Productivity Tips for Admins by a Leading Productivity Guru

If you always find yourself trying to find breathing room in between your tasks and schedule, perhaps it’s time for a productivity check. 

The question, “how am I spending my time?” is a crucial question that has significantly grown in value at the onset of the pandemic. Working from the comforts of our homes either brings uncontrolled distractions or excessive responsibilities from our superiors. But one thing is for sure, if one aspect of your life is eating away your work-life balance, then you’re not truly productive.

This is what Abigail Barnes walked us through during Cabinet’s High Performing EA Summit. In her segment titled, “Productivity in a Post-Pandemic World” she defines what productivity is and gives helpful tips on how to stay organized as an executive assistant, especially in a busy role that involves plenty of moving parts, tasks, meetings, and events. Abigail is a successful productivity guru and the author of Time Management for Entrepreneurs & Professionals. You can bet we took plenty of notes because this is one discussion that can greatly benefit our careers as executive assistants.

In case you missed it, we’re sharing valuable insights from our time with her that you can always come back to in case you need some executive assistant productivity tips.


We often think that productivity happens when we maximize our schedules to cross out as many items in our to-do lists, but Abigail shares that while this can make you seem busy, this isn’t the optimal way to measure your productivity. It’s not how you manage your time that counts, it’s how you strategically consume your time that truly allows you to have better control of your life.

You were not born to work. You were born to live and work is just a part of that.

This is the very thing that Abigail emphasizes when it comes to how we should perceive productivity. It’s the state of living a life balanced between your work, restful, and social activities. In essence, a productive person is someone who has a healthy well-being on top of a thriving career. It simply cannot be just one or another, otherwise, you’re just busy.


If you’re currently stuck in a “busy cycle” then here’s encouragement from Abigail, “Your current location is not your final destination. Whatever you want. If there’s a promotion you want. A conversation to be had. Whatever it is, it’s your time. There has never been a better time.”

And here’s how you can control your time better:

Step 1: Audit your time

You can’t change your level of productivity if you don’t measure it. So, the first thing you should do is audit how you consume your 24 hours. Track your 24 hours for a total of seven days. From the minute you wake up to the time you go to bed. Put every single activity there. Then at the end of the seven days, gather the data and using data visualization, organize the amount of time every listed activity consumes.

Step 2: Analyze your data

At this point, you should be able to spot patterns. Look at your data from a macro perspective, how many hours are allotted for work, rest, and social activities? Then, dig deeper into each category to find out which entries/tasks are efficiently consuming your time and which ones are not. 

As you do this, focus on efficiency instead of management. Consider what tasks you need to do on a day-to-day basis to efficiently get your job done versus trying to manage everything into your schedule.

  • How are you spending your time? 
  • What’s stealing your time?
  • Are the tasks in your results essential? 
  • What are causing distractions and how can they be minimized? 
Step 3: Accept your results

Whatever your result, this is the part where you acknowledge what’s happening in your life. Recognizing what needs to change is the first step to making an informed decision in heading toward a productive well-being and achieving a fruitful life that can set you up for holistic success. 

Because one important truth: Your performance is directly linked to your wellbeing. Even if you’re getting promoted every year, if 18 hours of your life are spent within the confines of your office space or in front of a laptop, then you’re losing the joy of living your life. The same can be said about social activities. If your work and rest are being compromised for the sake of social activities, then the balance is already tipped and you’re not being productive. This is a truth that you must not just see but acknowledge wholeheartedly. 

Step 4: Agree to make a change

Change doesn’t happen unless you make a commitment to make it happen. So, make a decision to work toward a better, more productive well-being for yourself. Abigail shares a technique that you can use on how to stay organized as an executive assistant in a healthy and productive way. It’s called the 888 Formula and here’s what it’s about:

In 24 hours, you have three main categories that consume your day:

  • REST: 8 hours to rest because science says we need at least 8 hours of sleep to function optimally. This can include micro-breaks or power naps.
  • WORK: 8 hours to work because society says so. This includes your role and tasks, even home chores.
  • LIFE: 8 hours of activities that isn’t work or rest.

Using the 888 Formula, you can take your data and evaluate how your life is spent. While it should be said that this is not a practical application formula, it does give a helpful guide on the healthy balance your life as an EA should have.

And here’s an important piece of advice: prioritize your well-being and protect your time to recharge. When you protect your well-being, you also protect your productivity.

Step 5: Act on it

Your health is your wealth. It’s all about how you recharge your energy, reconnect with yourself, and reset your life. 

Even on a busy day, you shouldn’t have any excuses. Because guess what, you only need 8 minutes to recharge. You can allot 8 minutes for movement such as exercise, 8 minutes to grow your mindset by reading a book or engaging in gratitude journaling, and just 8 minutes to sharpen your mindfulness through meditation.

According to neuroplasticity, a habit that we do becomes automatic and 95% of what we do is subconscious. So essentially, we are doing 95% of things by habit. When the pandemic happened, everything drastically changed and our brains re-wired. It was a challenge to adjust in the beginning and it may have been uncomfortable for some, but here’s a win for you today: it also means there’s never been a better time for a change.

Let us ask you: what does your formula look like today and what do you want it to be? 

Begin by setting 2 goals per month and commit to doing a 25-day reset. The key is to start with small actions that you can take day by day. Breaking down goals into 8 smaller steps you can easily follow every day allows it to be more achievable and realistic. More importantly, it will help you to keep going.