Top 3 Challenges Executive Assistants Face 

If a job was meant to be easy, it wouldn’t be called “work.”

Everyone faces challenges of varying degrees in their career, and Executive Assistants (EAs) are certainly not without their fair share of struggles! Most EAs face managing high workloads and demands, balancing priorities, maintaining confidentiality, and having seamlessly effective and responsive interpersonal communication.

That being said, this will not be a pity party about how hard the job is (though, let’s be honest, it’s no walk in the park!). Instead, let’s focus on strategies that can help EAs be effective and efficient in their role, which not only helps streamline or lighten the load for them, but helps their Founder be a successful leader and visionary, in turn. 

Let’s dive in!

1. Time Management

If I had to choose ONE thing that will help an Executive Assistant be successful it is this: manage your time wisely! This position requires you to prioritize tasks, set deadlines, create calendar blocks to avoid distractions, and be ready to jump in when something unexpected needs to be taken care of. 

  • Set a daily rhythm and block it on your calendar. This can look different for everyone. Make it work for you and defend it fiercely.
  • Set goals. I like to think of my goals as a running to-do list. Remember, these don’t always have to be huge. Start small, let them build over time to accomplish the BIG things. Try this 4-1-1 Execution Plan from The Founder & The Force Multiplier to get started. 
  • Hold yourself accountable. Try these Accountability Questions from The Founder & The Force Multiplier. Whether you send the answers to your Principal at the end of each day or take time to review on them yourself, it’s important to reflect on what went well during the day—and what didn’t. Check in with yourself and see how you’re feeling and what you want to change and learn going forward. 

2. Handling Stress

As an Executive Assistant, you are the keeper of your founder’s bubble. What bubble is that you might ask? The bubble of time and space to cultivate BIG ideas. This means working within tight deadlines, meeting high expectations, dealing with angry clients, and resolving issues and problems so your founder doesn’t have to. In turn, they are free to do what they do best—lead.

If your heart rate just went up reading about the high pressure situations this job entails, I get it. That’s why it’s important to develop coping skills to help you manage your emotions, stay calm and level-headed, and be professional. Remember, you are the provider of solutions, you don’t want to be the creator of problems.

  • Step 1: Find what helps keep you calm. Whether that is a 10-minute walk in the fresh air, meditating for 15 minutes, or getting a cup of coffee or tea.
  • Step 2: Take time for a reset. Seriously, make yourself take the time. Then tackle whatever has been put in front of you. You will be able to take the challenge on with much more clarity.

3. Creating Work/Life Balance

Balancing work and home life is one of the most difficult challenges an EA faces. It can be difficult to turn your brain off when you are so used to being “on.”  However, burnout is real, and you need to be aware of it. It’s essential that you take the necessary steps to set healthy boundaries. In turn, this will allow you to be productive during your working hours and really be present when you take time for yourself. Here are some suggestions for a healthy work/life balance (or as we like to call it, work/life presence):

  • Discuss expectations for “working hours” with your supervisor. It’s essential that you both are on the same page about what is expected. Use this schedule as a guide, but not an end-all, be-all, as every EA knows that urgent matters do come-up during “off hours.” It is important to be flexible. 
  • Set aside time where you do not check your email or phone. Whether that looks like signing offline for an hour walk after work, making dinner with your spouse, or doing homework with your child. Stay present with whatever you’re doing and really let yourself leave work behind for those moments. I promise work will still be there when you check back in. 
  • Make the most of your time “in the office.” Again, I strongly recommend calendar blocking for tasks and projects. This will help you structure your day and keep on task. Even if something unexpected comes up, you have a place to check back in and get back on track after it is completed. 

Lastly, find your people. If you are looking for a community of like minded people to bounce ideas off of and learn from, check out The Founder and Force Multiplier Community on LinkedIn. Having a support system for work is just as important as having one at home. You are not alone!

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