By trade, I am an Executive Assistant (“EA”) – a job I know and love. I have been incredibly lucky to partner with incredibly amazing executives throughout my career. Bringing work home with me is part of the gig – an EA is never really ‘off’ (but that is all part of the excitement, isn’t it?). I also bring my professional techniques home with me to help run and manage a super busy four-person family. Below are my five big takeaways
5 Ways an Executive Assistant Runs a Busy Home Life:
Calendars Like a Maniac
I don’t just schedule for work but I do it for our personal lives too. I find that if you don’t manage your calendar and time in a thoughtful and proactive way, things just won’t happen (or at least not smoothly). Months will go by until you see that couple you both liked so much, or you’ll have another coffee with your close girl friend. You’ll miss that concert you’d have loved to see because you didn’t schedule for it (work, babysitters, etc.). You won’t get to have that rendezvous at the zoo with nursery school friends or a mom’s night out downtown. I don’t get to hit the gym if it isn’t scheduled into my day and the rest of the day around it. I lose opportunity with proactive planning – and I bet you do too.
I can fit more into my day, week, month by planning ahead. Scheduling isn’t about being drill-sergeant like, or leaving no time to chance and whim, it is about ensuring both my priorities and my leisures make it my life on a regular basis.
You lose time with inefficiencies and a lack of a plan. Invest in ways to be become more efficient using tools and techniques that fit into your life well. This might be downloading a budgeting app or a calendar app, finally cleaning and organizing the kid’s closet, or getting rid of unnecessary clutter. Invest in these things upfront to save time energy and sanity later on. You can fit much more into your day and week than you think you can, it’s all about managing tasks against time but it takes sacrifice at the beginning.
Aligns with Top Goals
In the workplace, it is an EA’s job to ensure the executives are prioritizing on a normal basis and gatekeeping against the things that are counter distractions from priorities and goals.
At home, I prioritize unapologetically against my own objectives. I want to spend quality time bonding with my children, ensure their safety, development and wellbeing, have a healthy and strong relationship with my husband, provide my family nutritious food, and maintain a clean, safe, comfortable and warm environment for us to live.
When there is time, the list contains secondary items like seeing my friends (social goals), getting to workout (fitness goals) or watch a movie (leisure goals) I have been dying to see. I work against all other distractions in my personal life (declining event, crossing senseless tasks of the to-do list…) and try to maintain focus on the top objectives on a normal basis.
Bullet Points Their Life
To-do lists and what we call ‘Hot Spots’ are two ways to manage well with an executive. This system also works well at home. Whether you download an app or keep notes in your phone – find ways to ensure your task list is up-to-date and organized, including purchasing lists for places like Target and the grocery store. You lose time and energy on forgetting things and having to double back or carry the thought forward to the next day or week.
Hot Spots are questions and topics that need to be addressed and occur in a different format than a to-do list. This would include asking your spouse about their Christmas wish list, thinking over your involvement in neighborhood block party or talking to your mother about summer plans for a family rendezvous – and then making firm decisions.
Dividing these item up accordingly will help you manage them more efficiently.
Focuses on Communication
Seek to be understood, not heard. Well, I guess the saying is, “first seek to understand…” Both seem relevant here. As an EA the most critical aspect of my job is to understand nuances, small side notes and undetectable signs, body language, tone, and intentional and unintentional written and verbal rhetoric and cues. It is also incredibly crucial for me to be clear in my communication or things can (and will) go terribly wrong.
Allowing yourself to accept that we are less than perfect, including in our ability to communicate effectively with other people, is the first step in improving your communication. Our capacity and method of communication changes with children, with environment, with stress and lack of sleep. We lose a lot of energy, productivity, effort, and even happiness on misunderstandings. Relationships can literally fall apart or implode based on miscommunications. Taking time to invest in your ability to be a better communicator (including understanding others) is immensely powerful to your happiness and productivity. I recommend The 5 Love Languages, How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, No Drama Discipline, and Bringing Out the Best in People.