1. Time management
Organise your time well and immediately you will be less stressed. Take some control over your workload by prioritising effectively. Offer times and dates rather than request them.
2. Take off email notification
If you have an email notifier this means you are allowing the computer/other people to control you. Take it off and check your emails when you are ready (again, taking control). Otherwise you are adding to the amount of interruptions you get – and aren’t these enough already?
3. Tidy work space
Keep your desk and workspace tidy; this avoids wasting time looking for papers, etc and facilitates a calmer environment.
4. “Blocking tasks”
As a PA I found I sometimes digressed from one task to another to another and so on, until I had forgotten what I was doing in the first place. Try and maintain focus by finishing one job before starting another. When you do have to change, which is a normal part of the role, don’t continue changing. Jot down things to do later, tell people you will call them back.
Deal with your emails in one go – and only do replies when you have prepared; make all your ‘phone calls at one time. Every time we are interrupted it can take up to 2 minutes to refocus – don’t interrupt yourself!
5. Understanding and prioritising
Ensure you fully understand what a task involves and how important it is. Ask questions if you’re unsure. Knowing the objective of a task means you can prioritise without having to ask. Know your business …..
6. Time allocation and energy levels
We often allocate too much time to routine tasks – filing, photocopying, etc. Start to allot time for preparation, development and reflection to improve your working practice and inject some calm. Do the more difficult tasks when your energy levels are higher.
7. Remember it’s your job
When my boss changed all his travel plans or cancelled a report I had spent a long time preparing, I used to get very wound up and stressed about the time wasted. I then realised that that was the nature of an MD’s role and therefore, as his assistant, part of mine.
Delegates often tell me how the clients wind them up, the managers’ attitudes drive them mad, etc; remember it’s your job and don’t worry. You’ve not wasted time, you’ve simply changed your priorities.
8. Build support relationships
It is vital for a PA to have good relationships with colleagues, managers and also people outside their organisations. Networking for PAs, with international groups such as EuMA or local ones such as the Manchester PA Network, can be a great support and often help you find solutions to challenges.
People who are passive or aggressive are always going to be more stressed than assertive people. Learn how to say no in a polite way, always consider other people’s feelings as well as you own.
Finally, get rid of those sticky post-its and get yourself one workbook in which you write everything. Nothing gets lost, it looks more professional and it means you don’t have to remember so much because it’s in your book!