The Proactivity Series, Part I: Fight Fire Efficiently

We all know that the most effective EAs are proactive, not reactive—but with so many incoming tasks, emails, and obstacles, it’s difficult to get past the fire-fighting stage. As an EA, putting out fires is part of the job, but it’s important to learn efficient ways to handle these scenarios while leaving space for proactivity. 

Here are a couple of tips that can help you manage the problems and “emergencies” that pop up in your day-to-day.

Prevent Fires

As you get more familiar with your role, your executive and your organization, you will learn to predict what might cause a “fire.” When managing projects, always look ahead for where weak points might be and address them ahead of time. Spending a little extra time on the front end will help prevent the chaos that could ensue. 

This might be as simple as preparing a back-up vendor in case your favorite printer can’t meet your timeline, or securing an indoor venue for the big event you’re planning in case the weather ruins your outdoor banquet. Always be on the lookout for what can go wrong, and attempt to prevent it ahead of time. 

Prepare for Fires

Even with careful preparation, emergencies and complications can still arise. Good organization can help you to fight those fires quickly so they don’t consume your day. Make sure all the details you might need for a project are easily accessible, record everything, have contact information for as many parties as possible on hand (in tools like Base’s Dossier), store communication chains that contain necessary details (or even better, put them into your own searchable note system, like Evernote or OneNote). 

Travel represents a whole category of potential catastrophes for an EA. If your executive is traveling to an important meeting and has a last-minute flight cancellation, you could easily spend hours chasing down all the information you need to rebook the flight (confirmation number, trip itinerary, personal details, etc.) All of a sudden, your productivity crashes because you end up having to push everything else aside to tend to the matter at hand. If you plan ahead by storing personal details, flight and travel specifics, and anything else you might need to reference all in one easy-to-access place (using tools like Base), you will save valuable time for both you and your executive. Being prepared to react efficiently will enable you to fight fires quickly and get back to your proactive work. 

Pro-tip: Having this level of detail already organized and ready to go will allow you to easily delegate these reactionary tasks. Don’t fight fire alone if you don’t have to. 

Proactivity is a skill and one that requires preparation and foresight. If you can reduce the number of fires you need to fight and improve how you fight them, you will create the space you need to take proactive action in your workweek.

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About the Author

Chelsey Lewis

Chelsey Lewis

An executive assistant and writer, Chelsey Lewis has extensive experience in business operations, customer success, leadership, and training, primarily in the SaaS industry. She has her BA in Strategic Communications from the University of Minnesota and now resides in Northern Montana. If she isn't coordinating chaos, she can be found on her family farm or hiking in Glacier National Park.