Excellent organisation skills aren't just a cliché for your CV - here's how the experts put them into practice.
We’re going to take a punt and say that you’ve already listed ‘exceptional organisation skills’ as an asset on your CV, but there’s only so far that will get you unless you put them into practice in the workplace.
Plenty of qualities separate an average assistant from a brilliant, indispensable one - efficiency, competence, an ability to juggle tasks, an air of confidence with a calm, collected exterior - and these all pretty much stem from being highly organised.
While some people seem to have been born with a natural knack for it, it’s a skill you can learn, so we spoke to some of the highest calibre personal and executive assistants in London, supporting busy CEOs, directors and other vital team members across some of the biggest financial, media, recruitment and marketing firms in the country. Here are some of the secrets they shared with us - from advice on inbox management to the best ways to write a To Do list (clue: it’s not starting with something you’ve already done so that you can give yourself the immediate satisfaction of crossing it off).
“Understand what you, your executive, your team, your company is trying to achieve. A good assistant is always thinking ahead, planning ahead and keeping their eyes peeled for ways to make everything run smoother for their executive and the company. You can't do that if you're just speeding thought a checklist of basic tasks.”
“I regularly review my boss’s diary to ensure I am always prepared in good time with meeting arrangements and meeting document preparation – it’s always helpful to ensure as much information is included in the diary/meeting invitations as possible.”
“My biggest piece of advice is to have a To Do list - I couldn’t function effectively without one. I break my list down by highlighting what needs to be completed by the end of the current day and then review at the end of each day and carry over less urgent tasks to the next day.”
“I run three To Do lists, one for daily tasks, one for weekly goals and one for monthly goals, like a bullet journal/milestone tracker. This allows me to break down long term projects into bite-size tasks, and means I don't miss deadlines. I never add anything to the list if I can do it really quickly. Why put off something that will only take a minute or two, you might as well get it out of the way and then have time to focus on a more complex task.”
“It’s important to keep a small, tidy inbox so it’s easier to control. I regularly review mine and my boss’s inbox to ensure nothing gets missed, filing emails into folders so I can refer back as needed. I find that an organised inbox and diary is key to a tidy/organised mind.”
“Don’t put off replying to emails, even if you’re busy. Not only is there a chance you might forget, but the sooner you reply, the more acceptable it is for your response to be short and to-the-point. Then you can immediately delete/file it, making inbox management easier.”
“Do one thing at a time. This can be really difficult, especially if you have more than one boss and multiple things going on, but I find that doing one thing at a time means I can fully concentrate on it and do it properly, without worrying about it being half finished.”
“Wear comfortable shoes! Another executive assistant (who has 30 years experience and is incredible at her job) told me this once and it's so true. I have spent time running to and fro with bosses, jumping in and out of cabs, running up and down stairs, running between back of house and front of house during events etc., and comfortable footwear has been essential during those chaotic days.”
“Stay calm. I think it is so important to at least appear calm even if you are not feeling it, and really believe that projecting an air of calm will stop others around you getting too stressed.”
“Remember: we're not saving lives! Sometimes things just do not go to plan, and everyone has those days where nothing is going right. Those are the days I have to remind myself to look at my problems in the grand scheme of things, and at the end of the day, a car arriving five minutes late is really not the end of the world!”
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Tay Associates was established nearly 20 years ago with the mission of being the best recruiter of PA and business support staff in London, and we’ve achieved this by being consistent in our values, attitude and work ethic, but evolving with the market and our clients to stay on top of our game.
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