Acoustic Post - how to be the best executive assistant

By Monja du Plooy

Executive assistants are the “face” and “voice” of their executive and therefore an ambassador for their company. It has to be every assistant’s goal to commission the company values, objectives, and priorities at all times. The indispensable assistant is resourceful, accountable, and always demonstrates proactive behavior. In this article, you will learn to be a conscientious assistant and these tips will make your life so much easier.

1. Start your day

Plan your day ahead and keep in mind that you need to be flexible for any unforeseen urgent matters that might pop up during your day.

As Mark Twain once said “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” This means that you should start with your most daunting task first and complete it if possible. This will give you a huge sense of relief and a boost of energy for the day ahead.

Declutter your workspace before you start your day, and this will help you feel calm and already more organized.

2. Perfection could be your biggest enemy

Although perfection is not a bad thing, it could also be your worst enemy or biggest obstacle when it comes to productivity. Perfectionists tend to overthink and also battle with prioritization of tasks, as to them, everything is important.

By continuously over-formatting or changing a document, you are wasting valuable time. It is best to trust your knowledge and instinct and complete the task at hand.

3. Time management tips

Set time limits for tasks like emails and social media and stick to them. When you check your emails, sort them into folders, and only leave the ones that require your urgent attention. By this, it means that you should be able to tell if it is really necessary to respond via email, or if a quick phone call can resolve the issue or query.

By ticking off one or two smaller tasks for the day, will give you a sense of accomplishment and this is a good motivator to start with a more detailed and time-consuming task.

Schedule one or two 10 minute face-to-face meetings with your executive to catch-up and make sure that you stay on the same page.

Avoid distractions as much as possible. Even the smallest interruption will interfere with your focus and productivity. When you set aside some time to work uninterrupted, close your door (if you have one), turn on the massage function on your phone, and inform your colleagues.

If you think that a project or task will take an hour to complete, request two. This will ensure a comfortable time period for completion. Push yourself to complete projects ahead of the deadline.

4. Try to stay ahead

Planning ahead is important to increase your productivity. Executives’ schedule is not their own and they also have certain plans and expectations for their day ahead. This is where communication is extremely important.

Ensure that you have a quick and effective process in place for travel arrangements to make this process run smoothly.

To conclude

Confidentiality is key to this role. Executive assistants should not only have reputable and reliable communication and administrative skills, but they should also be emotionally intelligent to know how to respond and act in any situation. Other attributes include decision making, leadership, problem-solving, and good anticipation skills.

It is vital for an assistant to know their executive. Ask questions about his/her goals, values, objectives, and priorities. Always look presentable and act professionally.


  1. Thank you very much for sharing this. I am new to this profession. I heard that people don’t survive for long in this profession. What is your advice for a newbie like me?

  2. Dear Jane,

    You’re welcome.

    As you know, EA’s are the jack-of-all-trades in an organization. From experience, the only reason people don’t last long is that they either get promoted, find something within the company departments they enjoy more and make a career change, or they don’t get along with their executive.

    My advice, don’t give up too soon. Learn as much as possible from your executive and the company’s operations in various departments. Knowledge is power and the more knowledge you have, the better it is for your career. Do online short courses in the areas you find you need to improve.

    I hope this will help you a little bit…

    Best wishes,

  3. I appreciate your quick response. That’s a wonderful advice. I want to mention that I haven’t seen a lot of posts on this topic. Glad you wrote it.

  4. What is an appropriate birthday gift for a CFO from an executive assistant?

  5. Hi,
    This is always a difficult one…
    Well, I would say that it depends on if your CFO is male or female as well as their personality, but I can help with some ideas:
    Happy Socks
    Good bottle of Red wine or Whiskey
    Desk paperweight
    Pen set
    Digital photo frame
    Hope this helps a little bit 🙂

  6. CFO is a male. I am confused between happy socks and whisky. He is a very outgoing person and loves bourbon.

  7. Oh! Good! Either one will be a suitable gift then… Happy shopping ;0)

  8. I stumbled across this post today. Loved the content.

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