Many of you in support roles are going to find yourselves overextended, stressed, and perhaps overwhelmed at times.

You are most likely familiar with the ‘SMART’ formula for goal setting, which is particularly popular this time of year, and we think it’s time to wind down after a hard year of work instead of putting extra pressure on yourself!

Having listened to a lot of you in our network talk about how you stay motivated, we’ve jotted down a SMART working guideline to hopefully keep you inspired now and into the New Year!


It’s a term that you will often see in job descriptions and on C.V.s, which means that it is a very in-demand attribute. Self-starters are motivated to get things done without being told. You are observant and spot the things that need to be completed, without the need for direction from your seniors. This may feel challenging and uncomfortable at times, but you will likely come to enjoy the rush of taking matters into your own hands.

See Ahead

Seeing and looking ahead to know what lies in front of you is a powerful tool. For example, arming your manager with as much information they will need to know before an important meeting will set them up for success. It could be some extra details about the other people in the meeting, some background information on their business and how the relationship could be mutually beneficial – these are the valuable nuggets that ensure your boss is fully prepared and will help them – and you – excel.


Manager Mindset

Supporting your boss is your main objective. Therefore, you’re aware of their goals and needs so that you can provide appropriate assistance. While they work on the strategic end of things, you think operationally to ensure everything runs smoothly. You are their backbone which means they can focus on delivering the ‘bigger picture’ vision of the business. This will also involve your taking on more managerial duties and decision-making. EA & PA Coach Adam Fidler asserts that when an assistant acts ‘as a junior- or middle- manager in their own right’, their boss is free to deal with the ‘leadership’ aspects of running the business. Read more from Adam here.


Whether you’re a ‘plan ahead’ kind of worker, or more of the ‘take it as it comes’ variety (according to our most recent poll, it’s no surprise the majority of you are planners!), having a clear structure will ensure that you don’t miss anything important and that you have a solid blueprint of how your time will be spent. You’ll get pulled and dragged in many different directions on any given day so having a roadmap to get back on track will be hugely helpful and keep you calm.
If you’re finding it difficult to bring some method to the madness, start with prioritising your tasks. Determine the level of urgency of each of them, complete them in that order, and concentrate on one task at a time – which leads us nicely to…


Time-management’s trendier cousin is the new term on everyone’s lips at the moment, and for good reason.
Centred around being more proactive than reactive, attention-management involves deciding what to focus on instead of reacting to every distraction that comes your way. It involves controlling your attention and focus by choosing what you pay attention to, instead of allowing yourself to be put off course by unwelcome interruptions.
Our advice for managing your attention is to set boundaries with your colleagues by letting them know when your door is open, and when it isn’t (metaphorically or literally). Also, it might sound a tad obvious, but headphones are a really great piece of ‘do not disturb’ equipment as people become more aware when they approach you that they are interrupting you.
Doing these things will allow you to minimise disruptions to your day and keep your head down when necessary. You’ll also know when these disturbances are most likely to come your way, so you can be prepared. According to numerous studies, practising mindfulness also helps to focus your attention where it is needed the most (see above!)

Act Now

Procrastination is one of our worst enemies when it comes to ‘smart working’. Sometimes we tend to overthink things if they are left to sit with us for too long – so although asking your boss for that week off next month seems intimidating now, it will be much more intimidating in a few days. A useful hack for work, and for life in general, is to immediately complete any tasks that will only take a few minutes. Even the smallest of tasks can end up seeming huge when they’re left to fester in our minds, so getting them out of the way promptly means that your mind will be clearer for the bigger tasks on your list.


If it’s not working, change it.
Sometimes we can get stuck in a routine, becoming so accustomed to a certain way of doing things that changing it up seems like too much extra effort. The thought of approaching a new and unfamiliar method can seem daunting, as you have to implement it, practice it, and become familiar with it – much more time-consuming than simply sticking to a routine that you could do in your sleep.
The time you put into this process, however, will save you a lot of time and energy in the long run. A few weeks of slogging through the learning process will mean many more weeks of a better, more efficient routine.

Reward Yourself

Good work deserves a good reward, whatever form that may take for you. It can be as simple as going out for lunch with your coworkers, or on the more extravagant side of things if you’ve just finished a particularly arduous project. Whether they’re big or small, rewards will not only help increase your productivity, they will also boost your morale.


You’ve seen this trait on many a list already, the reason being it is highly important for an effective assistant’s working strategy. If your office tends to be busier on Wednesday afternoons, set aside some extra time in your plan to allow for this, and plan in work that doesn’t require your full focus. Try to give yourself some breathing room, too – you never know what unexpected deadline or project might pop up amid your hectic week, and if your schedule is too rigid, you may find yourself floundering.


This is a quality that many employers value. That’s because a tenacious employee is ready to commit to completing their work to the best of their ability despite any obstacles they may come across. We’d love it if everything was simple and straightforward, but you have will tough days at work, and your determination will be one of the biggest driving forces that will see you through to the other side.

Great assistants are going to work hard; it’s the nature of the job. So, instead of saying ‘work smarter, not harder’, we say ‘Work hard, but be smart about it’.

How many of these do you think you already practise, or could start implementing in your daily routine? We’d love to hear from you!