Lifehacker How You Work Challenge

Today Lifehacker asked readers let other readers know how they work–here’s my contribution.  You should post yours on Lifehacker here.

Location:  Seattle WA & Environs

Current gig: Executive Assistant (at a tech company); Teacher/Trainer; volunteer board member

Current mobile device: iPhone 4S

Current computer:  Which one?  Dell Latitude for work; HP Pavilion dv7t home; Acer Aspire One Netbook when on extended travel

One word that best describes how you work:  intuitively / effectively

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?  MS Office—really, it’s true.  I use it at work, at home, with my volunteer groups, and now that I have 2010 (at work) and 2013 (at home) and can quickly PDF items, it makes it quick and easy to communicate with almost anyone.

OneNote—the SkyDrive sync function means that I can access notes from all my projects in one place, and the ability to email just a page with great formatting with just one click has been a lifesaver more than once.

Chrome—that I can have all my bookmarks and favorites everywhere I go, even on my iphone is a lifesaver.

For volunteer work and keeping up with home-on-the-go, Google-Docs, Gmail (where I have 4-5 personal email accounts delivered), Drive (sharing docs with volunteers).

Google Maps—the mass transit integration is pretty good, especially paired with OneBusAway on my iPhone.

Doodle—I use this for work meeting scheduling, volunteer meeting scheduling, even for family meetings!

Dropbox—my non-work stuff wherever I am.  Though I still use USB sticks when I don’t know if I’m going to have access to the internet.

I’m not up to “do without” status with Clipsi, but I may get there soon.

What’s your workspace like? As an exec assistant, I’m in the hub of the office, so my desk is central, noisy, piled with stuff people don’t know what to do with otherwise.  I have a dual monitor set up, wireless headset phone, and my notebook & pen right by my keyboard.

What’s your best time-saving trick? #1 Right click dragging emails to the task icon in Outlook to create a task/reminder that I can also link to OneNote—it pings me everywhere!

#2 Not hear the conversations around me, but to listen to them enough to know just what’s going on in the office and to be one step (or on busy days at least a ½ step) ahead of my boss/team.

#3 Always have my notebook and pen around to take down tasks.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager? Tasks in Outlook—they show up on my task bar, in my phone, and in OneNote integrated with background info and other links I need.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without? My notebook and pen—don’t leave my desk without them (though I may leave my computer and phone behind)

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else? Remembering details picked up in small talk so that when I introduce people—either in person or electronically—I can add a little interesting bit about each one that will connect them in a common interest or idea.  It gets them talking.

What are you currently reading? The Martyred, by Richard Kim & The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

What do you listen to while you work? Either the noise around me, or a Nerdist Podcast

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? Introvert (I get recharged by being alone); but I can small talk and network with the best extroverts around.

What’s your sleep routine like? About 6-8 hours a night, up at 5:30 AM most days.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see a lot of other administrative professionals answer these same questions.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? “It will all be OK in the end, if it isn’t OK, it isn’t the end.” And don’t ever be afraid to let your smart show.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?  This is the one area of life—lifehacking—that has interest from multiple generations of the family.

Administrative Professionals: Facilitators, Problem Solvers, Leaders–Break Into The Profession!

IAAP recently released their annual bench-marking survey with a great infographic (see on the front page of my website).

It’s a great time to be an Administrative Professional–did you know:

  • Administrative professionals’ wage increases, on average, have outpaced the cost of living by 13%?
  • Over 65% of administrative professionals wield an average of $20,000 of spending authority for their businesses?
  • 23% of administrative professionals earn $60,000 or more?
  •  50% of administrative professionals support only 1-2 executives, or administer departments or processes?

Administrative professionals are business people who are Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in the smooth, effective running of their businesses.

You can be a success as an administrative professional–break into this career! Ask me how!

Royally Prepare Your Exec for Their New Arrival

All the fuss about new Royal Baby made me think of all the planning that an Admin needs to do when his or her executive is departing on maternity or paternity leave. (I’ll use “she” below, but the same process would apply for an expectant father).

Here are a few thoughts and guidelines to help you assist your executive through the planning process, and to help the rest of the staff execute on the plan:

  • Start planning as soon as you are told she is expecting. Be sure you know:
    • What the company maternity leave plan is.
    • How much time your executive is planning to take.
    • Who to notify in HR or Benefits when the happy event happens to trigger benefits.
  • Work with your executive to determine appropriate delegates—it’s likely that there will be several to cover your executive’s duties, and allow the delegates to continue with their regular workload.
  • Schedule meetings with the delegates starting 3-4 months from the due date to allow your executive to transfer knowledge, priorities, and strategy.
    • Although she likely does this already in weekly 1:1 meetings, the knowledge transfer required for a direct report to execute in this circumstance is likely larger than the norm.
    • Attend these meetings yourself and document duties, deadlines and other important information
    • Ensure you have complete calendar and email access to the delegates (if you don’t already).
  • As the due date draws closer—6-8 weeks out—include the delegates in your executives meetings on the appropriate topics (if they don’t attend already) so the delegate can be introduced and familiarized with the topic, personalities, and political nuances of the situation.
    • Don’t forget to schedule meetings with your executive’s boss as well.  They need to be kept in the loop on all plans, and may want or need approval authority over the appointed delegates.
    •  Assist the delegates in setting meetings and directives with their direct reports so there’s a clear, full, cascading responsibility chain.

    • Planning for the worst case scenario of team members being out unexpectedly will set everyone’s mind at ease.

  •  Be sure to schedule your own meetings with your executive and the delegates to set expectations for how you will support the team in the absence of you executive.
    • You’ll likely be temporarily offering more robust support of more people than usual.
    • Be sure you have not overcommitted yourself with other business committees or events during the time your executive is out.
    • If chairing a committee or organizing a very large event is required, take time to plan for a co-chair, and back up for yourself.

  • Plan your executive’s calendar for re-entry before they depart.
    • Schedule check in meetings with the delegates, direct reports, and her boss over the first two weeks.
    • Find out the provisions for a Mothers Room (if she will need it) and arrange for calendar access for her and you.
    • Have a phone conversation with her nanny or day care provider (facilitated by your executive, of course) so you can understand the arrangements and introduce yourself as a resource for them. 
  • Keep in contact with your exec personally when she’s away.  Just checking in with a brief call or visit to assure her that everything is running smoothly will be reassuring to you both.
  • Be ready for a new work paradigm when she returns and prepare her for it:
    • Rigorously label, file and purge her email.  Be sure that she has clearly labeled reading folders (Read now, Read by X, Read later) for when she returns so she can quickly come up to speed.
    • Changing her standing appointments to reflect any changes in work day preferences.
    • She may work more from home, check email at different times than previously, or have other time constraints that weren’t present before.

  • Review with your executive a few weeks after she’s returned.
    • What worked and what didn’t
    • Share what you learned and what new duties you can assume going forward
    • Report on those intangibles that you would typically discuss with her—staff morale, internal business moves, great ideas that came about because new people were working together.

A great maternity/paternity exit and re-entry plan can keep your business running smoothly while your executive is out and will prove your worth as top-notch admin to boot!

Content & Collaboration Tool—Clipsi

Clipsi is an online content sharing and curation tool.  Instead of a bunch of arcanely named files in a shared network drive or Dropbox, Clipsi allows you to visually represent your information in a stunning online board.

Clipsi makes your data come alive—you can choose images or text from the web or from your own Dropbox drive (other enterprise & cloud storage options on the way), and create a sexy info-display in a matter of minutes!

Here’s a shot of my Clipsi AdminTips board:


To add from my Dropbox account, I just click ADD, and this helpful dialog box pops up:


From there, I simply scroll through my document, find something I want to clip, press Clip from Here and Clipsi pops a resizeable selector box to choose whatever I want:


Click the check mark, click Done, and the Clip shows up on my board:


But it’s not just the clip—if you click on the clip, you have access to the entire document to read on screen.  You can make comments on the clip and even share via social media!


I’m going to be keeping up my AdminTips Clipsi, and adding a couple more boards to track my regional IAAP projects.

Clipsi is in limited Beta.  You can contact me for an invite or sign up to the Clipsi waitlist.