The Who, What, When, Where, How of Growth Plans

grow

I love this time of year, mostly because it’s the turning of the page, a fresh start. Blank calendars, blank notebooks – they scream of possibility and opportunity. This year, rather than simply outlining my goals for the year, I decided to be more purposeful and create a growth plan.

Now, goals are great. Without them you really have no direction or focus throughout the year. I’ve definitely got goals (in business and in my personal life), that’s the starting point. Goals are the target. Growth plans are how you become the person you need to be in order to hit them. Traveling to Paris is a goal. Building up the confidence (and letting go of your ego) in order to invite your mother (who you haven’t spoken to in over a year) on this trip of a lifetime (and perhaps going to some family therapy first), is the growth plan.

Business growth plans are a strategic planning activity that enable businesses leaders to plan and track growth while allocating limited resources towards specific business objectives. If you aren’t doing this in your business or for (or with) your Executive and leadership team, you should be. It’s a great exercise to purposefully plan to succeed now and in the future.

You’ve likely heard of growth plans in business. But what about personal growth plans? How many of us are doing this in our personal life? A personal growth plan is a strategic planning activity that enables you to plan and track your growth while allocating limited resources towards specific personal goals. What we focus on expands. Are you putting intention behind the activities you are filling your 2019 calendar with? Are you all over the place with goals and have pages of things you want to do someday? That’s not going to cut it. Time and attention are limited resources. In order to grow, you must purposefully choose conferences, books, coaches, and more, to get you where you want to go. That’s what a personal growth plan is all about.

The first step to creating a growth plan is determining your overall goals for the year. Here are a few of mine:

  • Write 1-2 books with Adam
  • Get my real estate license
  • Read 52 books
  • Pay off all non-mortgage debt, max out my Roth IRA, and start looking for our first investment property
  • Lose weight for good and maintain new lifestyle
  • Travel to North Carolina monthly
  • Attend Muster or Sheepdog Response

Once you have your big goals for the year outlined, get a bit more specific. The goals are the WHAT you’re going to accomplish. You need to drill down on the WHO. And the who is you. Who do you need to become and what areas do you need to improve on in your life to hit these goals? What do you want to learn? What skills do you need to hone? Do you want to work on your follow-though, your public speaking skills, your spirituality, or your 5K time? For me, I want to work on my financial knowledge, my leadership skills, my overall health and fitness, and overcoming my fear of judgement and overthinking in order to take more action!

After you are clear on what you want to work on, the next step is breaking that down into actionable and measurable steps. For example, I want to write and create more. That is incredibly abstract and easy to dismiss and push to next week or next year. So, what does writing and creating more actually mean? How do I want to realize that growth? Through my blog. Taking that once step further, I plan on writing one blog post a week in 2019, for a total of 52 blog posts. That is an aggressive goal for me, but that’s what growth is all about. Testing our limits and seeing what we are capable of. Publicly proclaiming your intention helps with accountability too.

Below is an example of my personal growth plan for 2019. I have divided my growth plan into two main categories: Learn and Act. I could get lost in learning, if I don’t purposely design ways to take action on what I learn. All of these items are designed to help me get out of my comfort zone, to do hard things, and to push me beyond what I thought I was capable of.

LEARN:

  • Quantum Leap (January 24)
  • Inman Connect in NYC (January 28 – February 1)
  • Keller Williams Family Reunion in New Orleans (February 15-19)
  • Behind Every Leader in Austin (May 3)
  • Career Visioning
  • 306090 & Success Through Others
  • Muster or Sheepdog Response
  • Chief of Staff Mastermind
  • Randy Mayhew School of Real Estate
  • Read 52 books (2019 reading list coming next week!)

ACT:

  • Launch http://www.TheSheepdogLife.com
  • 52 Lead & Assist blog posts
  • Host one webinar each quarter
  • Host Lead & Assist 4 week webinar series
  • Coach two clients
  • Lead and engage with Reading is Sexy monthly book club
  • Workout a minimum of 5 times a week

I’m still working on adding in some conferences as dates are announced, finalizing my 2019 reading list, and creating a content calendar for my blog.  But the framework is there. I not only have a goal of growing my leadership skills (through education and by coaching/training others), increasing my financial acumen (through books and courses), and become a more well-rounded individual through experiences (traveling and creating), but I have specific actions I am going to take to get there.

Once you have your growth plan outlined, it’s time to take that list and add all events, vacations, and deadlines to your calendar. When it’s scheduled, it’s real. Pro tip: If going on vacation(s) this year is important to you, then even if you don’t have the entire trip planned, at least block off the dates in your calendar. It will give you something to look forward to and it will help push you on your other goals to make it happen.

Let’s recap how to create a growth plan:

  1. Outline your 2019 goals (WHAT)
  2. Translate your goals into specific areas for improvement and growth (WHO)
  3. Create actionable and measurable steps for your growth (HOW)
  4. Schedule all events, deadlines, vacations, etc. in your calendar (WHEN & WHERE)
  5. Grow!

If you take the time to plan out your year in advance in detail, with deadlines, success is inevitable. Almost… There is one caveat to all of this. You have to do the work. When it’s 5am and your alarm goes off, you have to put on your lulus and hit the gym. You need to block off two hours each week to write your blog post. You need to put your phone away at X time each night to spend time with your kids. You need to save a percent of your income each week in a travel fund. It is the small daily habits and activities that will ultimately dictate your success.

Your growth plan is not a one and done activity. This is something I would recommend you revisit each week during your Sunday planning time. What do you need to adjust on your calendar in the week ahead in order to hit your growth goals? Do you need to double down on your workouts or writing time? Who or what do you need to say no to or eliminate from your day, week, or life? Harsh? Perhaps. But this is your life. The second you let someone else start dictating what is right, what is important, what you should or shouldn’t do, is the second you are no longer living your own life.

Creating a growth plan is all about you. Be selfish with your growth and with your time. Ultimately, by become the best version of yourself, you are able to give the best of yourself to others. Who can argue with that?

Share your 2019 growth plan in the comments!

Advertisements

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

rawpixel-com-340966

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.


 

intro webinar graphic

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

Asian woman drinking coffee with friend free image

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?

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.