If you’re overwhelmed by the challenges you face as a professional administrator, know that you are not alone. As the executive assistant for a very busy, very connected CEO for an outsourced financial services firm, I have faced my share of challenges -- and I continue to face challenges on a daily basis (which keeps me on my toes!).
But, for the most part, I’ve managed to conquer the biggest challenges through experience, trial and error, extreme organization, and a handful of must-have apps. Hopefully, my lessons learned can help you to slay your own work dragons and be more efficient.
In my experience, these are the biggest challenges admins face on a daily basis, and some helpful tips:
Challenge #1: Not Enough Time
The common refrain of all busy admins (myself included) is that there just isn’t enough time. This is why it is so important to time track and prioritize. Most of my tasks now are routine, so I know exactly how long each takes. It’s become a time management exercise: how can I fit it all in given how long each item takes and how many hours there are in each day? Sometimes you’ll need to defer to your executives for help prioritizing. List all of the items on your to-do list and ask your executive to rank the items in order of importance.
Challenge #2: Too Many Side Tasks - You Find Yourself Wearing Too Many Hats
Just because an efficient admin can literally do it all, doesn’t mean she should. Ironically, the company I work for helps other companies outsource their financial and administrative pain points, but, soon after starting at Early Growth Financial Services, I realized I had no help myself. Fortunately I was able to convince my executive to identify all essential functions and create an organizational map. This led to us hiring a new office manager and outsourcing some non-core functions, which freed me up to focus on my core responsibilities.
Challenge #3: Lack of Organization
Solution: Putting systems in place
I have a confession to make: I’m an organizational junkie! When I was starting out, there were no systems in place; a few tools later, I have everything under control. For example, I have a bunch of different apps I use for email, most notably Boomerang which helps me keep my goal of a clean inbox and schedule up to 60 appointments per week. When I first came on board, all of our documents were hard copy. So I scanned for three weeks straight until we had digital copies of all of our documents. This took time, but in the long run this paperless solution is more efficient, easier to maintain, neater, and more environmentally conscious.
Challenge #4: Work / Life balance
How can you create boundaries and make time for yourself when your work is never-ending? Especially when you’re young and just starting out and trying to advance your career, it is so easy to fall into the trap of having no boundaries. To create some semblance of work/life balance, you need to create a strict routine. in which the boundary lines are more pronounced and it’s harder for you -- or others -- to blur them. For example, I just went to London on holiday for a week. During this time, I agreed to work, but I set limits: 2 hours a day, 3 days a week for a total of 6 hours. The rest of the time? My time!
Challenge #5: Boredom
Solution: New projects
Once you’ve got your systems in place, know how to schedule a high volume of appointments, and are set up for success, boredom can creep in. This is when I find myself looking for new projects or optimization opportunities. Most recently, I’ve started assisting with social media. This is a totally different area for me, and one I find really interesting. It’s forced me to learn new things and create new systems for social media management.
Sometimes the biggest challenge to being an admin can be how isolating it is. Sometimes you feel like you’re all alone behind the curtain, holding the pieces together, making sure that everything gets done. At times like these, it’s important to remember how integral your work is to the success of your company and how there are lots of people within your organization who can lend a hand, and lots of people outside of the organization who are willing to share their insight and support.
What are your biggest challenges -- and how do you overcome them (or not!)?