Get a Life, EAs! Your Work Depends on It

Get a Life, EAs! Your Work Depends on It

Executive assistants are among the easiest targets when it comes to self-inflicted overwork. You are not only the right hand to your C-suite boss (or bosses), you are everyone else’s liaison to them. Myriad co-workers (perhaps everyone!) sees you as the company’s go-to resource for information and assistance. Worse, you are your own worst enemy when it comes to ratcheting up your to-do list. However, when work stress goes unchecked there can be serious consequences.

Where’s the “you” time in this equation? It’s missing, that’s where. You need to check out when you clock out.

You’re thinking yeah, yeah, I’ve heard all this before. And you’re right about that. But the thing is, you’re reading this article. That tells us you still haven’t followed through on your promise to yourself to get a balanced life. So keep reading, because we have some tips that will help you stay away mentally as well as physically when you’re supposedly off the clock.

Learn to say no

This can be one of the toughest challenges for EAs, but it is critical if you expect to be good at your job, let alone good at your life. Exceptional as you may be, you cannot do everything, all the time.Betsy Jacobson notes that, "Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices." A better-balanced life is more enjoyable.

Yes, as EA you are a vital cog in the corporate wheel. So there is a practical side to finding balance:

  • Schedule time off on your calendar for all to see, including you. This elevates personal time to the same importance as work time.
  • Make sure your boss and co-workers know you have a hard out date and time. Anything not finished before you go can wait till you return, or someone else can step in.
  • Before you go, leave phone and email out-of-office message stating you have “no access” to these communications. Tells folks when you will be available again, and give them an alternative contact in case they need assistance right away.

Tune out social media and tune in to what’s around you

Be fully present with family and friends. Take a hike or go sit in a park and take in the natural sounds and beauty. Click off a few photos or some video during your son’s school play, like all the other parents in the audience. Embarrass your soccer-star niece by jumping up and down and yelling encouragement at her game. Savor every bite of dinner with your significant other.

Give your brain a break

Keeping those brain cells constantly fizzing is not good for you. Licensed clinical psychologist Kathy Nickerson reminds us that even machines cannot function properly without some down time. “Your brain is a powerful machine, and it is also delicate. It requires rest to function properly and your best creative ideas will only come when you've had some time off. Everyone deserves some time to rest, and your friends and family certainly deserve a rested, happier, more peaceful you.”

Give your body a rest

Just because you’re not at work doesn’t mean you are not working, does it? We know you. Constantly sneaking peeks at your email, listening to phone messages from fellow workers, deliberately checking in “just in case.” Not only are you still working, you’re demonstrating to everyone that your OOO messages are fakes. Clearly you DO have access to communications and are willing to respond, so why should they respect your supposed time away?

Not all EAs are women, to be sure. But every EA can benefit from Michelle Obama’s advice: "Women, in particular, need to keep an eye on their physical and mental health, because if we're scurrying to and from appointments and errands, we don't have a lot of time to take care of ourselves. We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own 'to do' list."

Start small

Change is difficult, especially when you’re working to break long-established habits. You have to retrain yourself as well as your colleagues (and, possibly, your boss). If going cold turkey is too upsetting for everyone, start with small steps. Schedule “away moments” during your work day – 5-minute intervals during which you practice deep breathing, do a few yoga poses, read a chapter in a novel, or contemplate where you’d like to go on vacation.

Yep, vacation. A real, extended one. You need that, and as travel experts our team here at can confirm that travel makes the heart grow fonder. Refreshing time away will uplift and refuel you, so you’ll be happy to get back to work – and the rest of your life – when you return.

You can practice taking vacation by scheduling an entire weekend off. Go to the beach, or the mountains. Stay home and binge-watch Netflix and stuff yourself with popcorn. Just stay away from work for two whole days. You can do it! And the best part? You’ll discover that you did do it, and the world did not spinning nor did your company collapse.

In the words of Dolly Parton, "Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life."

About the Author: Jeanne Hopkins
Jeanne was the CMO of from 2018-20.