Staying Proactive As An Executive Assistant Part 2: Proactivity Basics

Now that you’ve worked to reduce the number of fires you deal with and the amount of time it takes to fight them, now it’s time to start taking proactive action in your daily work. How can this be done, you ask? Well—it can be a bit of a challenge. Once you’re used to the reactionary lifestyle, changing your perspective and looking towards the future can feel daunting. 

But, don’t worry! At Base, we have the executive assistant software and resources you need to make staying proactive a breeze. Keep reading for some inside tips on how you can change your habits and take charge as an EA.

Set annual goals

Staying proactive as an executive assistant becomes even harder when you don’t have a roadmap guiding your priorities. With that being said, it may be hard to know where exactly to begin. Since EAs wear so many different hats and are expected to do so much on the day-to-day, pinpointing our own goals can feel next to impossible to prioritize. It doesn’t have to be this way!

Advocating for yourself as an EA is just as important as advocating for your executive and team. Be your own cheerleader for once! At the start of each year, you can sit down with your executive to strategize goals for yourself that are also tied to the organization’s objectives. These goals should be actionable, measurable, visible, and revisited quarterly (at minimum) to check on progress. Then, share that progress with your team and your executive. Once everyone sees the important work you’re doing, they’ll be more likely to support your efforts.

Prioritize & maintain goals

Organize your executive assistant goals based on the impact they’ll have on your organization. The objectives that require the least amount of effort and have the most positive impact should be first, followed by those that require the most effort and have the most impact. If any goals are low impact—they likely don’t belong on this list! When you’re not spending all your valuable time reactively fighting fires, you’ll have the time to sit with and really understand your personal goals. 

Prioritizing your executive assistant objectives won’t just have a positive effect on your executive and overall business—it will make it easier to act proactively. When it comes to maintaining your list of priorities, it’s important to keep in mind that things will inevitably evolve. Over time, some goals will likely need to be shifted around, becoming more or less important. Don’t worry if you need to change up your initial ranking or discard some goals entirely. As a great EA, you are nimble enough to gracefully navigate these changes while still proactively moving high-priority 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. Taking this initiative is a proactive step towards ensuring you don’t keep putting your executive assistant professional development plan on the backburner. 

Creating an action plan that includes milestones and target dates will give you a sense of direction on those days when it’s hardest to motivate proactive work. We’ve all been in instances where we’ve made a goal, felt good about it, got busy, and completely neglected said goal. If you want your goals to actually stick around for the long haul, make sure you’re taking the time to plan them out. Just like you wouldn’t plan a trip without a destination, you don’t want to create goals without milestones.   

Set Aside Space and Time for Focused Work

While fighting fires is an important part of most EA’s jobs, that doesn’t mean you can’t set aside some uninterrupted time to focus on proactive projects. We all deserve some “me” time to decompress and get our minds right. It can be hard for many assistants to remember, but—NEWS FLASH—we don’t actually have to be “on” at all times!

Many of us live by our calendars; schedule a work session for yourself at a time that fits into your typical week. If you can anticipate that having designated “you” time won’t be an easy feat while at your office, you can always try working where fires can’t find you. That’s right; we’re suggesting you get 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 any and all distractions when possible. Turn off your phone, exit out of email and Slack, or put on headphones. Let the world around you run while you pause to make progress in your proactive goals.

Habits are hard to break, but once you feel the satisfaction of proactivity, we promise you’ll be hooked! Use the goal-setting skills and executive assistant calendar management you’ve already mastered to plan ahead and encourage proactivity. 

Written by Bryn Smith

Bryn is the Senior Manager of Brand and Product Marketing at Base, where she is on a mission to build a world-class EA community by connecting them with top-notch thought leaders, invaluable resources, and cutting-edge insights.