Assistants are generally undervalued, but their roles are nevertheless demanding. The right assistant can make a huge and positive impact on the effectiveness of an executive. The reverse, however, is also true.
Here are some best practices of high value assistants:
- Organise your emails
Organise your emails to make it easier to find what you need. Create folders in your email to store different types of messages, such as personal, work, or lists of contacts. You can also create rules in your email system to automatically file incoming mail into these folders. This process will help you quickly find what you need and ensure that important messages are not lost in the shuffle.
- Pivot – using technology to efficiently manage your time and resources
Many tech tools can help you achieve efficient time and resource use. For instance, if you’re working on a project that requires research, try searching for free online databases containing scholarly articles on this topic instead of paying for access to these articles from a professional database. Alternatively, explore blog sites and relevant topics via video search engines like YouTube to gain a broader perspective on the topic.
- Prepare for meetings
Prepare for meetings ahead of time. Keep an agenda with the estimated duration of the meeting on hand, to help you track where the meeting is headed, and how soon it can be completed. This allows you to better manage your time, as well as your boss’s time, by limiting time spent on unnecessary topics.
- Answer all emails promptly
Deal with important emails as soon as you receive them. This helps reduce your workload, so you are not under pressure later in the day or week. Keeping your inbox clean and organised, will eventually decrease stress and increase efficiency in the long run.
- Prioritise tasks
Capture all your daily tasks into a master list and prioritise them into 4 quadrants; Urgent and important, Not Urgent but important, Urgent but not important and Not Urgent and not important. Also set aside time for personal tasks, such as checking emails or social media. By prioritising your tasks, you can maximise productivity while also allowing yourself downtime to relax.
- Organize Your Work Area
Being organized helps you get things done quicker and easier. You can organize your work area by exploring alternative storage options. Find a place for each thing so that it doesn’t take up space on the desk or in your drawers or cabinets. Remember as a representative of your boss, your work area should be neat, organised and professional.
- Keep a database of vendors and update frequently;
Creating, maintaining, and updating a vendor database is essential especially if your administrative functions include procurement. Vendor management not only reduces supplier risks and costs but also builds loyalty and helps to manage your relationship with suppliers more efficiently.
- Ask Questions When You Need Help
What do you do if your boss issues unclear instructions? If you are uncertain about an instruction, ask. It’s better to ask and get needed clarification than to assume and make a mess of things. If the task or activity is something that your boss does all the time, ask him or her about it instead of asking someone else because your boss will know better than anyone else what to do.
- Document your Boss’s preferences
Keep a discreet database/record of things your boss likes e.g. food, drinks, books, interests and hobbies, and places he stayed and had an enjoyable experience. You can include some of these things in his future trips to make them more memorable. For example, if his favourite sport is football, explore how to get tickets to a game on his trip. If he loves golf, you can get golf-inspired décor in his office. Alternatively, keep a list of things your boss hates e.g. foods or drinks he is allergic to, books/ activities he dislikes etc. Do not ever give him any of these things to eat, read, or do in the future.
- Keep a record of your Boss’s to-do list
Keep a list of things your boss wants to do. Later on, you can suggest some of these things to your boss and he can execute them on his own without your help, making him feel independent. For example, if your boss wants to go skydiving or mountain climbing before he turns 60, you can explore resorts that offer this activity and send him that information. Or if he wants to write a book before his 60th birthday, you can proactively look for tools and resources to help him get started.
- Do Proactive Research
Keep an eye out for news articles that might interest your boss or congruent to what he is working on. Clip out the articles and leave them in a folder on his desk, or if he prefers electronic articles, scan and compile into a PDF and send by email.
- Keep a Database of Contacts and Networks
Keep in regular contact with your boss’s clients and colleagues, as well as organisations your boss is a member of. You can choose to proactively send gifts (Christmas cards, hampers, birthday or anniversary gifts) to these individuals or to the contact person(s) in these networks/organisations. The goal of this being relationship management.
- Avoid Gossip
Avoid speaking ill of your boss, no matter what he has done wrong. Your boss will eventually find out and this will erode his trust in you. In the same vein, never lie to him either, at best, you could omit details.
- Read extensively
Read extensively to learn more about the organisation, the industry, regulations, competitors, and the global scene. This will help you make intelligent contributions. Remember your role as an assistant incorporates being an ambassador within and outside the organisation.