Systems to Keep You Sane

October 18, 2011 § 2 Comments

Let’s face it, being a personal assistant is not for the weak of heart or the thin-skinned or the meek. With some employers you may need to appear the calm, quiet, efficient, working machine but in reality you must be in full control and three steps ahead of every situation no matter how quickly curve balls are being hurled at you. And as humans we will and do make mistakes. It’s how you handle them that will determine if you keep your job or not.

My best advice to any assistant is although you can switch gears in a nano-second and focus on the latest task at hand, you must be as consistent as possible with your procedures and systems. This will save you restless nights wondering if you remembered to do something or not.

For example, at one client’s home we didn’t have enough parking spaces and would routinely move cars around. If you needed to move a car, you would find the keys on a rack by the door and return it there immediately after. One of the employees woke up one night realizing she did not put our employer’s Porsche keys back on the hook. Of course, this was the car her employer was going to drive the following morning to his appointment in Santa Monica, a beautiful drive from his Malibu home. We all knew how he loved to take this car, top down, on beachside drives. Can you blame him?

Had the employee just followed the procedure of hanging the keys on the rack, she could’ve rested easy. But she deviated from procedure because as she pulled into the garage she was called outside to discuss a problem with the gardener and easily got distracted and put the keys in her pocket so she could write down a note. If you are distracted and are given other priorities at the moment, jot down a note “keys” so that there is a reminder to finish your task. Then before you leave to go home, check over your notes. If you wake up worrying if you did something or not, you can rest assured you did it because there is a procedure in place and you are confident you would’ve followed it.

This brings me, in a rather roundabout manner, to my most important system as a personal assistant…NEVER be without pen and paper. I keep a journal like book with me at all times. I date it on the front of when I start a new book and when I finish with that book I write down the end date. Everything I am asked to do, or things I know I need to do, go into that book, dated and crossed off when the task is complete. I write it all down, even if I am taking the most cryptic of notes. (They will make sense to you later when you can add all the details of the topic discussed.) Never ever be without a pen and paper! Oh, and did I mention, never be without pen and paper?

I have systems for everything and will discuss them in later blogs. But whatever your systems are, they are useless unless you adhere to them.

So while some would argue that there are worst things than driving down Pacific Coast Highway with the sprawling blue ocean on one side and the majestic hills on the other, most will agree that the experience loses something when jolted from sleep and your warm bed to rush out and deliver keys 15 miles away at five a.m.—ask my friend.

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