10 qualities of a truly great Assistant

10 qualities of a truly great Assistant

Assistants bring many, many amazing qualities to their roles. We are often described as a ‘jack of all trades’ which means we have a lot of skills and can take on lots of different tasks. Yay us! Today I thought I would have a look at the 10 qualities that make a truly great Assistant. These are the qualities that will make every good assistant great!

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The Future Assistant is online

The Future Assistant is online

I’m very excited to announce that following the success of the Practically Perfect PA Virtual Summit I have decided to live stream the Future Assistant Conference which is taking place in London on the 8th and 9th February 2018. So, now you can come to the event, interact with the other attendees and speakers. Or, if you are not able to get out of your office or you live far from London you can also watch the conference online. And, the best part, like the Virtual Summit, you will have a full month after the 8th and 9th to re-watch the content. Pretty awesome huh!?

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Tech of the week: Followupthen

Tech of the week: Followupthen

Today’s Technology of the week: Followupthen. Here are all the details…

What is Followupthen?

Followupthen is a really simple tool that allows you to schedule a reminder on your email system. That’s it.. It is an email address. But it does lots of cool stuff! The tool will allow you to keep your inbox fairly organised and help you remember to follow up on tasks and chase requests. Prices range from free to $9 per month.

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The 5 questions you need to ask before you minute a meeting

Love it or hate it minute taking is part and parcel of the day to day role of the PA/EA for the most part.  Personally, I have always found them slightly painful, but through experience and training I have made my peace with them and gotten my technique down to a fine art! Having worked in a few different roles where I liaised with a large variety of stakeholders I have learned to be adaptable and how to apply the same principles to different situations. Suppose you are part of a wider admin pool or just provide cross cover to other C level executives and you are asked to minute a meeting you have never been involved in. Or you are asking to minute the meetings for a newly set up committee. Saying “no thanks” is not an option, what do you do? You need to ask at least the following 5 questions:

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Time Management for Remote Workers

Time Management for Remote Workers

When you’re a remote worker, such as a PA, EA or VA, time management is essential to your business success, as often you’re billing on an hourly basis or for the time spent on a specific project.

But time management isn’t limited to just knowing where your time goes – it also means ensuring your time is well spent too. Here’s some tips to help you manage your time better.

Set your working hours

By sticking to regular working hours, you, your family and your clients will all know when you’re working. This helps you to keep focused on your work, whilst also ensuring you’re not encroaching on your downtime and/or family time, as well as ensuring you’re not heading into overwork and burn out.

Stay focused

Prioritise your workload, so you’re dealing with the most urgent or important things first. Either use a project management tool (such as Asana) or use a to-do list and time chunk your time and plan your work for the day ahead, prior to starting your day.

Use time tracking software

When you’re working with several clients, it can be easy to lose track of the time spent on each. Therefore, it’s so important to implement some kind of time tracking software, such as the project management app Paymo  or the time tracking too Minutedock.

Also consider getting software that serves several purposes, such as Quickbooks or Freshbooks – as they both include time tracking, invoicing and accounts.

Implement workflows and procedures

You can make your processes more streamlined, if you have a standard procedure and/or workflow for each task you do. Not only does this save you time, it also enables you to achieve a consistency across your work, whilst also ensuring you’re not missing anything.

Limit distractions

Working from home will inevitably give you two potential big distractions – the environment around you and your laptop!

Your home environment can be distracting as it will usually fall into two categories – too noisy and/or too quiet. Often, it tends to flip between the two. Some days, you’ll struggle with the noise around you – the TV, your children, the dog barking etc. However, having too quiet a space can be equally distracting – especially if you’re used to the buzz and noise of an office environment!

When it’s just you and your laptop, your single biggest distraction will be the internet and your notifications. It’s easy to get side-tracked by automated notifications reminding you of everything, from emails to changes made to your shared online files. Having your internet connected means you’ll also feel the draw of a ‘quick’ visit to a social media platform, just to see what exactly your best friend has tagged you in.

Make the decision to limit the distractions around you, by making sure your office is a distraction-free zone. Let family members know when your office hours are, work whilst your children are at work and turn off everything not needed – your internet connection, notifications, reminders, land line etc. If you need to break the silence, play music (without words, if preferred) or have the radio on.

By following the tips above, you’ll ensure you’re both monitoring and making the most of your time – ensuring that every minute of your working day counts!

This guest post is written by Amanda Johnson from VACT

Amanda Johnson of VACT Limited, is a Virtual Assistant Coach, Trainer and Mentor offering a variety of courses and workshops, both free and paid to help both aspiring, new and experienced Virtual Assistants to launch, create and grow their own successful VA business.  Passionate about “Creating Exceptional VA’s”, All of the VACT training courses and mentoring options, are designed to support and fit around you, your current work commitments, your individual circumstances and your budget.  VACT Limited were named as the “The Best VA Training Provider – 2016”.   This is how Amanda describes what she does:  “I’m passionate about creating exceptional VA’s – I am at my happiest when I am inspiring, challenging and supporting others” (and there might be a bit of xxx kicking in there too!)

Website: vact.co.uk
Facebook: facebook.com/VirtualAssistantCoachingandTraining
Twitter: twitter.com/VAtrainingpro
LinkedIn: uk.linkedin.com/in/amandaconstancejohnson
Instagram: instagram.com/va_mentor

Modernising the 'bring up' folder

Modernising the ‘bring up’ folder

Today I thought I would write about a system I used to use to keep my Executive organised everyday – the ‘bring up folder.’ I think most of you are familiar with the bring up folder system and many of you use it to also keep your Executives on track throughout the day. For those of you that don’t know, I wrote about the bring up folder in a post a few years ago… Here is my take on it:

This is my favourite tool for keeping on top of supporting documents for meetings. My bring up folder is a big expanding folder box in which I have put 31 dividers for every day of the month and then dividers for every month of the year. I put all of the information my Director needs for each meeting or general documents they require for that day in between each divider. At the end of every day I give them the following day’s paperwork in a clear plastic wallet with a printed copy of their diary for the day on top. I number each meeting on the diary print out and the papers are also numbered and placed in order depending on what meeting they relate to. It is one of my favourite tools as it means my manager has everything they need for that day and are well prepared. As I go through their emails during the day, I can print off the important bits and bobs and just add it to the bring up folder for whenever they need to see the paperwork again and then I can just get on with my work rather than trying to remember what meetings need which bit of paper.

So, I wrote this back in 2014 and I must say, reading it back, it sounds so old fashioned and very very bad for the environment! It was a brilliant system and worked so well. My Executive never had to worry if they had all of the right information as it was there at their fingertips each morning. They could have a quick look through the pack and see what their day was going to look like, they went into each meeting prepared and never missed a vital piece of information. Every single one of my Executive’s wanted paper copies of everything so this system made sense. I don’t think technology was quite up to scratch and they didn’t want to read documents on their blackberries or lug around their massive laptops!

But, as I said it isn’t the most modern system so why don’t we have a look at how we can modernise the bring up folder?

Using technology to modernise the bring up folder

Most of our Executives are now used to seeing their appointments on Outlook, iCal, Google Calendar or Gmail. They don’t necessarily need a printed copy of their daily calendar, and anyway, the pace of life in some offices mean that meetings are changed frequently throughout the day so a print off becomes redundant pretty quickly.

For me, printing off the daily calendar was useful because my Executive could quickly check the bring up folder and head off to their next meeting without having to check their Outlook calendar, Blackberry or ask me. Again, Executive’s are much more used to receiving alerts on their phone or tablet which will tell them about their next meeting and where to go. So first off let’s say that the daily printout can go! That is one less piece of paper! But, what about all the corresponding documents? How do we make sure our Executive’s know they have supporting documents and need to take them to the meeting and read them?

The easiest option and something that I was doing a little bit more towards the end of my career as an EA (with a slightly more tech savvy Exec) was to attach all of the corresponding paperwork to the meeting invitation in Outlook. At the beginning of each morning I would set aside some time for my Executive to look through their day and open all of the files. They could read the documents on their computer, print off anything they needed and they had it available on their tablet throughout the day. Easy peasy! But, again, this is a little clunky right? And, it doesn’t give us much chance to collaborate on documents. What other tools are available for Assistants to use instead of the old school bring up folder?

We have lots of tools now that allow us to collaborate online and I want to suggest a few options for you, but first how should we set up this online system? Well, actually I suggest a similar system to the bring up folder. Why not? It works!

Why not have an online system that has a separate folder for each month of the year and within those folders days of the week? You could easily slot each document in the day that it is needed. Simple and easy for your Executive to follow. Also, you could have separate folders for those big meetings – board meetings that take place quarterly for example. Anything relating to those meetings can be plonked in their own folder!

Obviously cloud technology has come a long way and there are loads of options that you can use to modernise your bring up folders. Here are just a few suggestions…

  • Dropbox
  • Evernote
  • Google Docs
  • One Drive
  • SharePoint
  • OneNote

You will also have an internal file sharing system that you could use for your Executive. All of these platforms allow for filing, sharing documents (Google Docs also allows for editing in real time, which is super helpful!) Now, as much as I want you to all go paperless. The reality is that a lot of Executive’s still want a physical printout of documents. But if you also have everything online they can read all of their supporting documents anywhere and it is totally secure.

So, I think the days of box files and plastic wallets are very much heading into the past! Anyone else feel old!?

Managing a LinkedIn Profile

Well folks I think we can all agree that Social Media isn´t going anywhere (understatement of the year right?!) In fact, many Assistants are being asked to look after their Executive´s online profiles and their organisation´s meanwhile they have to keep their own social profiles up to date and professional. It can be a pretty time consuming task and it requires some thought because social media platforms change quite rapidly and there are always new and better ways of managing the content. Managing social media is a skill that is in high demand for Assistants and that demand is only going to increase in the next 5 years. Executive´s want to have a social media presence, but managing the technical aspects and keeping all of the various platforms up to date will be the responsibility of their Assistant. So, during the Future Assistant conference, we will be running workshops on how you can manage your Executive´s profiles. Today, I thought I would take a look at managing a LinkedIn profile and share my top tips.

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The tech savvy assistant: What does it really mean?

The tech savvy assistant: What does it really mean?

Most of us that have been working in the PA industry for a while now will have heard of the phrase ‘the tech savvy assistant’. It might have cropped up on your job specs and been discussed during your most recent job interview. But what does it actually mean? Here are my thoughts on what it means to be a tech savvy assistant!

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Technology of the week: unroll.me

Today’s Technology of the week: Unroll.me. Here are all the details…

What is Unroll.me?

Unroll.me is the greatest thing ever. Do you have tons of newsletter subscriptions that you just delete without reading (obviously not Practically Perfect PA!) well, unroll.me shows you all of your subscriptions and magically deletes them all from your inbox. It is MAGICAL.

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Are you outgrowing your PA role?

Are you outgrowing your PA role?

I think we’ve all been there. You’ve been working in your role for a few years, you know everything there is to know about the job and you’re settled into a fairly easy routine that doesn’t come with too much pressure. Life is good right? Well, yes, it sounds like it. But then comes the day when you start to feel a bit bored, a bit unmotivated, the stuff that used to make you feel excited just, well, doesn’t anymore. I’ve definitely felt like that in some roles. Particularly after a few years when the every day was good, but not in the slightest bit challenging. If you feel the same, maybe it is time to ask yourself ‘are you outgrowing your PA role?

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