Lead Yourself First. Get Uncomfortable. Be Indispensable.

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A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of being on Liz Van Vliet’s podcast, Being Indispensable. Liz is as passionate about the Executive Assistant career as I am and has created content through her website and podcast to help EAs not just survive, but thrive. Liz empowers EAs to first shift their mindset to become true partners with their Executive, and then teaches them how to take action.

When Liz first asked me to be on her podcast several months ago, I had a very quick, “Hell, yes!” moment, followed closely by panic, anxiety, and feelings of self-doubt. Why was she interested in me? What did I know? I’m not a public speaker. Who is going to listen? I’m going to sound like an idiot. I like being behind the scenes, not in front. Negative self talk spiral ensued… so, naturally I emailed back and said, “Yes, I would love to!”

Why? Because despite my fear of public speaking/sharing my story/blogging/recording a video/doing a webinar/etc. (basically anything in the put yourself out there and wait to be judged category) the opportunity for career growth (i.e. results) outweighed any fear. I believe in coaching and have a deep desire to help others develop their careers and achieve their goals. The only way to do that is by speaking up and speaking out (even if it’s into a microphone huddled in the corner of my bedroom). Coaching and leading others, starts with coaching and leading yourself. How can I possibly help others grow and succeed, if I am not challenging myself, getting outside of my comfort zone, and growing? So I asked for it. I put it out in the universe that I wanted to coach and teach and grow. And the universe answered in the form of Liz. Thank you Liz (and universe)!

being indispensableClick here to hear my inaugural podcast with Liz on Being Indispensable. 

Podcast done. What’s next?

Something even further outside of my comfort zone. Being in front of the camera. Recorded for posterity. But comfort zone be damned. I’m stepping out of that small, limited little circle and finding that magic!

On Thursday, November 2, I am launching my first webinar series, Lead & Assist. Lead and Assist is a six-week online training program designed to redefine the Executive Assistant role and help you take your career to the next level.

As you know, I believe that an Executive Assistant position is not just a stepping-stone to another position but a dynamic career all on its own. Executive Assistants are the ultimate force multipliers and project managers. Your project just happens to be your Executive.

For more information about my upcoming webinar series, feel free to email me at hallie@adamhergenrother.com. You can also listen to my Intro to Lead & Assist recording here to learn a bit more about what we will be covering during the class. I hope to see many of you on the call and I look forward to masterminding with EAs from around the world!

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Now, let me ask you this, when was the last time you stepped outside of your comfort zone? Share your stories in the comments! 

 

 

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Lead & Assist Survey Results: Long Hours, Longer Lists, and Loving What They Do

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Almost 100 people responded to my Lead & Assist Giveaway Survey and as I reviewed all of the data over the past week, a few things became very clear: Executive Assistants (and any of the other 28 titles they go by) work very long hours, struggle to find work/life balance, are constantly managing multiple competing priorities, and yet, still love what they do.

First, let’s look at the hard data. I asked this group of pro EAs the following questions:

  1. What is your title?
  2. What are the top three responsibilities in your role?
  3. What is your work schedule? Do you work 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday? Do you have a flexible schedule? Do you work weekends? Or something in between?
  4. What is the biggest challenge you are experiencing at home or at the office due to your role as an Executive Assistant?

Here’s what they said:

  1. What is your title? // The overwhelming title that EAs go by, is (surprise!), Executive Assistant. Just over half of the respondents went by Executive Assistant. The rest of the survey participants who identified as an Executive Assistant, went by the following titles:
  • Senior Executive Assistant
  • Office Manager
  • Executive Administrative Assistant
  • Chief of Staff
  • Operations Manager
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Executive Administrative Assistant
  • Senior Assistant
  • Executive Personal Assistant
  • Senior Administrative Assistant
  • Senior Executive Administrative Assistant
  • Personal Assistant
  • Executive Business Admin
  • Executive Administrative Specialist
  • Lead Executive Assistant
  • Administrative Coordinator
  • Office Manager & Executive Assistant
  • Administrative Business Partner
  • Team Administrator
  • Executive Assistant II
  • Executive Secretary
  • Lead Executive Administrator
  • Business Support Supervisor
  • Director of Operations
  • Chief Operating Officer
  • Closing Coordinator
  • Transaction Coordinator

My personal favorite was Director of Getting Shit Done. So, what’s in a name? Some say it’s simply semantics, others believe a proper title clarifies the role and dispels confusion, especially in a large organization, and still others want clear titles because many have worked very hard to get promotions and yes, the title that comes along with those increased responsibilities and seniority.

I used to fall into the semantics camp – does it really matter what your title is? In the grand scheme of things, no. If you are providing value at a high level and leading up, down, and sideways, then a title is irrelevant to the internal team. However, as I have grown in my career and worked very hard to get where I am, I understand this whole title thing a bit more.

Earlier this year, when I was speaking at the Behind Every Leader conference one Senior EA brought up this topic. She was proud of her accomplishments and had earned the right to the Senior Executive Assistant position; she was no longer an Executive Assistant and she was adamant that the roles and titles be clearly defined. I tend to agree. It doesn’t mean that the Senior EA is better than the EA, simply that their roles and responsibilities are different. They are both providing high value to their Execs (one may simply be supporting the Chairman and overseeing a team of other Admins, while the other is supporting two VPs). But I guarantee both have worked their asses off to get where they are. I believe in clearly defined roles, coupled with clear titles. I think it is particularly important because the EA role is still largely misunderstood and the more clarity we can provide to the public, the better, especially when interviewing for a new position.

2. What are the top three responsibilities in your role? // The three most prevalent job responsibilities for EAs are scheduling/calendar management, travel planning and management, and event/meeting planning, preparation, and execution.

In other words, managing the Execs life (personally and professional as there is usually a lot of overlap, especially as you start working with more senior level Execs or company owners). Being an incredible planner and project manager with the ability to anticipate needs, create contingency plans, and above all, be incredibly resourceful, while maintaining the utmost confidentiality are all critical to being a top EA. Sounds easy, right?

3.  What is your work schedule? Do you work 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday? Do you have a flexible schedule? Do you work weekends? Or something in between? // As for work schedules, the majority of respondents worked 8-9 hours a day (usually from 8am/9am to 5pm), but that was just in-office. Most Executive Assistants said they check emails and work from home at night and on the weekends, and several EAs are on-call 24/7.

4.  What is the biggest challenge you are experiencing at home or at the office due to your role as an Executive Assistant? // The overwhelming response was work/life balance and boundaries, followed closely by not having enough hours in the day to handle all of the shifting priorities.

Let’s dive into questions 3 and 4 here. Long, often undefined hours, coupled with multiple competing priorities is tough. I’ve been there and I get it. But here is my (probably) very unpopular opinion: That’s the job. That is what an EA does. And it’s not for everyone. But that’s why we need an Executive Assistant community – so we can talk through the challenges, vent on those tough days, and strategize about ways to control the chaos and increase efficiency and effectiveness. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think people should work all of the time. You need other hobbies, you need to spend time with friends and family, to take care of your mind, body, and spirit. It’s not easy for anyone to manage all of life’s obligations, and particularly difficult for EAs, but it is not impossible.

Ultimately, I think that EAs should make sure they are very clear about what they are getting into (with the caveat that no two EA roles are the same). Some positions may require being available at all times, some may ask that you simply stay connected via email, some require extensive travel, and others are simply 9 to 5, with no requirements outside of those hours. However, I would be skeptical about any position that is simply 9 to 5 (particularly at an Executive level). EAs make the life of an Exec flawless and what Exec do you know who only works between the hours of 9am and 5pm? Be aware of what the position entails before signing on.

Now, many of the survey participants also mentioned that they have flexible schedules. Again, they might be in the office from 9am to 5pm, but can run out to their kid’s soccer game, a dentist appointment, or meet a friend for lunch at their discretion. It works both ways. EAs may be up at 2am waiting for their Exec to land in Europe, but they may also leave early on a Friday for a pedicure.

So, why are so many EAs searching for that work/life balance if, in fact, most of the respondents said they love their careers in spite of the hours? I think it has a lot less to do with balance, and much more to do with not feeling in control of their schedules and their time. Very few positions are as demanding and dependent on the direction of someone else – someone else’s priorities, projects, needs, and deadlines. I believe that with the help of some clear expectations and extreme time management, inner balance can be restored, even if it still looks out of balance on the outside.

Reading all of the survey responses really bolstered my belief that being an Executive Assistant is an incredibly rewarding career choice. Despite some of the frustrations I read, I didn’t see anything that couldn’t be overcome with some personal development, fierce conversations, and time management. In fact, I think the frustrations only spoke to the passion and desire that all of these assistants have to be the best versions of themselves. They all wanted to learn, to improve, and take their careers and leadership to another level. No one was willing to settle for mediocrity, and that is both admirable and rare.

It is certainly an exiting time to be an Executive Assistant and I can’t wait to explore many of the above topics more in depth on my blog, during my Lead & Assist webinar series, and with my EA community.


 

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Lead and Assist Favorite Things Giveaway

April is all about Admins.

how to take betterfamily vacationpictures (1)I want to honor all of you who have chosen this career and who are committed to bringing clarity, levity, and leadership to this position. Our roles are each so unique, but one thing remains the same: We do whatever it takes to get the job done.

So, here’s my little gift to you. Over the next couple of weeks I will be sharing a few of my favorite things with you and on April 26th (Administrative Professionals Day!), one lucky EA will win all of my favorite things. To get a sneak peek of the goodies, connect with me on Instagram.

To enter, just fill out this survey and click submit. 

I look forward to hearing your answers and providing even more value to you in the future!



Behind Every Leader is Coming to the East Coast! 

Join me and Adam on April 21 in Washington D.C. as we share how we have created a strategic partnership while working together for the past 6+ years. Top Executive Assistants and their Execs will be there to learn and share how the power of the partnership helps everyone succeed.

Behind Every Leader has become globally recognized as the premier event for senior Executive Assistants and Celebrity Assistants around the world.

The conference has been referenced as the Epicenter for the top 1% in the industry. In addition to congregating with like minded peers and career driven individuals, attendees gain exclusive access to a cutting edge curriculum presented by prolific speakers.

Prepare to immerse yourselves in career enhancing seminars, interactive workshops, compelling panel discussions and expect to adopt a slew of best practices to integrate in your daily routine.

Be inspired to become outstanding when we hear from Executive Assistants to high profile business tycoons, celebrities and inspirational leaders live on the BEL stage!

Behind Every Leader has been referenced by the WSJ as ‘a gathering of powerhouses’. And rightly so.

Don’t miss your change to network with the best in the business!

Get registered today!

9 Things To Do on Sunday to Set Yourself Up for a Successful Week

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During the week, from the moment Executive Assistants wake up, until the moment their heads hit their pillows – they are on. I don’t mean they just show up to the office and sip coffee while scrolling through Facebook and occasionally answering the phone. I mean, they are responding to emails while they eat breakfast, scheduling social media posts as they slip on their stilettos, listening to leadership books while they grab a latte, and preparing for meetings between meetings. They don’t just show up, they step up, and step into any role that needs filled that day or any other day for their Executive.

It can easily get overwhelming if you don’t have measures in place to streamline your days and weeks. Like many Executive Assistants/Chiefs of Staff my weeks are packed. So I use the weekend to set myself up for a successful week ahead. Every Sunday I spend several hours planning and preparing for the upcoming week. I hope some of these ideas will help you enter the week feeling a little less stressed, more in control of your time and schedule, and even more badass than I know you already are. Here’s what works for me:

  1. Family Meeting – My family consists of myself, my husband, Bill, and our mutt, Karma. And we all show up at the dining room table at 11am on Sundays. Bill makes the coffee. I bring the calendar. Bill works at night and has an unpredictable schedule including several meetings and trainings throughout the week outside of his regular hours. And I often travel several times throughout the month. We both work a lot and could end up being two ships passing in the night if we didn’t make it a priority to get on the same page. Every Sunday we meet to go over our schedules in-depth to make sure we each have errands covered, know who is on doggy-duty, and in general just make sure we know where each other are during the week! We also plan at least one date night. At this meeting we also go over our financials. We have specific goals to pay off all of our debt by the end of the year, so we make sure we are on track and transfer funds into the appropriate savings accounts and discuss any big trips or expenses that are coming up (hello, taxes!). This has been such an important part of our marriage; I highly recommend you institute weekly family meetings.
  2. Schedule Workouts – As I mentioned in a previous post, fitness is a huge focus for me this year (and for the rest of my life!). I’m on day 18 of a 30 day workout program right now. Every week as I’m going over my schedule with Bill, I also make sure I am scheduling all of my workouts. Depending on my work schedule, after-hours events, and date nights, that sometimes means I have to work out the morning. Not my preferred time to work out, but I’ve got goals.
  3. Meal Plan and Prep – This is such a critical one for me. I am on a fitness and health journey to lose 50-60 lbs and change my lifestyle indefinitely, so making sure I have healthy meals and snacks prepared for the week is essential. I usually make quick snacks like hard boiled eggs and oatmeal energy bites, and portion out other snacks, such as trail mix, fruit, and veggies. I also prep and portion out all of my lunches (for example, quinoa, chicken and broccoli or pesto shrimp and sweet potato noodles). Dinners are usually the hardest for me. My husband works at night so I don’t have a whole lot of motivation to cook for just myself. So I make two meals on the weekend that can last the week or are really quick to make (like quiche and salad or turkey meatloaf and squash). Even if I don’t prep everything ahead, I have meals and snacks planned for each day so I never have to think about what I’m eating or when.
  4. Call Family – While you’re meal prepping and cooking, it is the perfect time to call  your parents, siblings, in-laws, best friends, etc. and catch up. Everyone’s in a good mood on a Sunday morning after a fresh cup of coffee.
  5. Review Executive’s Schedule – Every Friday afternoon and Sunday I review Adam’s calendar for the week. If I haven’t already, I will confirm any meetings and make sure there aren’t any outstanding items I need to get ready for his meetings or training events for the week. If there are any meetings that are out of the ordinary or that might need additional explanation, I will email him so he has all the information he needs.
  6. Prepare & Anticipate Questions – Every Monday morning I meet with Adam for one hour. I prepare any questions or important items on Sunday night after reviewing Adam’s calendar in order to maximize our meeting. We may go over presentations for the week, travel schedule, or move through a list of items I need a decision on. In addition to preparing questions for him, I make sure to anticipate his questions in order to have that information ready (such as number of registrations for an event, specific amenities at a hotel, or cost of a new insurance premium) so we can both move forward with our priorities for the week.
  7. Plan Outfits –  I am a huge proponent of the office uniform and basically only wear skinny ankle pants, a blouse, and a blazer in either black, white, or beige. Why over complicate it? I do like to fancy it up with some gold or turquoise jewelry and leopard print heels every now and then. I also look at my calendar and plan accordingly. If I have a presentation or important interview, I may go more business formal, then if I have a solo day in the office following-up on emails or writing content. Regardless, it’s still black, white, or beige. I may throw in some navy blue or gray just to switch it up a little. Perhaps you have a little more fun with your fashion than I do, which means it’s even more important to plan your outfits – including jewelry and shoes. One less thing to worry about during your whirlwind week.
  8. Plan and Schedule Social Media Posts – If you manage social media for your Exec or have an avid following of your own, then plan your content and schedule your posts ahead of time. I’ve used Hootsuite and Buffer to schedule posts such as inspirational quotes, thought provoking questions, articles or blogs of interest, career opportunities, upcoming training events, and personal photos or anecdotes. It’s not always perfect, and there are things that often come up in real time that are more relevant. But, this way, you always have content planned and ready to go to continue to build the brand, provide value, and increase engagement whether that is for yourself or your Executive. Real time events that come up (like the massive blizzard we had in Vermont this week) are just bonuses.
  9. Complete Weekly Goal Setting Sheet – Every Sunday, I outline all of my priorities and must-do projects for the week (both personally and professionally) and then make sure I have time-blocked those items into my calendar. I use a document call a 411 from the book The One Thing (which is a MUST read for increased productivity and better time management). Click here for a copy of the 411.

Most importantly, don’t forget to relax and refresh! Grab brunch with you best friend, read a good book, binge watch your favorite show, go for a hike with your partner, take your kids to the movies, get a massage, sleep in! Whatever your go-to is to decompress and rejuvenate… do that.

How to do you relax and recharge? What do you do to prepare for the week ahead?

Top 3 Lessons I Learned in Las Vegas

Two weeks ago I was in Vegas for work with over 17,000 Realtors, executives, and administrative staff from around the world for a few days of intense training and networking for Keller Williams Realty’s annual conference, Family Reunion. We were only there for three full days, but it felt like three weeks! Each day was packed with masterminds, vision speeches, classes, and high level conversations. Mind expansion at its finest!

phone-and-coffeeThis is the fourth Family Reunion I’ve attended in the six years that I’ve worked with Adam, but this year was a little different. At previous conferences, I would obsessively study the agenda, pour over the class selections, and hurry from one breakout session to the next. But this year, I wasn’t there for the classes (which are all incredible!). I was there to make sure Adam had everything he needed for the two classes he taught (one of which was with the Founder and Chairman of the Board, Gary Keller!), to ensure that people who had questions for Adam were taken care of and followed up with, to handle social media in real time, and to network, network, network. My goal was to support Adam, to connect with leaders from around the country, and to scout for talent. And that is exactly where I thrive.

Now, while, I didn’t attend any formal classes, I still had some really big ahas while in Vegas. In fact, getting outside of my daily routine and having the time and space to think, and not just do, was critical. A different environment, a different routine, forces a different perspective and is invaluable in being able to think strategically and creatively. It also didn’t hurt that I got to spend three days with some of the best business minds in the country.

Here are the top lessons I learned while in Las Vegas:

  1. Choose your struggle.  On the plane, I read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and one of the themes throughout the book was about deciding what you were willing to struggle with. What really drove this home for me was when Gary Keller said you are only five years away from wherever you want to be. Only five years. But those five years are not going to be easy. Success is not easy! It requires a lot of sacrifice and struggle. You just have to get on board with what you are okay not being good at for a little while. As a perfectionist, this is definitely not easy for me. But it did get me thinking…  I like to be comfortable, and I like to be uncomfortable. But I only like to be uncomfortable in the areas that I’m comfortable being pushed in. There are a few areas in my life where I consistently grow – anything related to work and my career. That was pretty clear to me. And the areas where I haven’t grown over the past few years? You guessed it, the areas where I wasn’t okay with being sub par, where I wasn’t okay being a beginner, where I wasn’t okay not being “the best”. The next question I asked myself was, “Well, are you willing to be bad at it for a while until you get good?” For some aspects of my life, the answer is no. I am not a very domestic individual and that is not an area I intend to struggle in – I’ll hire someone! I’m also not particularly tech savvy and while I wish I could navigate an Macbook Air like a boss, that is not a struggle I choose. What I do choose to struggle with is my health and fitness. I choose to struggle through workouts, struggle through repairing my nutrition, struggle through saying no to that second glass of wine. In five years, what was once a struggle, will just be my life. And then it will be time to choose a new struggle. That is the only way we grow.
  2. Talent is everything.  If we don’t have the right people on the right seat on the bus, we are never going to get where we want to go. You only know how great the individuals are in your organization based on the top talent you currently have. One of the benefits of attending national conferences is that you get to be around the best leaders in the industry. I very clearly saw the people I wanted to be in business with.   Empire builders are incredibly rare, yet we need to bring them into our world. I realized that in addition to making Adam’s life easier and him, as a leader, more effective, my 20% now needs to include better relationship management, more recruiting, and ultimately talent acquisition.
  3. Step up and own the role you want.  Being surrounded by top talent for three days really got me reflecting on whether or not was top talent. I concluded that I could be better. I love my career as Chief of Staff and have largely created the position that I currently have. But I want more. Therefore, I need to step up and own the role I want. While, I don’t actually want to change careers, I want to be a better version of myself, a better version of Adam’s Chief of Staff, and a better leader. This means elevating myself in all areas of my life. How? By taking ownership of my health and fitness, by dressing the part, by working on coaching and leading others, by joining a Board of Directors, by being vulnerable, and by not wavering from the standards I have for my life and career.

You control the course of your life with every choice you make. I choose to struggle. I choose to focus on my 20%. I choose to step up and own the role I want in business and in life. After all, we are only five years away from who we want to become and from where we want to be. But if I am purposeful, focused, and maximize my time, I think I can get there faster.

 

3 Things to Start Doing in 2017 and One Thing to Stop

blank-notebookOne of my very favorite things is a blank notebook. (Another favorite thing is the Pilot Precise V5 Rolling Ball Extra Fine black pen. Executive Assistants and their office supplies, am I right?) Back to the notebook… Empty pages to fill with ideas and plans for the future. And lists. Lots of lists. When the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, it’s as if the collective world population opens a fresh notebook. White blank pages. A fresh start. A new beginning.

What will you write in the pages? If the idea of a blank notebook is daunting, then here are 3 ideas to get you started for the new year:

1.  Put your health first. For the past six years I’ve been completely focused on building my career (in between buying a house, getting married, acquiring a dog) and during that time I’ve gained over 50 pounds and lost a lot of confidence. I am a project manager by nature. Put a task or mission in front of me and I will get. shit. done. The project I have failed to work on for the past several years is me. But doing so will have the most impact on the rest of my life.

Executive Assistants are some of the hardest working and most selfless individuals I know – which means they often put themselves on the bottom of their to-do lists. Family, friends, their Executive, and the company all come first. I want you all to turn that to-do list upside down. YOU must come first. Your health is everything. You can not achieve what you want or give to those around you at the level you want to if your health is not in check. I’m talking directly to myself here too! Your energy, mental clarity, and mood are all effected when you are not fueling your body with proper nutrition and exercising regularly.

If I accomplish nothing else this year, but this one thing, I will have succeeded. If you are struggling to get into a fitness routine or looking for some accountability, let’s connect and support each other.  I have started a private Facebook group where we can work together to put ourselves first, while still crushing the rest of our goals at work and at home.

2.  Create more than you consume. How many times have you gotten lost in the black hole of Instagram? We have become a society that just consumes, whether that’s binge-watching The Walking Dead, stock-piling toiletries from Costco, ordering take-out, or skipping from Instagram to Facebook to LinkedIn to Snapchat to Twitter and back again looking for another hit. I am just as guilty as the next person, perhaps more so.

But I challenge you to create! Journal, paint, build a bookshelf, plan a charity walk, start writing your novel, get certified to teach yoga, host a dinner part and cook!, make your own holiday cards, plant a garden, hell, build a chicken coop and get some chickens! Just create. We all have such unique gifts to offer. That doesn’t mean I don’t want you to share them on Instagram, but perhaps during your scheduled social media time (remember, time blocking is key!).

3.  Leverage all non-essential tasks. There are only 24 hours in the day. Focus on what only you can do better than anyone else and what you actually enjoy doing, and leverage the rest. At the end of the year, I started my NOT to do list. Those items can either become another individual’s job description OR perhaps areas where you can simply outsource or ask for help. For example, at the office I was able to leverage all social media and marketing by making a key hire. This applies to your personal life as well. Perhaps you hire a housekeeper, or the neighborhood kid to mow your lawn, or a college student to do personal errands for you once a week. I would much rather spend time with my husband, working on a project, or traveling to visit my niece and nephew, then cleaning the house or running errands. Life is too short to do the dishes. I mean, someone has to do them, it just doesn’t have to be me. This year, it is particularly crucial for me to leverage as many tasks as possible so that I can accomplish #1 – putting my health first. Every time you begin a task, stop and ask yourself if someone else could do it, then go find that person! I might mean asking your mother for help, but sometimes we’ve just got to do what we’ve go to do.

And here’s one thing to stop doing in 2017 – in fact, stop right now!

comparisonStop comparing yourself to others. There is a great quote that goes something like, “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” We are all flawed. Embracing those flaws is the first step in living a fulfilling life. We are all on our own journeys and you don’t know where someone else is on theirs. Everybody is better than you at something. The trick is to accept yourself and accept where you are on YOUR journey. It’s very easy to get stuck in our heads and think we’ll never be as good as whoever we’re comparing ourselves to. But there is no benefit in the comparison. In fact, it can actually paralyze you and derail you from your own goals. You stop yourself before you even get started because you don’t think you can ever be as fit as Jennifer Lopez (#bodygoals), as fearless as Indra Nooyi (#leadershipgoals), or as fun as Marie Forleo (#lifegoals). But we all must start somewhere. And if we don’t start, we’ll never be able to share our story and and inspire someone else along the way. Don’t get stuck in the comparison trap and just get started.

So what have you decided to tackle in 2017?  Are your goals big enough? If your goals don’t scare you, then you are not pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and you’re not growing! None of my goals scared me, so I had to challenge myself to go back to the drawing board and think bigger. I’m still working through my my Future Self (a 3 year goal/visualization document) and making sure my goals scare the shit out of me. I hope you do the same.

Here’s to your best year yet! Cheers!

 

 

 

Treat Every Week Like You’re Going on Vacation

 

I don’t know about you, but I kicked ass even more than usual leading up to the long Christmas weekend. Why is it that most of us are so much more productive and efficient leading up to a holiday or vacation? And how can we harness that productivity power throughout the rest of the year? Simple. Take control of your time. That’s why we’re so purposeful before vacations. We prioritize like a boss. We only do what is most important and we schedule our day down to the minute. I bet in the last day before a recent vacation you worked out, meditated, worked on your novel, put in a 9 hour day at the office (3 interviews, finished 2 projects, took the team out to lunch), went shopping for 3 new outfits, met your partner and some friends for dinner, spent another hour checking in with your Exec and answering emails, and read 2 chapters of The Surrender Experiment. Why isn’t every day this purposeful and productive?!

I thought about this concept a lot over the weekend and realized that the most successful people follow a schedule. Everything is time-blocked – from workouts to meetings to date nights to interviews to planning time. If it is not in your calendar and on your schedule it doesn’t exist.

This idea of extreme time management is even more critical and a hell of a lot more complex for Executive Assistants. We not only have to manage and maximize our Execs time, we must still make enough time in the day to work on other key projects to help move the company forward. I live in Adam’s calendar – it dictates the flow of his day, and therefore mine. But in addition to prepping for and attending many of the meetings Adam is at, I also have several meetings of my own that need to happen, as well as projects that need my time and attention. I know we can all create a damn good schedule. The issue often lies in execution. How do you manage your time when your time is not your own?

Let’s take a look at your calendar. Right now, take a minute, open it up and see what you’ve got planned for the week. I bet your Executive’s calendar is flawlessly organized – every hour of his/her personal and professional time accounted for. Can you say the same about your schedule? Are you making time for what’s most important?

Every minute of my day is not scheduled like Adam’s is (you can see his daily schedule here), but I have all company meetings and reoccurring tasks in my calendar, as well as designated time to answer emails. I have also set aside large blocks of time for writing (blog posts, media pitches, etc.), prep time, and projects, and the open blocks in my calendar are where I know I can schedule interviews, do follow-up work from meetings, and be ready for any changes in the week that need to be handled. I also have personal appointments blocked off in my calendar.

hallies_schedule

Your time is valuable. If you are just moving from one request to the next or just getting lost in your emails all day, you are likely not making any meaningful progress on special projects or spending any time thinking or planning for growth – key components of being a strategic partner. To move from reactive to proactive, you must manage your time.

The first step is committing to time blocking. Put all events, meetings, projects, and priorities in your calendar and stick to it. I know, I know. It’s not always possible. One of the main reasons I love being an Executive Assistant/Chief of Staff is because each day is different. Sure, there are flows to my week – standing meetings, weekly deliverables, but what was important at 8am on Monday, may not be by noon. Flexibility is critical for an Executive Assistant to survive and thrive. If you do have to miss a meeting with yourself (say, working on a new HR manual), then make sure you replace that block of time in your calendar later in the week.

The external demands and frequent fires are never going to stop. I get requests and questions all day – either via email or by people stopping by the office or stopping me in the hall. There is far too much to remember. If it is a question I can handle in 60 seconds or less, I answer right away. If it is going to require research, sending documents, or bringing other people into the discussion, I request that person send me an email with what they need and I will take care of it by the end of the day/within 24 hours/by the end of the week (time frame dependent on request). And, you guessed it, I answer during my email time block. The more you work on streamlining your time and controlling what you can, the less time you’ll spend worrying about a deadline when a VP stops you in the hall and wants to talk about the status of another project. You will know what you can move and how to reorganize your schedule quickly to continue moving forward that week.

Another critical aspect of time management is saying no. I was very much guilty of saying yes and handling any request that came my way for many years; but I have learned that this is actually a disservice to myself, to Adam, and to the growth of the company. There is probably someone else on your team or on staff that can handle the request or project better than you can (I know, it’s hard to believe, right!?). Your job is simply to communicate the request to the appropriate person and follow-up (or better yet ask that they follow-up with you) so you know it was handled. Done. Move on to the priorities and projects that only YOU can handle.

calendarAnd finally, lead by example. Respect your time. If someone is stopping by your office asking lengthy questions or wants to discuss something specific, but you are currently in the middle of your time block for weekly prep, ask them if you can schedule a 30 minute meeting later in the week so you can give the conversation your full attention. The more you value and respect your time, the more others will too.

We all have 24 hours in a day (and we don’t want to spend it all at the office, no matter how much we love our job). Why can some people accomplish more in one day than most accomplish in a week? Because they are committed to living a structured life and managing their time. And the paradox is, that by doing so, you ultimately have more time and freedom.