The life of an executive assistant in our modern working world is complex, fast-paced, and highly stressful. Your job is becoming more difficult every day. You are likely being asked to do more work, wear more hats, and support multiple leaders, all while maintaining a high-quality work product. That is a recipe for more stress. Our industry is shifting as it has done time and time again since its inception. New technological advancements, demanding leaders, and heavy responsibilities can serve to create a work landscape that feels full of landmines and energy drainers. I often hear from assistants that they struggle to manage their stress. They feel mired by it and are desperate for tools they can use to minimize its presence.
Do you experience moments when your blood pressure elevates suddenly, your chest tightens, your palms sweat, or your headaches? Are these moments directly related to the stress you’re experiencing at work? Stress can have a major impact on our lives. It can affect our physical, mental, and emotional well-being in ways that we may never fully understand. It can be deeply ingrained in us, causing unseen damage and negatively impacting our lives. When stress goes unmanaged, it can culminate in physical illness, subpar work performance, and significant behavioral changes.
Too much stress can present very real problems that can impact not only our jobs but our personal lives as well. In this blog, we’ll cover some easy-to-implement tips to help you manage your work stress and be a happier, more balanced assistant.
What Can Stress Management Do For You?
You may feel like overwhelming stress is just part of life. Not so! While the presence of stress absolutely is a reality for most professionals, accepting it and all its negative impacts doesn’t have to be. Stress is not avoidable, but it is manageable. It’s all about self-management. If you take more control over your SELF through self-management tactics, you can avoid so many harmful repercussions of the modern working world. You’re in charge! Self-management and stress management strategies can:
- Help you better manage most situations
- Allow you to think outside the box and be more innovative
- Provide you with deeper levels of empathy and insight
- Make you a happier and healthier person at work and at home
- Assist you in seeing the good in people and situations
- Help you learn from past experiences and use them as ways to become more well-rounded
- Empower you to become a problem solver
- Allow you to employ assertive tactics that serve to strengthen lines of communication
Top Stress Management Tips for Assistants
1. Start your day with a self-care practice. Self-care is a hugely important practice that can get each day started off on a positive note. Most of us have busy lives, both professionally and personally. We have commitments to our organizations, leaders, spouses, partners, parents, children, and extended families. We live big lives! It can become very easy, especially for women, to let our own self-care fall to the bottom of the priority list. If you’ve neglected your self-care, then I recommend starting small and slowly building a more robust practice. Pick an act of self-care or daily habit or activity that you can do every morning. This will serve to begin each day in a positive space and help you to feel better, recenter, and renew your attitude. Consider something small like a daily walk, time for reading or journaling, a cup of tea, a healthy breakfast, or time spent in nature. It can be something that takes as little as five minutes. No matter how big or small, make a firm commitment to honor this practice each morning. These activities allow you time for introspection and self-examination. They can be very powerful times when you check in with yourself, realign, and become re-energized. As time goes on, you will start to see how impactful and vital self-care practices are. Continue working to grow your self-care routine.
2. Be wise about how you spend time. Implementing time-management techniques into your daily routine can greatly help reduce the amount of stress you experience. Time management fundamentals require taking a more intentional, organized approach to your workday. The goal is to control your day (at least as much as possible) instead of allowing every day to control you. Start by creating a daily list of all the tasks you need to accomplish. Make sure you’re fully aware of what each task or project will involve and how critical they are to your leader. This will involve asking clarifying questions when a project or task is assigned to ensure you fully understand the overall objective. Then, prioritize that list by categorizing each task. You can use a list of categories like urgent and important, with most tasks requiring more than one category assignment. For example, you may have a task that is both urgent and important, and you may have another that is important but not urgent. Review the list before you kick your day off and revisit it throughout the day. This will help you stay focused and use your time wisely.
3. Be aware of your energy management. In tandem with your new time management practice, you should also start monitoring your energy management (something we teach in our Significant Power Skills Series). It will be important for you to first identify when your most productive times of day are. Are you a morning person who thrives and crushes projects from 8:00 AM until 11:00 AM and then struggles more in the afternoons? Or do you tend to hit your peak around 2:00 PM and find that you are best able to take on complicated, detailed tasks and projects in the late afternoon? Take some time to consider this and be honest with yourself about it. Once you’ve identified your peak energy times of the day, you can take your priority list and further arrange it so that you tackle your big projects and complex tasks during the times when you’re most productive and focused. Save easier tasks, like filing, for the times of day when your energy levels are lower.
4. Start saying no. As executive assistants, we often wear the hat of the person who always says yes. While there is great power in being up for any challenge, it can quickly become overwhelming. After all, there are only so many hours in the day. For many assistants, this is a tricky tip to embrace. They feel like they will disappoint people by saying no or will lose out on opportunities. Again, take a conscious approach to this. Ask yourself some questions and answer honestly. Have you said yes so often in the past that now you face a workload that is simply impossible for one person to manage? Have you said yes to anyone who’s ever asked and now feel bound by those promises? Start by recognizing your limitations. If your plate is overflowing, call a time-out. Take a look at your responsibilities. Prioritize them. Are there any tasks you can delegate? Try to employ a conscious practice of evaluating a task or project thoroughly before agreeing to your role. Ask clarifying questions. Obviously, there will be assignments that you can’t refuse, and that’s okay. But there are likely plenty of other tasks that you can delegate or pass on.
5. Keep your workspace clean and organized. Stress thrives in chaos. So, as much as you possibly can, reduce the chaos that surrounds you. This starts with your own workspace. What does it look like now? Are there stacks of papers everywhere that could topple over at any minute? Are you constantly needing to borrow supplies from coworkers because you can’t find your own? Does everything have a home? Can you easily find important paperwork? Evaluate your space honestly. If you see that your desk is causing you more stress than it should, do something about it! Develop systems to organize incoming and outgoing paperwork. Find a designated place for frequently used supplies and try not to intermingle objects too much. That means don’t dump pens, pencils, highlighters, and markers in one drawer. Use organizational tools like drawer dividers to really create a specific space for your supplies. If you’re naturally a disorganized person, this practice is going to take some time to develop and adapt to. But sticking with it will result in a calmer workspace that doesn’t overwhelm you or drain time.
Implement these top four tips into your working life and watch your stress levels subside. As you become more adept at these practices, you can add new ones that will help you really keep stress at bay as much as possible in our industry. Get ready for a more chill you!
Is stress dominating your working life? If you’re ready to reduce your stress and become more grounded and balanced at work, Office Dynamics can help. We developed a huge library of resources called the Success Store that focuses on helping executive assistants master all the key functions required in their role, become strategic partners with their leaders, and reach incredible levels of professional success. The Success Store includes a massive library consisting of books, certification courses, eBooks, live virtual training, and on-demand training that can help assistants level up and reach new heights in their careers. But we don’t stop there. The Office Dynamics menu of services covers every single element an administrative assistant needs to continue their journey towards becoming a star. You’ll find a vast array of training options, both in-person and virtual, that will help you grow in your career. We’re proud to be the lions of the administrative training industry and feel our deep experience and expertise are vital pieces to our own success. We love helping assistants grow. Click here to learn more!