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10 Habits of Highly Effective Assistants: What Sets Them Apart

It is often said that humans are creatures of habit...

It is also widely known that it takes ‘a certain kind of person’ to demonstrate that they are a highly effective Assistant.

Whilst I believe that no one is indispensable, many elements of a person’s business and personal life can become a lot more challenging if their army of support comes to an end in one way or another.

What makes some Assistants successful and others perhaps not so?

There are often many habits that an Assistant of any value has which, when considering the many facets of what the job entails, is interesting.

1. Maximise productivity

As cliché as it sounds, organisational skills can set Assistants apart - from the mediocre to the best in class.  

With this and a constant drive to get things done, an Assistant’s productivity soars.

The habit of ticking things off efficiently and accurately is common in a productive Assistant.


2.  Set the boundaries

An Assistant that says ‘Yes!’ to everything with little consideration to the ramifications of that decision is often proven to be inexperienced or does not have the depth of knowledge in certain tasks or projects.  

This is not to say that Assistants should portray an obstructive or negative attitude; the key to this is that a highly successful Assistant has made it a habit to manage realistic expectations.   

3.  Prioritise the Priorities

Having the ability to know what is needed and when is a habit that a seasoned Assistant picks up through lessons learned. 


Being able to think logically and put matters that crop up above other things in progress, if necessary, becomes a subconscious habit that a good Assistant deals with regularly. 


It comes naturally to them. 

4.  Time Keeping 


Good time keeping is a quality that most professionals value. 


The best habit an Assistant can have is being able to manage time in all areas concerned. 


If a deadline is set, the sums of the parts needed to realise the delivery of what an Assistant has to deliver is required at the right time. 


The timing of this is imperative so that information collated is not premature and people are not left waiting because others have not met their targets. 


Self-scheduling of emails and phone calls is adapted by some (not me as I believe that availability is another habit of a flexible and adaptable Assistant) but being able to use time to the nth degree is a satisfying habit to achieve. 


Five minutes can be filled by a small task that allows it to be ticked off the list. 

5.  Curiosity and Clarification

Having a desire to learn is a valuable habit that any Assistant can have. 


Asking questions, repeating complex requirements for clarification if necessary, rising to challenges outside an Assistant’s comfort zone and being able to think laterally with an open mind are all qualities that allows the habit of learning form. 


Having a genuine love for learning new things is something that well respected Assistants have a habit of forming because, in most circumstances, they do this every day. 

6. Integrity

Trust is vital in the relationship anyone has with an Assistant and that is formed and earned through the integrity they demonstrate. 


Whilst integrity is an obvious quality, I believe it is inherent in a person rather than it being a ‘learnt behaviour’. 


As a personal trait, integrity is something that is formed and becomes part of the make up of that person and their habits. 


They become a dependable person and this reliability forms a habit that strengthens the trust in the business relationship. 

7.  Downtime

A challenge for most, making downtime a habit is something an Assistant tries to do and should. 


Most are not overly successful at this due to their other habit forming qualities, however, those Assistants that do carve out time that is ‘their own’ often succeed in being able to ensure the quality of service they provide remains high.   


This might be due to the practical elements of de stressing, however it also mitigates any resentment that has a potential of forming because being subservient is harder than you think in a role with that holds a huge amount of responsibility. 

8.  Determination


Not knowing how to do something is an inconsequential and temporary stumbling block to an Assistant that has the determination in their armoury of habits. 


Having the grit to never give up and building resilience throughout their career allows an Assistant to demonstrate just how strong they can be. 


Many Assistants describe themselves as having OCD tendencies and the obsessive or compulsive habits they form might answer why a top flight Assistant’s determination is hard to beat. 


9.  Stand and be counted

Conformity, for the sake of it, is something that a a highly effective Assistant is unlikely to adopt. 


To become one of the herd is an unlikely habit of any highly experienced Assistant. 


A confident and accomplished Assistant will habitually stand up for what they believe in, voice their opinions and concerns, and that of others, and be comfortable enough to express their own thoughts. 


10.  Relationship Builder

The thought of an Assistant being a less than effective communicator is not worth addressing because, anyone that has witnessed a great Assistant at work with anyone they have dealings with, will know that communication is paramount to the relationships they have with anyone that they work with. 


What differentiates an average Assistant with an excellent Assistant is the way in which an Assistant builds relationships. 


Knowing their audience is key and an intelligent Assistant deals with every person as a true individual.  


By doing this; they mutually get what they need done in a no nonsense way. 


A common habit is that many Assistants want to please people so they can earn the respect of others and be recognised as ‘the go-to person’ in the environment they find themselves in. 



Personal qualities and traits are something everyone has, along with their own quirks. 


What most highly effective Assistants have, on top of that, is a collection of habits that might come from within and are strengthened over time. 


It is these habits that sets an average Assistant apart from an exceptional one. 


Caution is required though...  

 It is one thing to form and continue a habit in order to progress and excel in what an Assistant does. 


However, it can become detrimental if any habit becomes negative and counterintuitive to the very thing that the Assistant is trying to achieve. 


As they do on a daily basis, making the best out of what they have got is what a highly effective Assistant does best. 


It is their habits that often lead them successfully through each and every day. 



If you are ready to set your business apart and work with a highly effective Assistant who has decades of experience in business strategy, project management, business support and admin, please get in touch. 





The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey


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