How to Stay Afloat (and Save Your Sanity) in Complex, Challenging Jobs

Run an internet search looking for productivity advice for those who juggle multiple demands in fast-paced work environments, and the common refrain you’ll see is this: stop trying to multitask.

That’s great in theory—and indeed, the research that’s been done on our tendency to juggle multiple tasks suggests we’re better off handling one task at a time. But for many people, focusing on one single thing at at a time truly isn’t always an option.

We see this every day at Savoya. The executive assistants with whom we partner are often like ducks, rapidly paddling their feet below water and never letting their executives see how hard they’re working or how many fires they’ve put out that day. Our scheduler and dispatcher partners are similarly heroic, balancing complicated travel arrangements and simultaneously meeting the needs of multiple stakeholders without breaking a sweat.

We even see it with our internal Travel Coordinators, who are regularly called on to support multiple, complex itineraries at once—without ever dropping the ball for their teammates and our clients.

To all of you providing seamless service in the face of continually competing demands, we say thank you. We see how hard you work, and we know that—without your efforts—the ships you steer wouldn’t be able to stay afloat (let alone make it home safely at the end of the day).

But we also recognize that always wearing multiple hats can be a recipe for burnout. To prevent the negative effects that come along with it—from physical and mental health impacts, to the possible need to exit your current role—consider the following tips for perpetual multitaskers:


Fine-Tune Your Workspace

How productive can you be when you’re constantly chasing down documents or searching for information? Instead, draw inspiration from the chefs’ concept of “mise-en-place.”

This French term translates roughly to “everything in its place,” and refers to the strategic process chefs use to prepare their workstations and to prepare for the business of cooking. Rather than running back and forth to various pantries and cupboards, chefs take the time to prep their stations with all the ingredients, utensils and other items they’ll need throughout their shift before they ever start cooking.

The result? They may be able to go an entire shift without moving from a single spot. According to Dwayne Lipuma, instructor at the Culinary Institute of America, mise-en-place teaches students to arrange their stations so that, "Every component of one single dish is in one single corner so their hand literally moves inches. Once [students] set up their station I should be able to blindfold them ... and they should know that their tongs are always here, their oil is always right here, their salt and pepper is always right here."

You may not have the same need for tongs or salt and pepper, but you can be strategic about making yourself more efficient and effective by preparing your own mise-en-place ahead of time, based on your particular workflows and needs. Whenever you run into the same frustration more than once, see what steps you can take or which systems you can put into place to avoid encountering it again in the future.


Make It Easy with the Right Resources

The concept of mise-en-place doesn’t just extend to your physical workspace—it’s also about the tools you leverage and the relationships you build. With the right resources and partners in place, you can take tasks off your plate, simplify the work you are doing and free up time for other priorities. Your partners can either make life easier, or they can be yet another thing you have to manage—the choice is yours.

For example, Savoya’s CORE platform offers its users several tools designed to make booking and managing ground transportation as effortless as possible.

  • Our central COREview portal and Savoya Mobile App give you access to reservation details and management tools without having to be tied up on the phone.
  • Saved locations, address auto-fill, and traveler profiles—along with one-click rebooking for common trips—eliminate the need for repeat data entry during booking.
  • Visibility tools, like dynamic ETAs, live GPS maps and advance driver and vehicle details including name, phone number, and vehicle make, model and license plate number.
  • Multi-stage trip status notifications alleviate communication bottlenecks by updating different stakeholders in real time, including executive assistants, security teams, crew members and pilots via their preferred method: text, email, or flight deck integration.
  • Active trip oversight (regardless of whether or not the tail number is blocked) by our 24/7 live Command Center so we can proactively advise our drivers in the case of flight changes, security concerns or other potential disruptions.

Streamlining communications in general represents a huge time-savings opportunity for those in busy roles. Besides turning to partners like Savoya that make vendor communications easy through automated notifications and multiple channel options, take advantage of technology tools designed to minimize unnecessary back-and-forth internally. Live chat and collaboration tools like Slack and Hipchat, for example, reduce time spent waiting for phone or email replies (as well as minimizing the chances of issues falling through the cracks).


Prevent Issues Before They Arise

When you wear multiple hats on the job, an ounce of prevention isn’t just worth a pound of cure. It’s worth much, much more than that.

Take the case of ground transportation again. For many travel handlers, ground is an afterthought—something that should take up as little of your time as possible. You should be able to book a car, be sure it’ll show up at the FBO and be confident that the service quality will be up to your traveler’s standards.

But when ground goes wrong, it can have a cascading effect that causes other fires you have to put out. If the car is late, for example, your executive may not make it to their scheduled meeting on time. If the meeting runs late, they may not be ready to return to the jet for a previously-defined departure. And if that trip runs late, the jet may not make it back with enough time to be turned around for the next trip.

Just like that—a single mismanaged moment can turn into hours (or even days) of headaches.

No one can prevent every possible issue. Accidents happen, and emergencies arise that throw off the most carefully laid plans. But the vendors you partner with can make a big difference in the total number of these issues you have to deal with.

For example, because Savoya’s Certified Drivers regularly support private air clients, they understand how to find FBOs and the importance of checking in upon arrival, reducing back-and-forth calls on your end. In addition, our triple “on location” verification process and on-site notifications ensure that drivers have checked in upon arrival—resulting in one less step you need to take for ground to run smoothly.


Know Your Non-Negotiables

Finally, the reality of being productive in multiple roles is that—even though you may have a number of different responsibilities on your plate—only some of them are truly non-negotiable.

Executive travel is governed by multiple rules of thumb—including the need for flexibility, confidentiality, enablement and value (as defined in our free ebook, The Power Assistant’s Guide to Executive Travel Management). But the one travel rule that’s truly non-negotiable when it comes to high-level travel is safety.

More and more, schedulers, dispatchers and executive assistants are being called on to play an active role in maintaining the safety of their principals. While this may put additional work on your shoulders, it’s non-negotiable—the costs of potential safety incidents to enterprise organizations are simply too high to be ignored.

If you support executive travelers, this enduring need for safety might mean deprioritizing other tasks to focus on security-specific tasks first. But no matter what field you’re in or how the multiple hats you wear manifest, being able to identify the most critically important hats gives you insight into how to successfully juggle competing priorities.

You may not be able to get away from wearing multiple hats, but at the very least, you can use this insight—as well as the suggestions above—to make your role as streamlined and stress-free as possible.

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