28 October 2007

The Office Fridge

The office fridge can be a mess
Something has spilt, something's been left
That plastic container has been there a year
No one will open it, out of fear

Expiry dates have long been ignored
Drinks are lined up on the door
Is it yours or is it mine?
I can't remember if I brought that kind

Lots of lunches there to see
That one's green though - should it be?
The office fridge can be a friendly place
If people don't abuse the space

If you put in a lunch, be sure to claim
And identify with date and name
Clean out the fridge when you have time
And make Fridays the "throw-out" deadline

Lynn Crosbie writes office etiquette poems in Ottawa, Canada. She has been an Administrative Assistant for over 25 years. You can contact her through this blogspot or by emailing me at pattyannrobb@rogers.com.

Funny poem with some good advice. It seems the office refrigerator is treated the same in a lot of workplaces. Someone emailed me today and said their office fridge was so bad their solution was to throw the whole refrigerator out and buy a new one.

Here are a few common sense approaches to the office refrigerator that were on the Etiquette School of Ohio's blogsite. Click here to go to site.

Enjoy your lunch everyone!

1 Muskopf-Hyde, Sandra, Etiquette School of Ohio, Office Refrigerator Etiquette, http://etiquetteschoolofohio.com/?p=39, (accessed October 28, 2007)

27 October 2007

Keeping Words Together in Microsoft Word

A quick way to keep words together in a Word document is to use the Shortcut Keys.

For example, I never like to split a name up in a letter i.e. Mr. and Mrs.

Instead of pressing the Spacebar after ‘Mrs.’, press Shift Ctrl Spacebar and then type Smith.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith will now stay together.

26 October 2007

What's in a Name?

When I am asked what I do for a living, I usually say I am an Administrative Assistant (or a Legal Assistant). As an old-timer, however, I still sometimes use the name Secretary when describing what I do.

A friend of mine thinks that since our title change to Administrative Assistant our duties and workloads have increased and she longs for the day she could be a “Secretary” again. And she could be right, as our role has evolved into something much more demanding, but in my opinion much more interesting.

I enjoy the challenges of being an Administrative Assistant and I definitely like the title change. But sometimes the word Administrative Assistant is just too formal for me or too stuffy or just too plain professional sounding.

I have named my blog Secretaries Helping Secretaries. Original, no, but I wanted it to be simple and easy to find and you would know at a glance what audience I was trying to reach. I wanted it to be welcoming and not stuffy or rigid or too proper. And Administrative Assistants Helping…well you know, would just be too awkward to say.

I guess I could have thought up a real catchy name like Super Admins or something. Now that would get people’s attention! Should I stop now? Maybe given my poor naming abilities, it is a good thing I called it Secretaries Helping Secretaries.

I am a professional in my job, but I guess I am old enough to be comfortable still referring to myself as a Secretary and not be offended.

Anyway, thanks for visiting!


The Replacement Assistant (or the Floater Assistant)

We all take holidays and when we are gone someone needs to fill in for us. One of my pet peeves when I have used a replacement assistant is when I come back nothing looks the same as before I left; my toolbars no longer look the same; my Outlook has a different look; documents are saved in a way I would never think to find them again and none of the filing is done. Help!

I thought putting together a few Do's and Don'ts would help.

Do's and Don'ts for the Assistant and Floater Assistant:

Do meet with the floater assistant before you leave on vacation.

Do fill out a form for your replacement with any information she might need, computer passwords, upcoming events she will have to handle in your absence etc.

Don't change the computer settings or the workspace of the assistant you are replacing. If you must change the settings, take a printscreen of the settings and restore it back to the original settings before you leave that assignment.

If you are using the assistant's Outlook, do change the signature line to indicate you are sending the email on their behalf.

Do change the initials on correspondence you type to your initials.

Do as much filing as you can, but if you are unsure, leave it in a folder for the assistant to do on their return.

Do leave a short note or email to the returning assistant to give a summary of what you did while they were away and if there is anything that needs attention on their return.

If you are appreciative of the work the floater assistant has done for you in your absence, do send a thank you email (I always copy the HR manager as well). I think a job well done needs to be acknowledged and recognized.

In summary, we cannot expect the floater to do our job exactly the way we do it, but we can expect it to be done in a professional manner with the information we provide to them.

I have asked someone who was a floater assistant to write an article from the floater's point of view and will print that in the next few weeks. I hope both articles will give us a better appreciation of each of our roles and will make our jobs a little bit easier.

Locking Your Computer

I found this quick tip for locking your computer on Richard Rinyai's blogsite The Professional Assistant .

"Hold down the "Windows" key (located between the CTRL and ALT keys) and hit the "L" key. Your account will be locked and only people that know your password as well as any Administrator can log into it. This function will only work with Windows Professional versions."

Taken from http://www.theprofessionalassistant.net/ (accessed October 20, 2007)

Outlook Quick Tip

Outlook has a feature that when you type an email address in the To section it remembers it and when you go to type another email address it will bring up similar choices in a drop-down, assuming they might be the one you want to use. But sometimes these are email addresses that have come back undeliverable as you had a typo in the address, or it's an old email address for someone who has since moved to another company and you don't want these old addresses to pop up. To get rid of the incorrect address when it pops up, just move down with the arrow key to the address you want to delete, when it is highlighted just press delete. It's as simple as that to get rid of it.


Do not click on it, just move down until the address is highlighted. If you highlight and click it or press enter it will use that address.

This also works the same in the CC and BCC sections of your email message

Face up or Face Down?

I received some blank faxes and then got a phone call from an apologetic manager saying she was sorry for the faxes but she rarely had to send a fax and when she did she was never quite sure whether to feed the paper face up or face down. I suggested a simple solution would be to get her staff to put a label on the fax machine to indicate "Feed face up" or "Feed face down", whichever was appropriate. She was very appreciative.

I understood her frustration as at one place I worked you had to feed the paper face up in the photocopier and face down on one fax machine and face up on the other two fax machines.

The label solution was something I saw in our Mailroom. Simple, but if nobody thinks to do it then blanks will be sent by those less familiar with the equipment.

Another good idea is to post instructions on how to send a fax and how use the photocopier. This is especially helpful for those who may need to use it after hours or on weekends.

21 October 2007

Humour and Job Stress

Is there room for humour at the office? Can office humor help relieve stress in the workplace? I think so! I work in an office where laughter is the best medicine. We are extremely busy, but we have a sense of humour and that has gotten me through many stressful work situations. But I think there needs to be a balance and we need to know when to inject some humour and when to NOT.

But job stress is no laughing matter. Here is a link to a discussion on the Healthline website on the subject of Job Stress: How to Keep Your Cool, an Interview with Dr. F. Massino and Dr. W. Wiener, both of the Institute for Performance Advancement, which deals with stress and anxiety in the workplace: Click here1

1 Healthline.com, Job Stress: How to Keep Your Cool, http://www.healthline.com/hgy-transcripts/job-stress, (accessed September 22, 2007)

20 October 2007

Commuting to Work

The Wheels on the Bus go Round and Round...

I look forward to my bus commute to work each day. It is my time to wind down and read a book or just shut my eyes.

At first I hated taking the bus to work. I love reading, but I suffer from motion sickness and was unable to read so I found the commute very boring and long. But I was determined to make good use of my commute and so I started to read a little bit each day until now I can read the whole 30 minutes without any motion sickness at all.

Advantages to Public Transit:

Better for the environment
Monthly passes make public transit a practical financial choice
Let someone else do the driving
Reading/relaxing time

Bus Etiquette: (and I'm sure some things could apply to other public transit as well):

Board the bus in an orderly fashion
Have your change/tickets/pass available before you get on the bus as you only hold up the line behind you if you have to search for it
Priority seating is for the elderly, handicapped people, pregnant women and women with small children
Please exit at the rear of the bus, unless you are in priority seating
You've only paid for one seat, please only use one
Don't assume the person next to you wants to talk
Be careful with those backpacks and big purses
Avoid using strong perfume because of allergies

My Experiences

After three years of taking the bus I have seen a woman putting her makeup on, using a mirror, puckering her lips to put her blush on, putting on mascara and lipstick, seemingly oblivious to everyone watching her; someone else having no qualms about picking their nose and flicking it, which was extremely gross as I was sitting with this person; someone listening to very loud music and moving to the beat; one woman fell sleep and nodded off on my shoulder; a young woman having an argument with her boyfriend on her cell phone; and then there was the bus driver who sang at the top of his lungs, he was an excellent tenor however.

Snake on a Bus

Probably the worst I heard is the man who got on a busy bus with a large snake in his backpack. A co-worker of mine was in the seat behind him and in shock watched the man take the snake out of the backpack and it then proceeded to slither up to his shoulders and neck. (And this is a true story).

Car Pooling

If taking public transit is not an option for you, try forming a carpool, or drive to a Park n Ride and commute from there.

If you are car pooling these are some things you might consider:

  • Be on time if you are the driver, Don`t be late if you are the passenger
  • Make sure your car is full of gas when it`s your turn and in good running order
  • Drive safely
  • Don`t distract the driver
  • Be aware of confidentiality and don`t reveal work secrets to your car pool buddies
  • Be considerate and respect each other`s space
  • Set car pooling rules early on. For example you should discuss these: Singing, humming or other distracting noises, smoking, drinking coffee or any liquids and eating
  • Plan ahead for pit stops
  • What happens if you want to take a detour? Work it out with your car pool mates.
  • If you are driving with co-workers: Either no shop talk or make your time productive and get ideas, problem solve, brainstorm
  • Discuss cell phone use. What is and is not acceptable to the others in the vehicle.

How about you?

Overall it has been a good experience for me taking public transit, but when you are a regular on the bus you get to know who to sit with and who not to sit with. If you have had any experiences you would like to share, please leave a comment below.

Meeting Scheduling Tip

A friend of mine gave me a tip for scheduling meetings when you are going back and forth with dates and times and haven't confirmed a date yet. She has created a table that is very easy to use and keeps everything neat and you can see at a glance where you are at with the scheduling.
Set up a table with four columns across, four rows down (or however many people that are partipating in the meeting). In the columns across put the available dates/times and in the rows down, put the names of the participants. As you phone/email participants and find out their availability, put checkmarks or a Yes/No in the row beside their name and under the date/time that applies. I found I needed to customize it a bit to suit my needs, but basically it is ready to use.

(click on image to make it larger)

"The meeting table I use is quite simple, but helps keep track of who is available when. I think it's a good idea not to give the participants too many options, 3-4 dates is usually enough to choose from. "

Submitted by Denise, Executive Administrative Assistant

19 October 2007

Signing on Someone's Behalf

This is the normal practice I have seen for signing on someone's behalf:
Type their usual signature line, sign your name above it and handwrite ‘for’ beside their typewritten name. It is also acceptable to use per or p.p.
Some Things to Consider:
  • Have you been given authority to sign on their behalf?
  • Does your company have a policy on what style they want used for signing for someone else?

The Little Yellow Sticky

What would we do without the yellow sticky? Here are a few things I use them for:
  • flagging pages in a book
  • reminder notes to myself which I stick on my computer
  • quick instructions on correspondence or a file
  • if a co-worker is not at their desk and I need them for something, I leave a sticky on their computer screen with a quick note
  • at home I put a reminder on my alarm clock or front door if I need to remember to do something that day

If you have other uses for the yellow sticky that might help someone else, put it in the comments at the bottom of this post and pass it on.

Important tip
The yellow sticky is meant for temporary use only, don't depend on it if you need something more permanent.

Electronic Yellow Stickies
You can even have yellow stickies on your computer desktop. Click here for an electronic yellow sticky for your desktop that is really neat. Be sure to check with your IT Department before downloading anything to your computer at work.

If you haven't heard the story of how the yellow sticky idea got started, click here2

1 http://dnl.crawlertools.com/install/sap_landing_notes.aspx?tbid=60299&s=1&banner_id=GGL_CT_ppc07_60299_13_01_13_CA_-Search-__electronic%20post%2 0it (accessed October 19, 2007)

2 www.snopes.com, Sticking With it, http://www.snopes.com/business/origins/post-it.asp (accessed October 19, 2007)

15 October 2007

Being "Green" in the Office

Blogging for the Environment, October 15, 2007.

How can we be better stewards of our environment at the office? I have come up with a few ideas and would welcome any comments from any readers if they have other ideas.
  • Take a bus to work, walk, bicycle or carpool if possible
  • Photocopy or print double sided (post a sign by the photocopier if you need to)
  • Do you really need to print it? Burning it on a CD might work just as well
  • Recycle paper from the printer areas (be careful not to recycle confidential waste: either shred it or put it in secure bins)
  • Ensure your office has plenty of recycle bins by each desk - as well as large recycle bins for cans, glass, newspapers and mixed waste paper
  • Recycle your kitchen office garbage. If you don't have a collection system at work, perhaps a volunteer could take it home everyday and compost it
  • Email telephone messages to save on paper clutter and waste
  • E-cycle: participate in recycling used electronic office equipment
  • If you are in a position to do so, order recycled paper for your office, buy it, or talk to your boss about the possibility of ordering it.
  • Take your lunch to work in recyclable containers
  • Use a "real cup" for coffee (or drinks) and avoid using "styrofoam" altogether. Also make sure you have extra cups for visitors.
  • Use environmentally friendly dish soap in your office kitchen (usually someone just brings this in, or someone orders it, so this is an easy one) - Nature Clean is a good product.
  • If possible recycle your toners.
  • Bring batteries to recyling depots in your office or town
  • When ordering catering, order "real cutlery" and plates and avoid using disposables
  • Make sure the lights are off when you leave, as well as your computers (if possible, check with your IT Department)
  • Make sure you have a tray nearby for pages that have a lot of white space on them. You may be able to get it bound by a Print Shop and used as message pads.
  • If you have magazine subscriptions that you no longer require, cancel your subscription.
  • Also, if people have left the organization, make sure you "return to sender" and let the company know to take this person off their distribution list.
  • If you have the opportunity to check your bosses mail, and you notice that he throws magazines out, or gets a lot of "generic letters" from companies, check to be sure and if agreeable, ask that he or she be taken off the mailing list.
  • In the winter open the blinds during the day and close them at night and do the opposite in the summer.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator when possible - it's healthier for you too.
  • If in a position to suggest this, encourage people to tele-conference or videoconference instead of travelling
  • Talk to other employees in the office - they may have other ideas

Submitted by Angela, Environmentally-Minded University Student

13 October 2007

Making Travel Arrangements

Making travel arrangements for your boss can sometimes be stressful. It is important to ask the right questions to get them where they want to go.

I remember making travel arrangements for a boss who was travelling to New York City for a meeting. I was not aware there were three main airports in New York City: JFK, LaGuardia and Newark International Airport, and I had him flying into LaGuardia but his hotel room and meeting were right across town (closer to JFK Airport)!

Here are some questions you can ask:
  • what kind of travel: Air, Train, Car?
  • the day and time preferred for departure and return;
  • if travelling by air do they have a preference as to where they are seated, window or aisle?
  • if there is more than one airport in the city they are travelling to is there an airport they would prefer flying into?
  • if by car do they require a map for directions and will they be claiming mileage (I use MapQuest1 for directions and mileage)?
  • is the business travel being charged to the company or a client?
  • are they travelling with a business contact and need to sit next to them?
  • do they require a hotel room, restaurant reservations, rental car, meeting room booked etc.?
  • if they require a hotel room, what are their room requirements? (Smoking/Non-Smoking, King or Queen bed etc.)
  • if they are going to a conference do you need to register them? Oftentimes you are able to book them a room in the hotel the conference is being held at.

If your company policy allows it, I have found it more convenient and time saving to use a travel agency to make travel arrangements.

The advantages I have found in using a travel agency are:

  • the cost for the service is minimal;
  • it is time saving: all you need to do is send them an email with details and they do all the work;
  • cost effective: the travel agent will do the work to get you the best deals possible;
  • they ask the right questions to get you where you want to go.

Depending on how busy you are and your office policy, you can decide whether you prefer to book it yourself or use a travel agency.

Here is a list of some useful websites if you need to make your own travel arrangements:
Expedia.ca (for hotel and air)1
Air Canada1
American Airlines1

1 (accessed October 13, 2007).

Customizing Your Toolbar

Something you might like to do is to customize your Toolbar in Word. I like my Toolbar set up for my working convenience and what I am familiar with.

To customize the Toolbar in Word do the following:

Select View
Select Toolbars
Select Customize
Select the Commands Tab and follow the drag and drop instructions in the dialogue box (see below).
"To add a command to a toolbar: select a category and drag the command out of this dialog box to a toolbar."

A Good Hint to Consider:

Take a Printscreen of how you set up your toolbar and print it out and keep in a safe place. This will save you from having to re-create it from memory.

To take a PrintScreen of your toolbar do the following:

While in your Word document press the *PrintScreen key on your keyboard (usually located in the top right hand corner). Open a new document in Word and paste it in by either using Ctrl V or from the toolbar click on **Edit > Paste.
*On the newer keyboards you actually need to press the fn key and then the PrintScreen key.
**In Word 2007 in the toolbar click on Home > Paste.

Quick tips:

While in Customize, you can remove icons from your toolbar as well by dragging and dropping.

A quick way to customize your Toolbar is to right click on your Toolbar area > choose Customize and continue as above.

You can also customize the Toolbar in Outlook, Excel and PPT the same way.

Idea submitted by my former co-worker Nelly

Working Relationships by Bob Wall: BOOK REVIEW

Working Relationships: The simple truth about getting along with friends and foes at work by Bob Wall.
This is a great read filled with useful information on interacting with your team members, working better as a team and resolving conflict. But reader beware, this book has exercises for you to do so it requires a bit of work on your part and some thinking, but I couldn't put it down and have earmarked the book in so many places. There was just that much information I wanted to highlight. I give this book a big 5 ++ for usefulness.

To order, please go on the IAAP website1 under Education & Training: Educational Products/Bookstore.
1(accessed October 13, 2007)

9 October 2007

Health & Safety: Administrative Assistants

I have been an Administrative Assistant for almost 30 years and therefore I have experienced some of the downside of our profession from a health and safety perspective.

Here are some examples of what can go wrong: Eye strain, shoulder and neck problems, carpal tunnel syndrome, back problems and the list can go on.

It is very important for the younger assistants to use good practices now to avoid problems in the future. Some things I have found to be important are the following:
  • good posture at your work station;
  • adjusting your chair to the proper height;
  • setting your screen to the proper eye level;
  • adjusting the glare on your computer;
  • being able to rest your forearms on something while mousing and typing;
  • using an adjustable document holder for reading and typing.

These are just a few hints I recently received as a result of an ergonomic assessment of my workstation and they have improved my comfort level at work a great deal.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety have a site1 with some helpful health and safety tips for office workers.

Here is another health and safety article2 from the Institute for Work & Health.

1 Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, Office Ergonomics, http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/ergonomics/office/ (accessed October 9, 2007)
2 Institute for Work & Health, Institute for Work & Health experts available to discuss issues affecting the health of workers, http://www.iwh.on.ca/media/20070828_experts.php (accessed October 9, 2007)

Initial Caps in Headings

This is what I was taught if you are using initial caps (or first-letter caps) in your heading:

If the word is three letters and under, use lower case: Four letters and up, use first-letter caps.

For example in this heading it would be: How to use Initial Caps in a Heading

But there are exceptions...

Quick Tip:

Of course the first word in your heading should always have an initial cap no matter how many letters in the word.

Office Romance

A fellow Admin Assistant blogger wrote an article on the Do's and Don'ts of Office Romance1. I thought it was an interesting topic, but it seems to me there are a lot of Don'ts to an office romance.

I am definitely no expert on the subject, but here is an interesting article from the Ottawa Business Journal entitled Office hanky-panky fun until someone loses their job2.

1 Rinyai, Richard, The Professional Assistant, Do's and Don'ts of Office Romance, http://www.theprofessionalassistant.net/2007/09/dos-and-donts-of-office-romance.html, (accessed October 9, 2007)
2 Ottawa Business Journal, Zakaluzny, Roman, Office hanky-panky fun until someone loses their job

8 October 2007

Using a Bring-Forward System

The Bring-Forward System (or sometimes referred to as a BF system) might be an old term for the younger assistant, but the principle is similar to using your Tasks in Outlook: You need to have some sort of system to bring forward items that need to be handled at a future date. I have already spoken about using Tasks in Outlook, but on a recent job interview I was specifically asked if I knew how to use a bring-forward system so I thought I would write about it here.

Using Tasks in Outlook is great if what you are bringing forward is in electronic form. If I send an email that has a date I need it by, I just drag and drop the sent email into my Tasks and assign it a reminder date and then it will pop up to remind me that I asked for something.  I can then email the person asking them for it or it may be something I promised someone so I can then send it to them.  That works great for electronic items, but what if you have a hard copy and need to bring that forward?

My preferred method is using hanging folders and arranging them by month.  When you want something later you just put it in your hanging folder for the month you need it.  I write the day I want it in the corner of the item or put it on a sticky note (i.e. bf for May 13).  Every evening before I leave for home I check my bring-forward folders to see what I need for the next day.  This is an excellent method when you are bringing things forward for your boss.  I then put them in a folder for my boss and leave it on his desk so he has everything he needs for that day.

For my own bring forwards, I use a combination of my Tasks in Outlook and a Wait Bin (or Holding Tray) to bring forward items that need my attention later. Anything I put in my Wait Bin, I put a corresponding Task in Outlook with a reminder referring myself to the Wait Bin. For instance if I need to register my boss for a conference by a certain date and I have a hard copy registration form that needs to be faxed I would it in my Wait Bin and set a Task reminder for the day before I need to send it.  My Task would read something like "WAITBIN: Register Mr. Brown for Australia Conference."  Then when the reminder pops up I will know the registration form is in the Wait bin. It is really a catch-all system and can be used for anything.
An assistant in my office uses index cards in a card box (separated by month) to remind herself of things to do. She writes on the index card what she needs to do that day or a file she needs to bring-forward and she checks the box each day.

Please see my earlier article on Getting organized and staying that way (August) for more tips on organizing your desk.

Here is an article with some ideas about the bring-forward system that might be helpful to you: http://www.advice4businesses.co.uk/business_task_lists.shtml, (accessed October 8, 2007).

Upgraded to Microsoft Office 2007?

Here is a site that will help you: The New Paperclip.

The New Paperclip, http://www.thenewpaperclip.com/, (accessed October 8, 2007) Taken from OfficePro Express, IAAP.

3 October 2007

Proofreading a document

It has been my experience that using Spell Check never replaces proofreading a document. I have proofed documents where the person has relied only on Spell Check and the outcome has been comical. A few examples of this are: A lawyer writing to a potential client writes that he has expensive experience, instead of extensive experience. I remember reading a document and instead of its they had written tits. Bloopers to be sure, funny yes, but professional - NO! Be sure you always proofread your documents and then Spell Check it as an extra step to your proofreading.

Quick Tip:

A word of caution when using Spell Check: Be careful when you are going through the document that you don't accidentally press Replace rather than Add to Dictionary or vice versa.

Rules for Filing Alphabetically

I was taught that when you file the general rule is nothing comes before something. For example - Robb, P. comes before Robb, Patricia. But my teacher in highschool always used to say, "When in doubt, look in the phone book". The phone book is filed alphabetically and you can always use that as a reference. Although if you look at the attached PDF1 you will note that they don't agree with my teacher on the phone book idea.

1 INFORM Records Management News, Alphabetic Filing Rules, p. 5,6, http://www.filingdepot.com/inform/INFORM%202005-1.pdf, (accessed October 3, 2007)

Rules for Writing out Numbers

I was taught that you spell out numbers under 10 and any numbers over 10 you use numerals. And generally this rule will help you in your day-to-day writing, but there are exceptions. Click here1 for Lynn Gaertner-Johnston's article Rules on Writing Numbers.

1 Business Writing, Gaertner-Johnston, Lynn, Rules on Writing Numbers, http://www.businesswritingblog.com/business_writing/2006/03/rules_on_writin.html, (accessed October 3, 2007)

Binder label tip

A woman I work with gave me this tip for labelling binders.

"I had to label the large 3" binders, and this being the first time I needed to do this...I wasn't sure of what was available. I solved my problem...use the Business Card Pockets (3 3/4" x 2 3/8") along with the Name Tag Sheet (Avery 5390). It works like a charm!"
Submitted by Darlene Hale, Admin Assistant

2 October 2007

E-Mail Management by Nancy Flynn: BOOK REVIEW

Well I got the books I ordered through the IAAP website1 and I did promise you in an earlier article that I would do a book review when I read them.

Fortunately, I take the bus to work and have 30 minutes of uninterrupted reading time each way so I was able to finish the first book entitled E-Mail Management: 50 Tips for Keeping Your Inbox Under Control by Nancy Flynn.

In the Preface of the book the author writes: Originally intended as a productive-enhancing, time-saving tool, e-mail has evolved for many of us into a time-consuming, productivity-draining obligation that demands our attention during business hours and personal time alike. And as I am sitting here at midnight writing this article and being constantly interrupted by the ping of incoming email, I can relate to what she is saying. Are we in control of our email or is our email controlling us?

I found in the first few chapters, although I knew what she was trying to say: Don't be a slave to your email! I felt her suggestions were unrealistic, especially in a business where email is a big part of our communication and communication is our income, but once she got into the actual email tips and ideas for managing your inbox I thought it was quite interesting and helpful.

I did come away realizing that I manage my business email not too badly. I had already taken some of the steps she suggested, for instance telling my family and friends to email me on my home email account and not at work. That cut down on a lot of inbox clutter. I actually hadn't realized how much personal email I was getting at work until I re-directed everyone to my home email account. I also re-directed any feeds I had subscribed to to my home email, unless they were work related.

And I came away with some new vocabulary like nettiquette and Crackberry addicts, you'll have to read the book to find out what those words mean...But on the whole I would rate this book as a 4 star in usefulness for managing your business and personal email.

To order, please go on the IAAP website<http://www.iaap-hq.org>1 under Education & Training: Educational Products/Bookstore.
1 (accessed October 2, 2007)

The Challenges of Working for More Than One Person

I had always worked one on one, but in my new job I work for two very busy lawyers and I have had to make adjustments in my working style because of the many challenges of working for more than one boss.

Here are some things I have learnt as I have transitioned into this new role.

When I am given work by either of my bosses I have gotten into the habit of asking them when they need their task completed, then I can prioritize my workload and organize my day better. Sometimes I find it is a learning experience for your bosses as well and it is nice if you can take the lead in making things run smoothly. Now when I ask them when they need it by, unless it is extremely urgent, they usually ask me what is on my plate and then they make their decision based on that.

I organize my desk in such a way so that I can accomodate both their needs. I have incoming mail trays for each of them and separate filing bellows, but otherwise I use my other trays for both of them. (See my earlier article on Getting Organized and staying that way for hints on how to organize your desk).

All incoming work I put in order of priority and go through the pile as quickly as I can.

I maintain both of their calendars and print out a copy of each of their schedules for the day so I have something in front of me to refer to. I try to keep up to date on what their week is going to be like so I can be aware of what may be coming up that they will need assistance on.

I also open and read their incoming mail and mark down any due dates and mark it in their calendars and in my Outlook Tasks, with reminders set, which helps me to plan and prioritize.

I have on rare occasions had to ask them to decide which job gets done first as I just did not have time to meet both their deadlines. I find if they are aware of my workload they will try to work with me on priorities.

Fortunately the assistants in my office work as a team and sometimes it is a simple matter of asking one of them to pitch in and help and between us we can meet the deadlines.

I actually now enjoy working for two people as it gives me variety in my day and I am learning to work with two people with different working styles. As long as you keep yourself and your desk organized it is not an impossible task.

Now what if in my next job I work for 3 or 4 people...well, that will be a subject for a future article, but for now I am handling two.

Here is a related article1 Juggle your work for multiple bosses.

I found this article2 on the IAAP Website in their archived articles which I thought was good.

1 Martin, Anya, Juggle Your Work for Multiple Bosses, http://admin.monster.co.uk/7441_en_p1.asp, (accessed October 2, 2007)
McCune, Jenny, Multiple Directions, OfficePro, August/September 2006, http://www.iaap-hq.org/officepro/OParchive/AS_06_CvrStory.pdf, (accessed October 2, 2007)

Using Your Tasks in Outlook

In a busy office sometimes your automatic task reminders are the only way you can remember all the things you need to do, but I am pretty old school when it comes to new technology and it took me a few years before I decided I could trust using the Task function in Outlook. Now I don't know what I would do without it! I rely on my Tasks to follow up on many things during the day, from court deadlines, reminders to call clients, to reminding myself to make a dental appointment. So if you haven't gotten into the habit of using Tasks, give it a try and you may never look back.

Again, I will turn it over to my sister to give you hints on using the Task function:

"To set a task reminder:
  • File - New - Task (or Ctrl - Shift - K)
  • Type in the Subject: i.e. "send a reminder notice to all involved in the upcoming conference"
  • Set the Reminder/Task date
  • You can set your Priority and Status if you want but I don't normally bother with that
  • It's important to click on the Reminder check-box and set when you want to be reminded so that you actually get sent the task reminder.
  • Use the space provided to make any notes i.e. where files are located, e-mails, etc. to complete the task"

    Submitted by Lynn, Admin Assistant

Quick Tip:

When you set the start date, it automatically sets the due date as the same date, which is probably what you want.