners, “Try lassoing the wind friend – it ain’t happening!” and she was right. We were usually both wind-blown by the time the day was through.
I was beginning to come to the scary conclusion that I was never going to keep up or catch up but instead, throw-up. The travel itineraries that needed to be put together kept coming at me at an increasing rate, the emails were pouring in like a leaky pipe and scheduling the calendar had made me feel like an air traffic controller in the tower of Chicago O’Hare on a stormy day!
It was getting to me. Then came an epiphany – I realized that in this role as an executive assistant, I was never going to get it all done – ever! If you have ever felt this way then you need to take that first step and acknowledge this. If you see a light at the end of the tunnel it’s actually an oncoming train!
Once I faced that truth, it became about how to manage just my day. Then it became just my week and soon my month.
The Project 101 Method
I took a look at all my deliverables and turned them into projects every day including; creating travel itineraries, scheduling meetings, reading, reviewing and responding to emails. As you would with a project, I had to prioritize my time and actions effectively to allow me to complete the task by the required date.
I have continued using the Project 101 Method in my new business, especially for presentations, workshop creations and writing.
Hire Your Own Administrative Assistant – YOU!
I began to use my own Outlook calendar as my personal administrative assistant. I carved out time daily to work on my projects. I would estimate how much time I needed on a project and then start scheduling chunks of time across the day, week and sometimes, depending on the deadline, month. I then set reminders (especially on those certain projects from hell) to make sure I stayed on target and on track.
My personal calendar administrative assistant bugged the hell out of me on certain days, reminding me and then reminding me again. I now know how John must have felt on specific days when I would be hounding him.
Find a Closet to Hide In!
Seriously folks, if your world is as hectic as mine was then you know that we work in a world of distractions and interruptions. I use to tell people that some days I felt as though I was in a zoo. There were always groups of people or individual employees walking by John’s office, taking pictures and asking me questions. Candidly, when John wasn’t in town, I would let certain employees go in to his office and sit at his desk and snap a few smartphone pics – they loved that!
It became apparent that certain projects required quiet time or closet time where I would have to steal away to a quiet corner on another floor or into an obscure conference room to work.
Of course, there were times that this was just not possible so I created humorous signs such as:
“I’m drowning so unless you have a life preserver, please come back later.”
that would indicate that I was heads down if people wanted to stop by to chat.
What I did notice using these strategies was this: I was actually managing my time now versus having it manage me. I was proactive and actually gaining ground and handling what was coming at me.
“Administrative Excellence” meant effectively managing time both for my executive and more importantly for myself. I was increasing productivity, and moving from just being reactive to truly being proactive.
I was getting stuff done!
“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.”
─ Harvey Mackay