Ten Ways to improve productivity for Personal Assistants

Written by: Tianna Powell
Published on: 13 Feb 2015

Staying productive at work can be a challenge and feeling unsatisfied with your day’s accomplishments can be a sinking experience. Over the last year I have been experimenting with techniques to improve productivity and would like to share today.

1.    Setting deadlines to complete each task

It is so easy to fall into procrastination and before you know it one task has taking all day because you’ve been multi-tasking through a number of jobs. Setting time limits on each task is a good way of avoiding this and will allow you to concentrate solely on the task at hand.

2.    Get the tedious tasks out the way first

I worked for an organisation were every single item we’d pay for would have to be manually typed up in a spreadsheet then duplicated onto another computer… time consuming and repetitive! We all have tasks like this! I realised the more I put off this task the more work I had to do, so I eventually began blocking out half a day in my diary at the end of the week and sifting through it all! More time to get on with the more exciting of tasks…

3.    Take on some more exciting tasks

You will be surprised how rapidly your productivity increases when you take on pieces of work that you feel are challenging and exciting. It really keeps you motivated.

 4.    When you are most productive?

Figuring this out will help you to organise yourself and your manager. Schedule your day so you can get the bulk of work done during your productive hours so that once you start to slow down you can get on with tasks that require less brain power.

5.    Take regular breaks

When I feel myself ‘switching off’ then it is time for a short break. This involves getting away from the desk for about 10 minutes for a coffee break, fresh air or even just organising some paper work – avoiding the computer screen. These breaks make a huge difference to my productivity and have acted as an energy booster. Going outside for lunch rather than eating at your desk is a helper too.

6.    Keep a notebook on hand at all times

Having a system to keep on top of those ad-hoc requests is vital for assistants! We often get random requests from a number of colleagues making it impossible to remember everything. Making a habit of keeping a notebook at arm’s length can help to avoid making mistakes and allow you to prioritise your workload.

 7.    To do lists

A personal favourite - to do lists are undoubtedly the number one tool for productivity.

 8.    Systematise tasks as much as possible

Being computer savvy is part of our job; use these skills to free up your time. There are a number of online tools, apps and other technologies to take advantage of. A key one for me is my trusty Dictaphone which records (non-confidential) meetings for minute taking. Try to use systems to help automate as many tasks as possible. Microsoft Office is fantastic for diary management and filing emails.

9.    Learn to say no

This can be daunting and does take practice. As an Assistant and personally I just want to be helping so it is tricky but saying no has allowed my time management and productivity to improve. I can organise myself and concentrate on tasks at a time.

10.  Work from home occasionally

The virtual world of business is increasing and the option to work at home is much more common. I highly recommend home working simply for the lack of interruptions, which is the main cause of low productivity with Assistants.


Tianna Powell is a full time PA and Project Officer within the NHS, supporting Directors with the redesign of the Older People’s health services as well as being a part time Blogger for Journey of an Assistant which she founded.