Modern personal assistants have come a long way from secretaries working in typing pools. These days, a personal assistant is more likely to be involved in making key decisions, even managing budgets. Personal assistants now work with chief executives and, in some cases, perform roles on their behalf.
The increased job spec of personal assistants can be traced back to the economic downturn of the 2000’s, which caused many employers to reduce staff numbers. Secretaries that were retained were required to work for more than one executive, occasionally taking on roles that were traditionally assigned to middle management. The average PA now juggles booking meetings, running their own team, or conducting meetings on their boss’s behalf.
Successfully handling all these requires quite a broad skill-set, including being efficient, flexible, self-motivated, proactive, a good communicator – and much more. But of all the skills required to be excellent at their jobs, personal assistants find that being organised offers the most benefits.
After all, what’s the point of being efficient if you make sure your boss shows up to the right conference meeting but on the wrong day?
A modern PA’s role is pretty diverse; one day they may be assisting one executive with personal tasks, the next they may be making business travel arrangements for a different person. They are constantly pulled in so many different directions, that the only way to get anything done is to stay organised.
But how do you do that, exactly? To help you get started, here are my top 5 organisational and time management tips for personal assistants.
Develop your system
With your boss relying on you to get it right every time, how can you make sure that you remember every vital detail? The best way to do that is to develop a system that works for you.
Adopt the principle of “touching everything only once”. This means that you process documents as soon as they are received. Read it, process it, and file it away – never allow documents to pile up on your desk or in your inbox.
Grouping similar messages or documents together will also make them easier to retrieve later, but you can store them in a way that suits you best. Whether it’s using simple colour-coded folders or using an IFTT system to sort incoming email, developing your system now can save you hours later.
If you need some tips on how to do this, Activia has a detailed guide on why developing and sticking to a system is important and how you can get started and get the most out of your day.
Write everything down
Whether it’s notes, ideas, or plans, always make sure to write down everything. Unfortunately, no matter how smart we think we are, we’re only human. At some point, we’re bound to forget or mix up details.
In order to avoid this, make calendars, post-its, and notebooks your new best friends. Whether you are using an electronic device or putting pen to paper; make sure you take notes and write down everything.
Writing details down provides a record you can track and double-check whenever needed, and it also allows you to cross items off your list once they get completed. Ticking them off provides a proof of progress and makes you feel good for getting things done.
Automate as much as you can
Personal robot assistants haven’t arrived yet (Siri doesn’t count), but you can still use technology to your advantage. The Internet is filled with productivity tools, browser extensions and apps you can use to manage your daily tasks more effectively.
Need an online service to back up your business information? Try Mozy. Need a to-do list that syncs across all your devices? Take your pick from Wunderlist, ToDoist, or Nozbe.
Want to ramp it up a notch? Enter the world of IFTTT recipes. These can help you automate the most tedious tasks, such as backing up your files as you work or scheduling recurring events. While there are no dedicated personal assistant apps, you can pick and choose based on your needs.
Stay one step ahead
With your boss relying on you to keep their general affairs in order, it’s important that you always stay a few steps ahead. To avoid missing important deadlines, remind yourself one week and again a few days before they are due.
With your boss’s permission, you can also copy their appointments into your phone or personal planner. With your calendars in sync, you can remind them of any upcoming appointments or commitments.
Apps and other task management software are your wingmen in the journey to staying organised; take the time to find the ones you like and use them.
Getting and staying organised has a big impact on how productive you’ll be at your job. Don’t buy into the hype that a cluttered workspace is the sign of a creative person. If your desk is so cluttered that you actually lose things on it, it’s time for a spring clean.
It’s time to ditch the “but I know where everything is” excuses. Clutter means you’ll take longer to find things and get your tasks done. If you have to, get more storage in to help you stay organised.
The same goes for your inbox. Do you dread logging into your email accounts? The rule of “handling each item only once” also applies here. Bothered by unimportant emails? Most email clients allow you set up rules that will filter your email. Take time out to set these rules up once, and you’ll never be bothered again.
Do you have any other tips on how to stay organised as a personal assistant? Make sure to let us know in the comments below!