The Proactivity Series, Part II: Proactivity Basics

The Proactivity Series

Now that you have reduced the number of fires you deal with on a regular basis, and the amount of time it takes to fight them, how do you actually start taking proactive action in your daily work? This can be challenging—once you’re used to being reactionary, changing your perspective and looking towards the future can be difficult. 

Here are a few tips to help you change your habits and take charge. 

Set annual goals

Proactivity becomes even harder when you don’t have a road map guiding your priorities. Each year, strategize goals for yourself that are tied to your executive’s (and the organization’s) objectives. Make these goals actionable, measurable, and visible. Revisit them quarterly, at minimum, to check progress. Share that progress with your team and your executive—if everyone sees the important work you’re doing, they are more likely to support your efforts. 

Prioritize and maintain goals

Organize your goals based on the impact they will have on the organization. The objectives that require the least amount of effort and have the most impact should be first, followed by those that require the most effort and have the most impact. (If any are low impact, they likely don’t belong on this list.)  When you’re not busy fighting fires day in and day out, understanding your personal goals and their positive effect on the business will make it much easier to be proactive.

Maintaining your list of priorities will also be important as things change. Some goals may become more or less important than you initially rank them. As a great EA, you are nimble enough to gracefully navigate these changes, while still proactively moving goals forward. 

Create an action plan with milestones and due dates

Nothing creates urgency like a deadline. Even if you haven’t been given a due date for a project you’re working on, set one for yourself. Creating an action plan that includes milestones and target dates will give you direction on days when it is hardest to motivate proactive work. 

(See more on goal setting tips and tricks in our posts Go Get ’Em: Goal Setting for the Executive Assistant and Executive Assistants: Why You Should be Setting Goals with Your Executive – And How

Set aside space and time for focused work

Fighting fires is an important part of most EA’s jobs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t set aside some uninterrupted time to focus on proactive projects. Many of us live by our calendars; schedule a work session for yourself at a time that fits into your typical week. 

Work in a place where fires can’t find you: away from your usual workspace. Find an empty conference room or go to the coffee shop across the street. A change of location can sometimes help create a change of mindset. 

Pro-tip: Remove distractions. Turn off your phone, lose your email and Slack, put on headphones. Let the world around you run, while you make progress in your proactive goals. 

Habits are hard to break, but once you feel the satisfaction of proactivity, you’ll be hooked. Use the goal-setting skills and the calendar management you have already mastered as a great EA to plan ahead and encourage proactivity. 

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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.