As we talked about earlier, I have been in the shoes of both the administrative assistant and the “boss.” So I know first-hand how to respond and, unfortunately for my admin, know how to create unexpected requests.

I am pleased to provide you with the below exercise to help you “Handle Last Minute Requests Like You Knew They Were Coming”.

Imagine the following situation: It’s one hour before you’re ready to leave and everything is flowing as it should. You’re on time with specific tasks and set to be done by the end of the day.

Suddenly, a message appears in your inbox and it’s from your boss. It is one of her quick-turn-around assignments and she wants it done before you leave for the day. To get it completed on time, you would have to drop everything and scramble to make it happen.

Fighting back the urge to blurt out, “I’m not a miracle worker!” you realize that the aggravation is only taking up time and energy that you could be using to complete the given task.

This used to drive me nuts! Give the short action plan below a try the next time you are under the gun:

How to Handle Last Minute Requests Like You Knew They Were Coming:
  1. Remember, this is not a personal attack: We naturally rise to a challenge; it’s survival, but remember that having insufficient time to complete a last minute request is not a reflection of you personally. In fact, your boss may not even be aware that the request is unreasonable.
  2. Ask for clarification: If you feel as though the quality of the assignment will be greatly impacted by the time constraint, clarify with your boss if the last minute request is a want or a need. If it is a need, drop the perfectionism and do exactly what your boss is asking – with no bells and no whistles.
  3. Act decisively: Your role is to quickly evaluate or clarify the nature of the task and then act accordingly. Figure out if there is actually enough time left to complete the new task. Could your current task be delayed until the next day? Is the new assignment “now or never”, or does it just feel like it?
  4. Have Clear Boundaries & Limitations: Remember the “carrying more than your own weight” concept I mentioned in my prior email? We’re all guilty of it and it often causes a bit of complexity in the prioritizing department. A productive worker knows their limits and works inside of them. If you push your limits too far, your health, the quality of your delivery and productivity go down. A supportive boss will not want you to suffer for a piece of paper. Remember, in order to be the best possible resource for your boss, your boss needs to understand when you are reaching full capacity.
  5. Ask yourself if this is a regular occurrence? If this is a regular occurrence it may be best to address the issue directly with your boss. Speak calmly and directly to the order of recent events and suggest a solution. Often times, short weekly check point meetings help align work expectations and avoid last minute requests. If this is not a regular occurrence, and you are confident that a few extra minutes will get the job done then use your judgment.

Give these techniques a try the next time you are squeezed to make something happen out of nothing. Be sure to let us know how it goes for you. We already heard some some helpful feedback from some of you about the streamlining your day exercise, so please keep your feedback to us coming!