Productivity is defined as "the effectiveness of productive effort as measured by the rate of output per unit of input."
Productivity looks different for everyone. There are a few consistent productivity hacks I use to stay focused and be an efficient Executive Assistant. My hope is for you to incorporate these into your daily routine in a way that helps you become a more effective partner to your executive, team and company.
Here’s how I stay productive every day:
Every morning when I wake up before I check my email and messages, I open what I call my Top Five Notebook. It is a small notebook where I log the top five tasks I want to complete that day. These are high priority items or items that need major prep that I need to make time for. Evernote and Google Docs are other great options. However, I enjoy seeing tasks in my handwriting and having the satisfaction of crossing them out.
Once I determine the high priority items, I update Asana to reflect today’s plan of action. Once I enter the larger goals, I break them into smaller tasks so I can stay on track throughout the day. If there are projects I need to focus on, I block time in the calendar and click the ‘pause’ option on my Boomerang extension. Boomerang pauses my incoming emails so I can devote a specific amount of time to focus on the project. Giving my undivided attention to specific tasks at their respective allotted times allows me to knock them out faster and with more accuracy. In our roles we are forced to multitask a lot, which can lead to errors in the execution process.
Given our hectic work schedules as EAs, PAs and VAs, it can be extremely hard to carve out time for ourselves throughout the day. I used to work straight through the day, including lunch. I became mentally exhausted by the time EOD finally arrived and then I still needed to respond to things later in the evening. I realized my cognitive ability was being hindered by not giving myself a short break to recharge.
I created what I call “Stop Times” in my calendar. These are consistent and structured calendar reminders at 10am and 3pm daily. I am a realist and understand that a fire could happen at 10am, for example, and that I would need to handle it ASAP. When this happens, I adapt accordingly and find a new Stop Time. There is only one rule I never break, though - I never delete a stop time.
Every Stop Time calendar invite has suggestions that I preload on Sunday evening for the entire week. I noticed that before I did this, if I did not provide myself some form of structure, I would regularly skip these times. I schedule a total of 10 Stop Times a week and break them down as follows:
3 Stop Times are used for continued learning. I look up conferences I want to go to and other fellow admins to follow on LinkedIn and Twitter.
4 Stop Times are devoted to reading. I like to read articles saved on Pocket or others I filed in my TL;DR ("Too Long; Didn't Read") folder throughout the week.
2 Stop Times are used for games. That’s right - games. I play puzzle games like WordConnect, Hanging with Friends and Block! Hexa.
1 Stop Time is used for getting a coffee outside the office. Fresh air is my cure-all.
I’ve noticed that by stepping back from things I’m working on, I am able to come back with a different mindset. I see issues I wouldn’t have before or new ways to better handle a task.
Automation is the key to my success in my current role as an Executive Assistant. I support multiple executives and have found that many things I do can be structured with the help of apps and tools.
Once I do a task more than two times, I create a process document and include who I regularly work with on that task, i.e., IT, Facilities, Accounts Payable, etc. For example, I schedule training sessions twice a year in five different offices. By creating a template and logging due dates in Asana, I am able to knock out smaller tasks months in advance and quickly complete the final details. This process allows me to seamlessly execute while avoiding 11th-hour planning.
BONUS TIP: Wins
At the end of every day, I look back on what I accomplished and write a win of the day on the bottom of my Top Five list. This allows me to see the positive impact I had that specific day. It also gives a note of finality to the day.
Starting my day with planning, taking mental breaks throughout the day and automating repetitive tasks has allowed me to become a key player for my executives and teammates. I hope these tips can be incorporated into your day so you can knock your tasks out as efficiently and quickly as possible, making you a productivity ninja for those you support.
Kaitlan Norrod is currently an Executive Assistant at Yelp supporting multiple executives throughout the company. From supporting executives in non-profits, startups to publicly traded companies, she has created processes that enable her to reach max productivity. When she is not commanding chaos in the office you can find her at a local coffee shop in San Francisco reading.
You can connect with Kaitlan on the following platforms: