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Five time-saving tricks to organise your day

I’ve been an executive assistant for over 10 years, the last six at Cohn & Wolfe. For the last decade of I have worked alongside Scott Wilson, C&W’s UK CEO and EMEA MD. A common misperception of a PA is that all you do is put meetings in the diary, answer the phone and fetch lunch. This is far from the truth. I class myself as a ‘Modern Assistant’. I am fully involved in many areas of the business, from new business and  marketing to European co-ordination and the internal roll-out of regional and global initiatives. I have experience, an opinion and a brain and Cohn & Wolfe encourages me to use them all.  

With so many moving parts in my day-to-day work, it’s imperative to stay ahead and on top of everything, ensuring nothing slips through the cracks. So here’s my top tips to help ensure you have a successful day.

1. Get yourself a morning routine
I like to get in early so I’m up to speed by the time Scott walks in. Having real-time access to his emails means I’m always up-to-date and building my knowledge. The headphones go in and I use the first 30 minutes of the day reading emails and taking notes of actions. From here, I can then start planning the priorities of the day, not only for myself but for Scott too. By doing this early you don’t get side-tracked by all the other requests coming your way. Plus Scott is all set by the time he comes in. There is no point trying to do this the evening before as, being part of a global agency, emails are continuous. Rather than work 24 hours I would rather be at home relaxing and enjoying my dinner!

2. Find yourself an online task list
There are so many different tools available online. Different organisations have different packages but there are some great free online tools too. Sharing a task list on Outlook is our tried and tested tool. It also means Scott’s list is mobile and goes everywhere he does.

3. Diary management and travel 
The diary has everything in that we need, from calls to attending meetings, including travel time and time to complete actions. The most common mistake is having lots of back-to-back meetings and not allowing time in case things are over running. For internal meetings I like to make agendas and follow up promptly with actions. It helps move things along from the shared task list and ensures we make sure any actions assigned to us are completed in a timely fashion. Allocating travel time or admin time in the diary serves two purposes; it gives Scott reminders he needs to leave or finish his meeting. You always know he’s late when I start waving like a crazy woman outside the glass door pointing at my watch!

4. Files, files, files
I’m lucky, I’ve worked for Scott for more than 10 years so we know instinctively how each other works. Critical to this is having an online filing system for documents and pitches. It’s imperative in order to find things at short notice that you have a systematic approach. Because I know where everything is my knowledge is also called upon on a regular basis.

5. Be at ease knowing that on busy days you won’t be able to get everything done
The world we work in is forever changing and relentless, combining client work, new business deadlines and the day-to-day management of a busy UK office and European network. Changing your priorities throughout the day is a regular occurrence and, to succeed, you have to be adaptable to change. We work in the communications industry so communicate to others if you can’t make deadlines and agree and set realistic new ones. Most importantly, it’s okay not to clear your task list every day. By having your task list online, it’s a constant work in progress.

Article written by Hannah Dawson, executive assistant and European network manager at comms agency Cohn & Wolfe

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