Monday, January 18, 2010

Strategies of an Assistant

I've been working as an assistant since my junior year of high school (almost 8 years ago). Here are a few strategies that I've picked up along the way . . .
  • Respond to e-mails within a few hours (or preferably within a few minutes), even if it's only with a "I got your e-mail and I'm working on it!" This way others are assured that their request is important to you and they know that you are top of your assistant-game.
  • Make lists, lists of lists, and a master list of lists. In other words: make lots of lists! Carry a pad of paper to meetings so you can jot down things you need to do. Lists are a life-saver when you have a million little tasks (and people!) calling your name.
  • Learn how to prioritize your time. You're probably only going to get 5-8 things done today, so pick out the most important tasks and tackle them instead of only getting halfway done on 15 tasks. (This helps when you have a list! see previous point)
  • Use the Task feature in Outlook. Set up reminders for everything: water the boss' plant, make dinner reservations, remind the boss of such-and-such on a certain day, Monday morning tasks, turn in time card, etc. It's great for daily, weekly or monthly tasks. The possibilities are endless.
  • Learn to lead up. If your boss gives you something to do, then consider it your responsibility. Most likely he will not remember it again. Take the initiative to make sure the task is completed on time and in a satisfactory manner. And if it involves reminding the boss about something and/or making sure he completes his end of the bargain, that's your job, too. (Thus the "leading up" - in essence, you are leading your boss.)
  • Organize all of your Outlook e-mails into folders by subject (Travel, Expenses, Scheduling) or by organization. Delete unnecessary e-mails and use the saved e-mails as a resource. Keep your Inbox e-mails to a minimum - only current or ongoing tasks allowed.
  • Learn to say "I can't do that right now." Sometimes it will not be humanly possible to complete everything asked of you, so you need to be ready to tell them so - very respectfully, of course. Be prepared to give details about what is on your plate, to tell how much time is available/needed, and to ask for help to prioritize. (A side note: when a task is given to you, be sure to ask about the time frame and deadline for completion.)


  1. I must say that you are a woman after my own heart.

    Point 1 - I think is one of the most important tips.

    Point 6 - I have about 25 folders in Outlook which are organized by subject and I only keep emails in my Inbox that have not been answered.

    It is a wonderful list for employees in general. Very wise words.

    Thanks for sharing.


  2. You're welcome. :) I thought it might be nice to write down some of what I've learned in the past few years. Oh - and my e-mails are currently organized in 54 folders...I just love knowing that everything has a place.