This month’s day in the life is from Tess Keppe who is a private PA. Tess has a varied role with lots of different aspects of her day. She has some great advice for other assistants, here is the day in the life: Tess Keppe. 

What are the main aspects of your role?

My role is making sure that my boss’ life and day run smoothly and efficiently. I need to make sure that they’re only thinking about stuff they have to; they don’t have time to worry about paying for parking at the train station or if they’ve sent a birthday present to their second cousin in Italy… they need to think about their company and its success.

What is your morning routine before you get into the office?

I get woken up by the sound of the first train leaving the local station at 5.15am! (Though I do set an alarm for 5.20 just in case!!) First thing I do is check my emails, I signed up to get alerts if there were any delays on my train route into Waterloo. That way I know if I need to rush to get out of the house or not. I also make sure my boss hasn’t been in touch about changes to the day ahead.

A good trick I learned early in my career was to prepare my work outfits on a Sunday evening, taking into account the weather, so I never potter about choosing what to wear.

What time do you get into the office and what time do you leave?

I get in just before 7am to really get a head start on the day and I usually leave between 6pm & 7pm.

However to make sure I don’t run myself into the ground; I get a lie in on Wednesdays because my boss works from home… I don’t even set an alarm! Then I usually get to the office for about 9.30 which is a real treat.

What does an average day look like?

The first thing I do in the morning is “eat that frog”… the thing on my list that I put off doing the day before; it’s usually expenses! Once I’ve done that difficult or boring task I get through both my boss’ and my emails, making sure I’m up to date with everything.

A little trick I learned is to always read my boss’ sent items not just their inbox. It gives clues into what their priority for the day will be; we’ve all had a boss that fires off emails as one liner instructions, but remember it’s not always just for you so reading their sent items will bring a lot of insight.

When my boss gets to the office, I will have breakfast waiting for them and will try and give them a quick 30 minute update on the day ahead; firstly, telling them whose birthday it is.  We then get through the priorities of the day / week just to make sure we’re aligned. I go through my list of things to do and what might need their input. I then ask “Have you got anything more for me?” which should always be negatively answered; if I’m doing my job right then I should have already covered it! (Well, unless they’ve got a new project for me to get stuck into!)

Whilst my boss is in meetings I will try and get it all done. Working efficiently to get through the urgent and important things. For example, when my boss wanted to get into shape I had to go and view gyms and interview PT’s…. I always do these types of errands when my boss at a long lunch or a client meeting so that I know they won’t be looking for me while I’m out of the office… One thing I joke about is that I am my boss’ shadow in the office; never too far away and always close enough so I can help!

Throughout the day I make a list of things that might require my exec’s attention; all items are categorised into the urgent / important matrix… so when my boss calls and asks if anything’s come up then I know at a glance what to say…

What do you do for lunch?

I eat it at my desk. “Al Desko”! But when my boss is away, I have been known to take an hour!

What is the hardest part of your day?

There’s no hard part of my day, there’s just tasks that you put off or tasks that you don’t want to do, that’s the most difficult part, but I know that once I get going it’s a lot less daunting than when I was procrastinating. So I’d say it’s hard to get over procrastination sometimes.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

That I genuinely don’t know what I’m going to do in a day; my boss can wake up one day and decide on a holiday destination and that’ll be my project for the day!

Sometimes it’s hard working out how to get on with work without having my boss’ input at all… the dreaded “what would they do” question; I love it when I just get on with it and my boss couldn’t have agreed more!

What has been your career highlight?

A wardrobe allowance! 🙂

What do you do in the evening with your spare time?

I’m up too early to stay up past 9pm most nights, but I do like to cook; I’ve been doing those Abel & Cole recipe boxes which are all organic, healthy and delicious! Though sometimes they can be a bit too complicated when all I want to do is order a pizza!!

What is the one piece of advice you would give to other assistants?

You’re never done; there’s always something more you can do so, just get on and do it. That little bit extra each day is the difference between feeling good about your work and feeling that you’re great at your job.

What would you do if you were not an assistant?

Advertising, when I was working at a famous advertising agency as a Team Assistant the MD asked me to be her PA, however, she also offered me a role as an Account Executive… so I had my fork in the road… and I’ve never looked back!

What is the one piece of technology, app or website you could not do your job without?

OneDrive – I don’t use my company’s network (mainly because I don’t trust our IT provider) and all the documents I’ve ever looked at or received are on my phone, computer, iPad and any other device I want at the touch of a button.

Can you recommend any events, books, publications, websites, and training programmes for other assistants?

The CEO’s Secret Weapon” which was actually written for CEO’s hiring new assistants. It tells them what to look for in a good assistant and if you (as the PA) can work out what they want, then you’re far more likely to become better at what you do than if you’re just guessing.

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