The very definition of a Personal Assistant is an ‘assistant who works for one person in particular’. Never mind working for yourself. You’re running your own life, and someone else’s (and often, more than one persons) at the same time as yours. To do this effectively, organisation is vital.
In this day and age, PA’s have one of the most diverse job descriptions out there. Often their skills, abilities, talents and focus are not only shifted between executives, but could possibly range from running personal errands to conducting a staff meeting on the behalf of the chief executives. This versatility was emphasised during the economic struggles of the 2000’s. As most companies were forced to retrench staff, secretaries became responsible for more than one manager and started taking over tasks that were generally assigned to middle-level management. This would not be possible without some sort of organisation. As much as we would all like to believe that we are a secret super-hero, we are only human and are bound to forget something every now and then. Developing your own system of organisation can assist in avoiding this imminent forgetfulness, and assist in keeping the façade of a Marvel Avenger.
Find Your Own System – and Keep It
Like all super hero’s have their own strengths and powers, so does each PA. The ‘trick’ (for lack of a better word) is to stay consistent. Once you have found a system or a masterplan that works for you – stick to it. Now, from personal experience – depending on the mangled mess of thoughts that fly around my head daily – keeping consistent can be tough. Some days I think that filing documents in alphabetical order is the most logical method, and on others, I use a chronological system. Avoid this by writing down a “key” of some sorts (as obvious as it may seem at the time), this will not only ensure consistency for you from day to day, but will also aid others to find a document, while you’re off saving the planet somewhere else.
Write It Down Your Way
After conducting some research, I discovered that most people find it beneficial to write down their to-do tasks, or keep an automated list on their phones/notebooks etc. However, the manner in which this is done is suggested in numerous ways. Some say that having one list, in one place can be beneficial rather than having loose pages, different journals or post-it notes flying around from desk, to car, to the mirror in your cupboard, whilst others agree that one long list is demotivating and intimidating. Writing things down not only allows you to clear you mind (even if for a moment), but can prove useful in tracking records. Just make sure you can find it again. A compromise between having one long to-do list, and having different notes, is to categorise. Putting all your thoughts, ideas, hopes, fears and dreams in one place will make it easier to find and adhere to, and categorising these tasks can help you determine the difference between important and urgent. The sense of accomplishment that comes from ticking off a to-do task, is surprisingly motivating and self-fulfilling, much like doing a good deed – never mind the sense of pride that comes from other’s admiring your ability to “do it all”.
De-Clutter Your Bat Cave
As we all have different triggers and motivational methods, so we all have alternative ways of conducting our work. Some prefer a clean desk and decluttered lifestyle, while others thrive under pressure and self-adopted chaos. I have found that I am not as bothered by clutter as much as the next person in line; however, I have noted that when I accidently spill my coffee all over the report that has been left on my desk for days …. the boss isn’t too chuffed. The physical skill of organisation can prevent mishaps, and misplaced/lost documentation. By simply returning items to the original place once they have been used, or by developing a procedure of efficiency in a work space, your office management skills will improve. This can have a positive effect on the people around you – the classic ‘lead by example’ creates an opportunity for you to inspire your colleagues/team. This way, when your urgent and concentrated assistance is required elsewhere (similarly to batman being signalled), you can have the courage to delegate to others, and know that they will represent your determination effectively.
Using Your Time Management Super-power
I always seem to find that in order to save time in my day-to-day tasks, I need to spend weeks of implementing new systems, or adjusting processes that have proven to waste time (and therefore money). Streamlining your tasks, and planning the next step forward, will certainly have it’s benefits in defining your priorities and creating clear communication, but this is not new information to anyone. We’ve all heard about, and experienced, the stress that is brought on by poor time management and rushed jobs. But there is so much more to time management than avoiding distractions and procrastinations. Setting aside an allocated time period each day to reflect on completed tasks, or upcoming events can not only increase your potential but allow you to learn from your mistakes. If you never correct the past, you lose out on the chance to grow and create happiness in an environment where you easily spend one third of your day. Make a point of taking some time to congratulate yourself or evaluate a task that was completed, every time you pour yourself a cup of coffee, or every time you walk to the bathroom. The time will pass anyway, you might as well use it to your own benefit. Whether you make a change to your mental; physical; or time organisation style, be proactive about it, and ensure self-discipline in that change. A PA is responsible for the organisation of an entire office and supporting their manager with their duties. You don’t need to wear a secret spandex suit under your office attire in order to be the hero, just be the best version of yourself and lead the team with consistency.