Small Seeds #3 – Distraction Lists

So, everyone likes a productivity hack don’t they? 

This is one of my absolute favourites! 

I like to think of myself as a bit of a creative …I love to write, playing with PowerPoint is just about my favourite activity to pass any amount of hours and I am a visual learner. 

All great things for my work and life in general. But, there is a but! 

It means my mind tends to wander and be easily distracted on those wanderings. 

In many ways this serves me well and is something that I love. After all it is only by having a wandering and imaginative mind that you build up a colourful and broad knowledge that feeds creative endeavours.

However sometimes it can be a problem when I have a deadline or really need to focus on one thing. Then, being distracted is just a colossal pain. 

Because, I know that – however brilliant that idea might be for a presentation or that topic would be great for a blog or that article really would be a brilliant tweet for my followers – if I move away from that thought I am likely to not come back to it after I have finished whatever I am trying to focus on at the moment. 

Enter the Distraction List! 

Write it down, add it to your list of things to come back to so you remember your brainwaves. 

The practicalities are up to your personal taste but my advice would be to pick one method and stick to it. Scrappy pieces of paper or reminders in the middle of the days notes just get lost. 

I’ve found that the best way is to have a dedicated place to put these thoughts, somewhere you can easily get some inspiration when needed! 

I’ve tried Trello, Wunderlist, One Note, emailing myself … The possibilities are endless! Just ensure you find the method that most suits the way you like to work so it isn’t a drag. 

Personally I find a pencil, yes a real one made of wood not plastic, and my favourite A5 softcover Moleskine are the best thing for me ūüôā It comes with me everywhere and I don’t know what I would do without it now. 

Looking for a high impact low effort productivity boost? Give it a try, I highly recommend it! 

It’s A Funny Thing About Life

So … it has been a strange week, not least because of a very random headhunting experience.

I got a call from a local and high profile individual who had been without an EA for 6 months … first question stored up for the end of the conversation!

I had been recommended to him by my old boss – the challenging yet surprisingly lovely MP who had had 5 PA’s in 18 months before I went to work for him. So much to say about why I fared better than my predecessors but that is for another blog, for now back to the story …

Cue a delightful and¬†brain stretching hour and a half conversation with said individual. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to say enough here to make it obvious who he is but sufficient to say a great mind with a huge amount of knowledge about a range of things I can only wonder at.

My favourite part of the conversation was¬†comparing the¬†dynamic of the Greek¬†gods to the players in any corporate governance situation. Fascinating! Perhaps not to many but I am a classics geek and even 20 years after graduating I never fail to be excited by meeting someone I can talk to about it¬†ūüėČ

Anyway  Рlots to be positive about.

Intelligent, clearly passionate about his cause (very far to the left of alternative, even for Stroud!) and thoroughly engaging. I had a¬†nagging concern about the fact he steadfastly didn’t use a computer or email … ‘How could you possibly conduct a (clearly very successful) professional life by phone and text’ the voice in my head¬†was loudly asking!

But he was making all the right noises about wanting someone who could have a  very active and intelligent input in his life and academic pursuits.

All great so far¬†… so why is she blogging about it I hear you ask. And here it is

So, Julie. You seem a bit too smart to be ‘in service’, how do you deal with the resentment?’


Wow! No longer any need to ask why he had been without an EA for six months!

Needless to say I don’t think of myself that way – I am a hard working, intelligent, knowledgeable professional who delights in the challenge and¬†on going learning opportunities that my role supporting, enhancing and enabling¬†the¬†goals of the never-endingly interesting brain trust offers.

It is an occupational hazard that any PA/ EA will recognise that you have to deal with those that think you are a glorified typist –¬†being¬†naturally overloaded with¬†emotional intelligence¬†means you¬†learn to spot and avoid¬†such ignorance¬†early on in your careers!

So what did I do?

This created a pause for thought … I have a son just finishing his first year in a 4 year Physics degree, an 8 year old with an expensive teddy bear habit, more animals than you can shake a stick at and¬†a house that doesn’t pay for itself.

So I thought about all of the options and decided that there will be other opportunities and the right thing will come along at the right time. So I was bold, and I was brave¬† and I turned down the proper face to face interview with his exec¬†team that¬†he offered me … 3 TIMES!

The moral of my random story this week Рbelieve in yourself and never EVER sell yourself short.

I (we all) deserve to work for/ with someone who values and respects what we do.

Don’t settle!






Working Together, And Meaning It!

“If you don‚Äôt have someone you trust who is challenging your thinking and pushing you to be a better leader, then it‚Äôs probably not the right relationship.”

Adam Hergenrother

My thoughts exactly, what EA/ PA/ VA¬†doesn’t wish they had a boss like this!

5 Ways to Create a Strategic Partnership with Your Executive Assistant

It Isn’t About Positional Authority

`Outstanding EA‚Äôs are invaluable assets to their employers, in many ways indispensable members of the management team.’

‚ÄėA stretch‚Äô I hear some say, usually the ones who insist on some outdated view of an EA as a run of the mill administrator come typist. I am a firm believer in the live¬†and let live philosophy so I am very happy to agree to disagree ‚Ķ but here are some of the reasons that I think we are a step apart from the average bear.

Getting Things Done

I excel in my career because I enjoy self-management, the opportunity for decision-making, ongoing and broad scope learning and recognition for my participation in corporate achievements. I know and understand my boss’s high level goals, have the ability to make effective and knowledge based decisions based on them and proactively follow through to further corporate goals.

As competent, confident and¬†resilient professionals¬†EA’s are able to grasp the big picture as well as track operational detail ‚Ķ all whilst juggling a to-do list that would make most weep.

The working day of any EA is fast-paced, requiring an extraordinary number of skills displayed in quick time. Processing information with a dedication to accuracy, making quick and effective decisions, grouping tasks and exercising intuitive judgments on the fly are hallmarks of the role.

They are often the “go-to” person in the office and are called upon to fill several different roles on a daily basis. It is a comprehensive and complex responsibility.

A Partnership Like No Other

Relationship is the key word here and a two way one at that. I share my boss’s goals, we work together on setting/ achieving agenda’s and leverage our joint time. None of that can be done effectively and (most importantly?) enjoyably without mutual trust and respect. I have been lucky enough to have some truly great bosses along the way and have learned that an interview absolutely has to be about picking each other.

In many instances, I work without specific direction on a blank page on which I script the intent, design the structure, manage the team  and accept responsibility for the outcome. The last thing my boss wants is for me to keep asking for permission and endless questions, where would the time saving be?

The¬†ideal situation¬†is to get to is to read each other‚Äôs minds and be able to shorthand everything. It doesn’t happen immediately but is well worth the effort to get to the stage when you are asking each other the same¬† question at the exact same moment or saying ‘Already done’ to every query about tasks.

The Brain Trust

Aside from all of the specific competencies, assistants are often the most trusted confidant to the executive they serve.

Through my attendance at board meetings and being privy to highly confidential email correspondence I know and understand more about the day to day happenings, long term strategy and goals in the company than most of the employees.

And that is not to mention the personal, the things that need to be vented but never, ever disseminated. The ability to be a great listener is just the beginning, being trustworthy beyond reproach is the whole enchilada!

I spend the majority of my time in the company of and supporting the brain trust and it is gratifying that¬†it never crosses¬†anyone’s mind to question my loyalty when being entrusted with their most unguarded moments. Most importantly, it never¬†crosses my mind to break that trust.

CPD … Every Single Day

My role adjusts with every new innovation in technology, shift in business strategy or change in the global economy. And on top of that I have to have more than a passing knowledge of how every department of the company works and a moving knowledge/ understanding of the roles and personalities of the main players.

In many roles you can focus on your area of chosen interest and expertise. Not so here, an EA has to have the remarkable capability to repeatedly reinvent themselves, to hit the ground running, bounce back, and renew themselves again and again.

On a daily basis I bounce between project manager, confidante, team member, upward manager, on the run problem solver, motivational coach, guru on all questions Powerpoint, bookkeeper, friend, Excel whizz,¬†volunteer giver of time to the receptionist to eat, solver of Word formatting glitches, a shoulder, an ambassador, a gatekeeper, shining light of all the company values¬†¬†… and¬†all this in addition to my actual day to day job description.

My one greatest attribute that my boss mentions  above all else as my most valued skill ? My hard won immunity to all things drama/ flapping. Perhaps paddling like crazy under water,  but on the surface a vision of serenity, positivity, cheer and approachability.

Could you bend to meet every curve, yet stand straight and firm to push through obstacles?

Interpersonal Skills, And Then Some

Executive Assistants develop proficiencies in building and maintaining strong relationships, understanding the importance and impact of human interactions.

EA’s are often the local experts who have built strong interpersonal and business relationships, and not just with executives but across every department in the company. It is important to develop an ability to motivate others and manage differences through their skills of persuasion, consolidation, and innovation.


The role of the Executive Assistant is inextricably interwoven with management and leadership tasks. Planning, coordination, project management, time management, establishing priorities, multi-cultural relationship management, financial intelligence, strategic decision-making capability, and proactive skills are now the new norm.

The requirements for effective senior management leadership are mirrored in the support role of the Executive Assistant.


It Isn’t About Positional Authority, It Is About Attitude

The emerging leadership profile is hard to deny. Do you, like me, define authority as the ability to make decisions? Like me, define influence as the ability to crystallize, frame and present issues in a manner that encourages others to support and achieve a goal?

Do the following strike you as qualities of a leader?

Courage, tenacity, coping with change, tolerate chaos, interpersonal ability, inspiring others with great passion, commitment, ethical standards, goal pursuit, the ability and discretion to work behind the scenes for daily quiet victories without fanfare

They are the very basis of my working day.

The best leaders desire to support and inspire others, not promote themselves. .

In Conclusion

The effective Executive Assistant has grown in recent years with the changing world of corporate business and updated the traditional role profile with an instinct that has proved ‚Äúon point‚ÄĚ.

EA’s have always responded to the needs of executives, whose priority is to have the best and the brightest. Through cultural awareness, analysis, communication, and decision-making we continue to transform the traditional role to one with clear strategic responsibility and leadership accountability.

These major shifts have taken place as Executives realize that their assistants should be capable of challenging assignments requiring management and leadership skills. Executive Assistants possess the confidence and capability to skilfully provide leadership support for the senior management team of which they now are an integral part

The job description has changed and the Executive Assistant has stepped up and adapted accordingly. A new Executive/ Assistant relationship has emerged and I, for one, love it!

J ūüôā