Tips for Managing a Crazy Work Day
Today I am joined by Layne Tinsley, the founder of Administrative Sparkle. Every single assistant and administrative professional has days that can be overwhelming, and Layne shares her strategies for handling these.
Her original article can be found here.
I find my job dictated by the urgencies of others. I do a lot that goes beyond assisting my executive, such as assisting other managers and staff. So what can I do when the work starts piling on and it all needs to be done right now? Here are some tips that I find helpful.
Start your day right
I’ll start with the obvious: eat breakfast. I start my day with an egg and toast. As I walk downtown on my way to work, I pick up my cup of coffee and exchange pleasantries with people who start my day off so nicely. Upon arriving at the building I work at, I always smile and say good morning to the security staff. As I begin my stroll through the halls to my little cubicle, I smile and give a quick hello to the people I cross paths with along the way. It takes me 15 minutes to get from my home, to my local coffee shop and finally to my desk each morning. All of that includes my ready smile and upbeat yet brief interactions along the way, which starts my morning off with a positive momentum.
Once I take my seat, I’m like a pilot doing his/her preflight check: I boot up my computer, get documents together for my first priorities of the day, check my voicemail, print out my executive’s calendar and get a peek at how many emails have surfaced since the previous day. I do this all while sipping away at my morning coffee.
I’m not a big morning person; at least when it comes to functioning mentally. That is why setting up routines are my modus operandi. My morning cup of coffee is a big part of that; the taste and smell perk me right up. Also, setting up my office makes me feel organized and on top of what is to come.
Don’t expect anybody else to know what you have going on every day. If you have a full plate and someone makes a request for your time, let them know what your priorities are. Your response doesn’t have to go into great detail; essentially make it your goal to inform them when you can provide assistance. In addition, be sure to find out all details about the task. These details will help you to provide a more accurate timeframe of when you can complete the task by.
Focus on one thing at a time. As much as an assistant multitasks, it is still important to focus on the single task at hand. Every time you are interrupted, it takes several minutes to get back into the flow and get your concentration back on an assignment. It is unavoidable to have to answer phone calls, periodically check emails and manage the traffic that comes through your desk, but managing and diverting distractions are an acquired and necessary skill.
Smile and don’t take it personally
Sometimes we deal with people who are not very pleasant. Remind yourself that it isn’t about you, it is about them. Don’t let them suck you into their world and don’t let them project their issues onto you. Remain pleasant, objective and listen. You may not even need to say anything. It might simply be the case that you are on the same path of where it is they are trying to go. Also, be courteous. Your positive demeanor might be all they need to switch their own attitude.
It’s amazing how we can let other people or circumstances turn a day into a bad one. Don’t take it personally. For example, I see the positives when I have a day where every light seems to turn red just as I approach it. It’s at those times that I remind myself that I will get to wherever it is I need to be at the right time for me. Those lights are keeping me from something up ahead that could pose further delays or a possible accident. I keep the attitude that everything happens in its own perfect time and, if I try to press it before its natural course, I could very well suffer the consequences.
Not from your job, of course! Take a moment to step outside into the sunshine and fresh air. Perhaps find a secluded spot to meditate for five minutes or a take a brisk walk around the block to do a “brain dump.” This will help you to return to your desk refreshed and clear-headed.
I have read that if your job has you sitting at your desk all day, it’s important to get up and stretch every hour. This is an easy movement which makes you more rejuvenated when you are reseated.
You deserve it! I must admit, I am really bad at this. I tend to bring my lunch to my desk, thinking I will enjoy my lunch while doing some personal reading or going through other personal items that I brought with me. I rarely do. I end up eating and going through work emails or other job-related tasks. So, if you can, try to have lunch away from your desk. It’s your time to do whatever you want and not account to anybody for but yourself. You could even create a list of what you want to accomplish during your lunch hour, such as going to the gym, paying bills, going to a new restaurant with a friend; anything that puts the focus back on you.
End your day right
Take a few minutes to create the environment you want to walk into the next morning. I realize that after a long day all you want to do is shut down your computer and go home. It is worth a couple of minutes to put things where they belong so you don’t face an unorganized space first thing the next morning. It could even positively shape your entire outlook on the day when you first get into work.
Do something you love once you are out of the office. I call it “my time to decompress.” Sometimes it’s coming home and cooking something interesting. Other times it’s going to the gym where I can vent frustrations or release that feeling of being wound up. I really enjoy visiting friends who don’t work with me so there are no discussions about work. With the warm weather and summer close at our heels, it’s a great time to go to the pool and get some sunshine now that daylight is lasting longer.
Enjoy each moment of each day. It is so easy for time to blur past us. Life isn’t worth living like that. Remember to feel, touch, taste and hear what is amazing. Make the moment what you want it to be and be the exceptional person you visualize. By enjoying and being mindful of each moment, you are creating exceptional experiences. You are also projecting a positive energy around yourself that others feel and want to be part of.
I believe what we do as assistants and administrative professionals is significant. We attend to all the details that create ease for the executives we assist. We are not always appreciated or valued, but we make someone else’s job easier. In my own personal life, there are times I wish I had someone who could set up my appointments, take care of my research projects and process my paperwork so all I would have to do is show up. The people we support don’t realize all of the effort that goes into making each administrative task look so seamless and easy. That is what we do, under the radar.
Layne has worked in the Administration field for over 20+ years. She is also the creator of Administrative Sparkle, bringing her knowledge and experience to the masses. She loves building relationships with like-minded individuals and is an advocate for women's equality.
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