Even the most organized executive assistants could use a little help
I recently had the opportunity and pleasure to work with an executive assistant at a local corporation. She handled 8 legal attorneys and all of their work and demands. When I was called in, she was getting prepared to handle 15 more, so her workload was essentially tripling. Although she was already very organized, taking on this increased caseload meant she needed to be impeccably organized and efficient. I came up with a few solutions for her that should help.
We went through the papers on her desk, which she had been leaving in piles, and when something was needed she would sort through the piles. Even though she didn’t have that many papers, it was still challenging for her to retrieve them at a moment’s notice as attorneys needed them. The first solution I created for her was a vertical action file system with space for 8 bins, one for each attorney. When she completed paperwork, she would keep them loose in these vertical bins. We also made a manila folder within each bin for travel expenses and another one for upcoming events. When she receives expense receipts or information for an upcoming trip, she can just put them in those designated folders within that attorney’s vertical bin.
We also focused on bundling her tasks. Our plan was for her to submit all expense reports on Thursday afternoons so they would be ready before their Friday deadlines. She is able to create a strict cut off time for the attorneys to submit expense receipts to her so she will always have everything she needs to get this job done on Thursday afternoons.
This executive assistant likes writing physical to do lists as new tasks come in, but she was using a small notebook which caused her lists to take up many pages that she was constantly flipping through. I suggested she use a legal pad and divide it up into sections by either attorney or type of task so as new tasks came in she could easily list them all on one or two pages. Once she gets this new to do list organized in a way that works best for her, she will create a template on the computer so she can print out blank to do lists at the beginning of each week.
Because she will be adding 15 more attorneys to her caseload, we have allocated space in the file drawer in her desk by using a hanging file folder for each attorney with manila folders for expenses and upcoming events within each one. Office supplies that were taking up space in this drawer have been moved behind her, with only a couple often used forms and labels remaining in the drawer for quick access.
Current projects are now held in a vertical paper holder on her desk as a daily task list. Once she completes her most urgent projects, she can refill the paper holder with new tasks. She has also committed to spending the first 15 minutes of each work day going through her current task list before reading new emails and getting work done. This helps her prioritize and organize her day before dealing with any new tasks. This 15 minute period will allow her to approach her day proactively instead of reacting to each new request as it comes in.
It was a pleasure to work with this organized and competent woman and I am sure that once she gets into this new work flow, she will be even more productive and able to handle her increased workload. I can’t wait to see her progress and I’m sure a promotion is soon to come.
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