The role of the Assistant these days is pretty diverse; one day you will be assisting one executive with personal tasks, the next you may be making business travel arrangements for a different person, managing a project, working on a big event or hiring a new Administrative team. Assistants are always pulled in so many different directions, that the only way to get anything done is to be incredibly well organised.
But how do Assistants do that, exactly? We all know that ‘being organised’ is on every single Assistant job application so we know it is crucial, but where do you start? Being organised isn’t something that happens overnight, you have to set healthy habits that will help you organise your work and stay organised (it is easy to start being organised, maintaining it is the hard bit!)
To help you get started, here are ten habits of highly organised Assistants.
Ten habits of highly organised Assistants
1. Write things 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.
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 proof of progress and makes you feel good for getting things done.
2. Implement a weekly routine.
I know this can be hard for Assistants with the level of interruptions and urgent work we have to deal with, but setting a routine really will help you with your time management and workload. It helps keep you focused and organised. If you think you will struggle to carve out a routine during the day, then try to have a routine in the morning and before you leave. This could be making sure you do the horrible tasks first thing in the morning and before you leave you check the schedule for the next day. You could implement a routine around the tasks that you have, and the best time for you to complete them, again as an example you could do your expenses on a Friday or your minutes on a Tuesday. Whatever it happens to be, it is important to try and have some structure in place so that you know what you should be achieving every day.
3. Keep the to-do list up to date.
You do have to plan if you want to be organised and you need a tool that helps you plan. This is your to-do list. Every single Assistant should have a to-do list, and you should be updating it regularly with every action or task that passes your desk. When a job is completed, tick it off. When you need to change the deadline date, make sure you update the task. Working from your task list does keep you organised.
4. Have a weekly round-up session.
At the end of every week, review what you have achieved, what has been ticked off your to-do list and what you have coming up next week (including the tasks you didn’t get around to). Every organised Assistant I know has time for reflection at the end of the week so that they can hit the following week running!
5. Come prepared at the start of the working day.
Come prepared in general. To everything! Again, this is about planning your time. If you commute into work, spend some of that time planning out the day ahead. What do you need for your meetings, what does your Executive need? If you can get into work a little earlier than your Executive, this will help you so much. Spend that time get yourself and your Executive organised for the day ahead (and deal with anything that came in overnight).
6. Set time aside to tackle emails (but don’t live in your inbox).
Email is the worst time zapper for office workers but for Assistants it really can be all consuming because of the number of email inboxes we look after. You have to get out of your emails and your Executive’s emails. This is not where productive work gets done and will make you so unorganised! It can become a terrible habit always to check emails, so you have to start a new habit not to check emails! Set time aside every day (say three times a day for half an hour) to run through your inbox and your Executive’s. Stick to those times, once the half an hour is finished go and work on something else!
7. Keep calm and take breaks.
Taking regular breaks to refocus and maintain your levels of chill is such a good habit for Assistants to get in to. We have to appear organised and in control as much as actually being organised. If you are running around looking flustered, stressing out about your workload in front of your Executive or colleagues you are not going to look organised. If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a break, regroup and come back to your desk with a more definite sense of where to get started. Take regular breaks – the best habit for staying organised!
8. Have a system in place that works for you.
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 papers 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.
9. Use technology to your advantage.
Use technology to your advantage. There are so many productivity tools, browser extensions and apps you can use to help organise your life. 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 Trello. 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.
10. Give yourself deadlines to get through your work.
It is incredible how organised you will feel if you set stringent deadlines for yourself. It can be easy to let work slide if you don’t have a hard deadline to get it done, but you know yourself how much you can get done when you have a deadline, and you’ve left everything to the last minute! I’m not saying always work in this way because you will burn out, but try to harness a little of that work ethic every week. So say you have a report to write or minutes to type up, give yourself an hour to get that done and be really really strict. Trust me. You’ll get the work done. Take it to the next level, try and get all of your work done by 3pm, really push yourself, and again I bet you can do it. Think about what you will do for those extra two hours?
The eBook is designed to help you navigate the first few months of your new role. Here you will find everything you need for the initial first meeting with your Executive. You will also find articles on how to navigate the tricky world of working with the Executive Team, building rapport with your new Executive and advice on how you can work effectively with a boss who has never had an Assistant before. Download the free eBook now.