Is your “winging it” mindset or “fly by the seat of your pants” approach hurting your success? Here are 3 areas where many admins “wing it” and what to try instead.

The Flow of Your Workday
Do you wait until you sit at your desk in the morning to think about what to focus on? Are you responding to emails or IMs like the dog in Pavlov’s famous study? Do you find yourself constantly interrupted and being pulled off important tasks or projects? Do you often end your day feeling like you were busy, but you didn’t really accomplish anything? Are you regularly staying late at your desk or work and neglecting your other priorities as a result? Do you feel overwhelmed? Scattered? Disorganized? Anxious? If so, it may be that you are “winging it” when it comes to managing your time or the flow of your workday.

The solution? Start having a planning meeting with yourself at the end of every single workday to plan your next day. Take a moment and look at the items on your “to-do” list and prioritize them. Not everything is equally important. Evaluate and determine your “must-dos” your “should-dos” and your “could-dos” for the next day. Grab your calendar and schedule time to tackle the “must-dos” first and then if there is time left over, schedule your “should-dos” and your “could-dos.” Remember, Tuesday’s “should-dos” might be Wednesday’s “must-dos”. And, give yourself adequate time; don’t underestimate the time something will take. Make sure to set aside time to check and respond to emails or IMs.

While you might need to be flexible or quickly reschedule or rearrange throughout the day to accommodate emergent needs, it is easier to adjust a schedule than to “wing it” all day long. The most successful admins have a plan for the day. Give up “winging it” and have more peace, balance, and productivity.

Important Conversations
Most professionals know it’s important to prep for presentations, big meetings, or their annual reviews. However, what about taking some time to think about (and even write out a few notes) prior to asking for your leader’s advice or feedback? How about sending an email with the 3 key things you would like to ask or discuss with your leader before your next one-on-one conversation? Why not take some time to re-read that email before you send it in the heat of the moment and check for clarity, concise language use, and professional tone?

Take advantage of the time you have before a conversation and “prep”. The more important or emotionally charged a conversation can be, the more important it is to take some time and think through your approach, your words, and your expectations. Doing so will help your professional image and even increase the likelihood that the conversation will go well.

Your Career Trajectory
Many years ago, my now-deceased mother called me in a mild panic on a Monday morning as she was getting ready to head to work as an executive assistant.

Pamela! I have a one-on-one conversation today with my boss and I know he is going to ask me what my goals and objectives are for the future and I have NO IDEA! Help!!!

While it was a bit of a challenge to assist her in the 11th hour (see the important conversations advice above), I did my best to help her craft a few statements she could use during that conversation. I guarantee the whole conversation would have gone much smoother for her and she likely wouldn’t even have needed my assistance if she was tracking:

  • how what she did on a regular basis made a difference in the organization.
  • what skills she would like to improve and how to do so.
  • areas where she could be useful or add value.

As administrative assistants or support staff, it is easy to forget your career trajectory is your responsibility. Too many admins wait for their leader to point out opportunities when that is something every professional, no matter their position, ought to be doing for themselves.

I invite you to start tracking or recording your answers to the items above. It will make review time easier. You will be seen as someone who takes initiative. And, you will start to have a career by choice, not chance.

There are plenty of situations where the ability to “wing it” comes in handy. However, the ability to plan, think strategically, and advocate for yourself is also a powerful career tool. Try it and see for yourself.