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Executive Assistant and Management Series

I have a confession to make. I don’t relax that easily. I am always on the go, sleep is just a temporary interruption.  But I know all about the benefits of disconnecting and taking time out. After all, even doctors get some time off. Everyone does it differently. Me? I do yoga, catch up with friends and read.

The problem is it’s so easy to be a workaholic these days. I have spoken to so many CEOs who have the same problem. Emails will come into their smart phones at all hours and it’s easy to respond to them. And with mobile phones, they can be accessed at all hours.

We have talked about it and they know being a workaholic is a health hazard, much like smoking and drinking. CEOs believe it can lead to exhaustion, high blood pressure and career burnout. It can’t go on indefinitely. But how do they set a good example to themselves and take time out? Who has time for breaks?

Enter the EA. More than anyone else, the EA is the one who can teach their boss how to chill out.

The first thing that the EA should do is set some boundaries. You can do this by saying something. Like for example: “I really enjoy working here and I really want to do my best work but to do that, I really need to have some balance in my life, otherwise I’ll burn out and that’s no good for you.” And then ask  “What are your thoughts on that? What would you suggest?” Chances are they don't want to intrude on your personal time.

A healthy business relationship starts with two well functioning people working together to achieve shared outcomes and goals so having this important discussion will allow you to create some sort of mutual arrangement that will be of benefit to both of you and may even  get them thinking about their own work-life balance.

The important thing here is to stick to your boundaries. If you have an email at say 5pm assigning you tasks due the next morning, it’s quite appropriate to remind them that you have outside commitments. It’s a gentle way of saying no, and reminding them you can’t work 24 hours a day. It makes them realise they have gone too far. Let’s put it this way: if you say yes to everything, they’ll keep piling on the work. You are teaching them that there will be times where you're not available.

Another way would be to say to your boss: “Let me help you prioritize what’s important and what can wait.” That’s a fantastic approach because it shows you are coming up with solutions, you’re not being negative. And together, you can work out a schedule that not only gets some balance in your life but is also helping them get the best out of you.

It’s also a good idea to create a checklist of daily, weekly and monthly objectives, and regularly records your progress, accomplishments and goals.

That will make it easier to defend yourself to your boss for not working late at the office every other day. It’s also a reminder that work-life balance is important for everyone. That includes your boss.

And finally, it’s important to keep giving your boss regular updates of your progress on the goals that you have worked on together. It’s a way of reassuring them you’re on top of things. When they see everything is on schedule, they are less likely to worry. More to the point, you become the partner who helps them get some balance in their life.

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