When I was starting out in my career as a PA I wanted to impress, I thought that by saying yes to everything I was setting high expectations and that this would earn me brownie points and I’d gain more respect. In reality, however, it meant working longer hours, missing lunch breaks and losing sleep. Just so I could hit the deadline I promised.
Did this earn me any extra kudos? Probably not! Instead, I became more stressed trying to meet the tight deadlines I had ultimately imposed on myself.
As I matured and felt more confident of my own worth, I learnt that it’s OK to push back. In fact, I gained more respect for doing so. If you’re struggling with hitting those deadlines, here are my top tips for expectation setting.
1. Be realistic when setting expectations
You’re asked to complete a task which you know should take you about half a day to complete. However, have you factored in any last-minute changes? What if something unexpected happens? It’s always worth adding a bit of extra time to allow for these unforeseen issues. So instead of saying you need half a day, say you need a full day to complete the task. If you then deliver it in half a day you will have exceeded expectations, which will earn you more respect.
2. Check existing commitments
If you already have a stack of other tasks to complete, then consider these before making any new commitment. Learn to prioritise your workload and know what is achievable. It is always better to under-promise and over-deliver.
3. Don’t be afraid to push back
None of us likes to say no to people, but you can push back gently. Instead of saying you will get something completed by lunchtime and then stressing about it, say “I can do this for you, but it won’t be until later this afternoon as I have x,y,z to do first”. This helps set expectations and the person who has asked for your help understands when you can deliver.
By following these simple tips, you’ll earn more respect, exceed expectations if you deliver ahead of schedule and most importantly build trust with your manager, colleagues and customers.