There’s nothing worse than a day filled with back-to-back meetings. Just the thought of it drains me of energy. So – I don’t have that kind of day.
When I hear people complaining that they do – about the endless meetings day after day that they have to go to, my favourite question to ask them is, “Who’s managing your diary and accepting all these invites?”
Cue short silence, often followed by, “I don’t have a PA. It’s me.”
Awkward! Does this sound familiar to you?
When is it time to set yourself up as your own PA?
It may be time that you organise a PA – and that doesn’t mean you need to convince your boss to hire someone. This is a role that you can do yourself.
Do any of these sound familiar?
- I don’t have time to pee, have a drink, or breathe between meetings
- It takes me a few minutes to remember what the next meeting is about as I’ve literally had 5 seconds in-between meetings
- I don’t have time to prepare or read my notes before meetings so it’s a struggle to get into and then follow the conversation
- I find myself in a meeting that I don’t need to be in but don’t want to be rude and leave
- I don’t want to be rude by leaving a meeting when it’s over-running so I’m late to the next one instead (and then those people probably think I’m rude)
- I don’t have time to do any of my ‘real’ work until after the meetings have finished.
- I multi-task during meetings and might as well not be there as I’m not really listening
- I’m relieved /excited when a meeting is cancelled at the last minute
Not only do those days sound like they’re heavy and not very enjoyable, but you probably also feel like you’re not really accomplishing much or doing your actual job well, which is demoralising and stressful.
How to give your PA instructions
Just as you would with any other employee, you would need to clearly outline some guidance for your PA on how best to organise your day. So, imagine that you are handing over control of your diary. What would the rules be?
- How long a gap would you need in between every meeting?
- How many hours per day do you want to be in meetings?
- Which meetings need to happen at a certain time of day where you’ll be at your best and energised?
- If a meeting invite comes in for an hour, can you send it back with a shorter proposed duration?
If you’re not sure what else to consider, take a look at some scheduling tools. There are plenty available online that are free to browse around, so you can examine their functionality. You can set boundaries including:
- The earliest time in the day for starting meetings – and when they must finish at the end of your day to allow you to get home on time.
- Blocked off time for eating and working.
- Blocked off time for other necessities, such as interacting with your own team or regular weekly events.
- Blocked off time for a walk to clear your head, or a 5-minute meditation to improve your clarity during the day.
When you are your PA, you need to take care of your own health
Your PA isn’t just there to manage your calls; they also provide a vital line that stops unnecessary meetings from overwhelming you. So, when you are your own PA, you need to take on responsibility for your diary, making sure that each meeting you go to is necessary. Because when you get overwhelmed, it’s not just your work that suffers; it’s your stress levels too.
The best advice I can give you is to set your own boundaries and defend them as if you were protecting someone else’s time. But when you’ve made a habit of being available at all hours, it can be hard to enforce that change. You need to learn how to decline invitations. It may be time for some real conversations.