Effective Time Management – It’s Vital

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By Jessica Hardwicke

Jessica Hardwicke

Jessica’s role is to support her boss in everything he does to drive strategic growth of the firm.  She has a degree in Business Studies and in Event Management, both of which she feels have provided vital skills to propel her to Executive Assistant level and enables her to work in partnership with her boss. The growth in their business comes from key banking, legal and client relationships which she helps to  sustain, manage and develop. Most recently she was shortlisted for Yorkshire PA of the Year and Executive PA Magazine up and coming PA of the year. She is passionate about the role of a PA/EA and  actively encourages others to opt for it as a a career choice.

Assistants have a varied and occasionally misunderstood role. They have to cope with numerous different tasks every day from answering calls and emails to creating and collating information and preparing for and attending meetings, all of which require effective time management and forward planning. This is combined with working on the larger more strategic aspects of their role whilst supporting the senior executive, a balancing act is required.

But what happens when a client or your boss calls with an issue that needs to be dealt with immediately? I have learnt that as an EA you are always on call for whatever issue may arise and equally expected to drop everything you are doing in order to deal with the task in hand. I appreciate this is also due to the nature of the industry you work in, but more often than not it is a common theme amongst other PA’s and EA’s I regularly deal with.

I tend to split my work load into rocks and sand. Rocks being strategic goals and sand being routine tasks or those last minute requests that you must do right away. You should fill your day up with rocks, only plan for 4-5 hours of ‘real work’ per day and the rest will fill up naturally with sand. The key to this is the prioritisation over which matters are rocks and which are sand, and this must be in tune with the person for whom you work so objectives are aligned.

Once you have planned your day like this you will feel in control and thus able to adapt quickly to needs as they arrive. I believe if you invest more time in planning, you can avoid crises and rework, which will provide you with the energy to be truly effective and not just busy. Working more hours does not make you more productive!

It’s also vital that your boss respects your time. They should always know what your current workload entails and thus appreciate when you drop everything when an urgent matter comes in.

Another key skill that you must have in your skills set is to the ability to implement effective time management for your boss. In my case, my boss is often in a position where many conflicting appointments arise. It is therefore my job to conserve his time, prioritise meetings and workload, and delegate or decline anything that is of lesser importance. This is a vital skill to master, and you are the gate keeper to the strategic rocks finding their place, and ensuring mundane tasks do not inhibit growth. When working so closely with someone, you need to understand why a lot of these meetings are happening in the first place in order to establish a level of priority and preparation required.

The biggest thing I have learnt is to always ask questions, it is better to know too much about something than not enough!

#MondayMotivation @JoanneManville

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What Motivated you to become a PA?

“I started my working career after leaving further education in 1998, and began with roles in administration in estate agency/financial services, becoming a Mortgage Consultant.”

“In 2005, I decided that I wanted a change of direction and recognised that my success in previous roles had been due to my administrative strengths, and took a role as an Administration Manager for a local charity.  This naturally led into a role as a Personal Assistant in 2006 and I have been a PA/EA/VA ever since.”

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Joanne Manville,  Founder of Joanne Manville Virtual Assistant

Joanne has worked an an Executive Personal Assistant to MDs, CEOs and Chairmen for the last 9 years, in both the public and private sectors. These roles have also included line management and responsibilities as a member of the senior management team, Secretary to the Board of Directors and Office Manager duties.  In 2015, she decided that the time was right to put all of this experience to good use, helping other business owners to deliver the best service possible to their customers and in October 2015 she launched her own Virtual Assistant business ‘Joanne Manville Virtual Assistance’.

Why being a PA is a career and not a job

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(PA/EA – The forgotten profession?)
By Jennifer Corcoran

Jennifer Corcoran

Jennifer Corcoran is the Office Manager to Managing Directors within Ship Finance at Crédit Agricole CIB based in London. She joined EUMA in 2014 and considers herself to be a champion of the PA Profession.  She was awarded the title of “Networking PA of the Year” at The London PA Awards 2015 and was elected as the National Public Relations Officer for EUMA UK.  She was a finalist for Pitman’s SuperAchiever PA and SecsintheCity’s Social Media PA of the Year 2015. 
The results of the National PA Survey 2015 were announced at office* on National PA Day.  62% of Personal Assistants feel a strong sense of loyalty to their bosses. 
CRLSv7eW8AAgsF1Unfortunately, not all Assistants feel this level of loyalty or respect is reciprocated.Personal Assistants are a little like housewives with few fully appreciating the sheer scale of their remit until they are absent from their workplace. Some important questions to ask yourself.
  • Is your job description up to date or is it an inherited generic job spec full of clichés?
  • Is this job spec used as an appraisal tool for measuring progression or performance?
  • Does your boss and company view your role as a career with a valid pathway?
  • If not, have you spoken up and how are you driving the professionalism of your role?

If we find it difficult to articulate our role how can we expect others to fully grasp its complexities.  At the end of the day Managers want to hear about bottom lines and how you successfully planned and smoothly executed your teams’ success in achieving annual targets and ultimately ROI. There is so much more to us than tea and typing. Modern EAs and PAs are leaders and not helpers. We expand productivity and are brand ambassadors for our bosses, company and profession. The role we fulfil comes with accountability and responsibility and we are in effect the manager of our managers when it comes to time keeping. 

Young tired businesswoman with tons of documents calling phone

Unfortunately some managers don’t appreciate the competence, talents, and skills of their PAs. They don’t trust them enough to delegate the important but time-consuming tasks that take them off mission.  They are stuck in an old-school submissive secretary paradigm. It is up to you to professionalise your role. 
I reached a stage where I was fed up with the perception of my role.  I realised that if others were to take me seriously that I needed to act like other executives within my company. I put in a request for business cards, specific PA training (conferences/seminars) and also requested that my company pay my subscription to various PA magazine publications and my membership for networking PA Club associations. After all if you don’t ask, you don’t get.I entered several PA awards.  I wanted to highlight and reinforce to colleagues, friends and family that we take our roles seriously and deserve accolades like any other profession. 
The long-time goal for me is for PAs and EAs to get the respect and recognition they ultimately deserve in the work force. It would be great if people could acknowledge that for some of us we consider it a valid career choice and not just a job or a stepping stone on to greater things. There are some fantastic Assistants out there – some of them highly educated with degrees, masters and/or multi-lingual skills. Donna Karen started out as a PA and the world would not have known Elvis if it was not for PA Marion Keisker.  Being a PA is a valid career choice for any woman or man. 
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I would encourage all Assistants to get on LinkedIn.  As Executive Assistants, our general knowledge and administrative expertise transcends all industries and our collaborative way of working stands us in good stead to bring value to any networking group.Poor communication, delegation skills and lack of information can hamper an Assistants overall ability to succeed.  The truth is that a PA is really a full partner in achieving business goals.   

7 Key Skills PA Masterclass

I believe that Bonnie Low-Kramen said it best in her article: ‘The Top 10 Career Practices to Learn from Administrative Assistants’.“They are relentlessly adaptable. They love a challenge. They underplay their power. Making people happy is their goal. They read minds. They love to put out fires and bring order to chaos. They are master jugglers. They are hungry to learn. They are connected. They yearn to make a difference.”