To help you get started, here are 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 about 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 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, try to have a routine in the morning and before leaving. 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 you have and the best time 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 essential to try and have some structure in place to know what you should be achieving every day.
3. Keep the to-do list up to date.
You have to plan if you want to be organised, and you need a tool that helps you plan.
This is your to-do list.
To be the organised Assistant, Every single one of you 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 to 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 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 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 into.
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 will not look organised.
If you feel 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.
To be the organised Assistant, use technology to your advantage. There are 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 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 strict.
You’ll get the work done. Take it to the next level, try and get all of your work done by 3 pm, really push yourself, and again I bet you can do it.
Think about what you will do for those extra two hours?