31 August 2008

To do or not to-do? Managing with the to-do list

My sister told me she once worked with a manager whose first question when meeting with her staff was, "What does everyone have on their plate?" Everyone looked at each other and mumbled something or other, but nobody was really prepared for the question. The manager then told each member of the team to go back to their desks and type up a to-do list of everything they were doing and the status of each item. She told them that each time she met with them she wanted them to bring their to-do lists so she would know who she could give work to and where everyone was at. She was then able to prioritize jobs and know what everyone was doing and what other jobs they were able to take on.

It made sense to me and I have been using to-do lists ever since. A to-do list for yourself can be an invaluable tool so items do not get forgotten, but it can be an even greater management tool, whether you are working in a team of two or many more.

As my sister's manager suggested, it is a good idea to meet regularly with your team and go over what everyone is doing. One of the greatest benefits of doing this is to keep everyone on the same page and to ensure the manager knows what each of their staff is doing. It can also be a great accountability tool to keep everyone on track and progressing through each job.

I find it is best to put your to-do list in electronic form and typed in order of top priority. I do print out my list occasionally, but I update it electronically on a regular basis. If you are working with someone, it is nice that each of you can go through the list together when you meet, but also if you are both updating and revising the list electronically, then you are able to get updated quickly when you go on-line to check the list.

I also like the to-do list as a reminder come appraisal time of everything I have done throughout the year. It can also be a tool to evaluate how the other members of your team are performing and if they are meeting deadlines.

Try to make your to-do list simple and easy to follow. If you make it too complicated it will not be useful. I use a table format and put the Item #, Task Description, Due Date, Responsible Person and Status.

I have different to-do lists for many projects. I usually put a subfolder in my project file for the to-do list, or if it is a small project, I staple it to the inside of the folder.

I have always found the to-do list to be a great tool to keep myself organized, but recently have found when working with someone else, it helps us to work as a team and to follow up on items. It is also a good way to keep track of who you asked to do what and when and if the job was completed.

As our mother's used to tell us, "Try it, you'll like it!" And in this case, you probably really will...

24 August 2008

Locker Room Etiquette and more...

Is there an etiquette for the locker room? If not, I think there should be. I think camera cell phones should be banned from locker rooms. It is an invasion of our privacy. I have often gone to the gym and while changing notice someone on a cell phone and it makes me feel uncomfortable. How do I know they are not videotaping us in the changeroom in our state of undress? Will we end up on a porn site or on YouTube in some embarassing pose? It is so easy to take a photo or video without us knowing.

Restroom Etiquette

What about using a cell phone while in the restroom? I read an article about cell phone etiquette and they listed this one as a no-no. The restroom (or "washroom" as it is called in Canada), is a private place and you are invading your neighbour's privacy if you do it. Your call may pick up flushing, tinkling, conversations at the sink etc. etc. that are private and potentially embarassing. The washroom is a place to do your "biological business", touch up your make-up and hair if you are a woman, wash your hands and get out.

If you need to make a private call and are not in an office where you can close the door, go outside and use your cell phone. The restroom should not be used as a phone booth.

If you want to join a discussion on OfficeArrow on this subject click here and let us know what you think or leave a comment on my blog.

If you are not a member of OfficeArrow you can view the discussion, but if you want to make a comment you need to log on. It is easy to sign up as a member and then you can log on and join discsussions like these and more.

23 August 2008

Working 9 to 5: What a Way to Make a Living!

I’m sure you all remember the Dolly Parton song Working 9 to 5. I think it was our anthem for a time because we could all relate, especially if you were in the role of office worker. I bet I've even got you humming it right now...

I thought the words described our working day to a tee. Here are a few song titles and lyrics that connect to those who have to get up and go to work each day. I salute each of you and encourage you to enjoy your day at work as much as you are able. You spend a lot of time there, you might as well enjoy it...

Working 9 to 5 – Dolly Parton - “Tumble outta bed and stumble to the kitchen”

I am not a morning person. I don’t mind staying late at work, but please don’t ask me to come in early.

She Works Hard for the Money - Donna Summers - “She works hard for the money, so you better treat her right”

I don't know about you, but most administrative assistant jobs I have been in were lots of hours and hard work.

Temporary Secretary – Paul McCartney - “All I need is help for a little while”

I got back into the workforce through a temp agency. It is a foot in the door. When you are temping, act as if you are on an interview every day.

Friday on my Mind – Easybeats - “Monday I have Friday on my mind”

You know you are going to have a bad week when you think it is Friday on Monday. That’s the kind of week I was having last week. Every day seemed like Friday. It was the longest week I’ve had in awhile.

Five o’clock world – The Voids
“But it’s a five o’clock world when the whistle blows”

Don’t you just love it after putting in a full-day’s work you feel you’ve accomplished what you needed to get done? That is a day I can say I put in a good eight hours.

16 August 2008

Happy Blog Birthday and more...

It is hard to believe that it was only last year that I started my blog, but it was August 2007 when the idea first came to me to write a blog for administrative assistants.

It has been a very interesting year. I have learned so much and have enjoyed the writing and the interaction with other bloggers and my readers.

The last few months I have been busy compiling my articles into a book that will be published by Inkwater Press and should be available by mid- to late September, 2008.

I am very excited about the book. It has been a lot of hard work. Sometimes I wondered if I would have time to do it all, but finally it is completed and I will anxiously await my first copy.

To celebrate the completion of the book and my one-year blog anniversary, I am going to have a blog contest and offer a copy of the book to the winner. Stay tuned for more on that.

Thanks to all my blog readers. You have encouraged me to keep writing.

Here is what I wrote on my back cover that will give you an idea of what I tried to accomplish with the book:

  • Laughing All the Way to Work: A Survival Guide for Today’s Administrative Assistant is the result of a combination of a sense of humour and thirty years of secretarial experience and living to tell the tale.
  • Laughing is not a secretarial manual, but is a guide. A manual is useful, but a guide you will read.
  • Laughing and Survival are key words in the title because without the one you could never do the other.
  • Laughing is filled with common-sense practical and useful tools for the secretary that are not taught in the classroom but come from experience on the job. It is an easy-to-read book that entertains as well as educates.
  • Laughing is not all about work however. There is a section called The Rest of Your Life to help the busy office worker with after-work hints and tips.
  • Laughing will appeal to both the student just entering the administrative assistant field and the office worker already on the job.
Contributing authors are my sister Lynn Crosbie, who has been an administrative assistant for over 25 years, and my daughter, Krysta Anstey, who has written some of the chapters in the last section called "The Rest of your Life: Keeping a Balance."

I will keep you posted on the contest and on the book.

10 August 2008

What is D A T?

Maybe this only happens in my little world, but I have noticed when myself or my co-workers print a page with a Watermark on it, for instance DRAFT, it looks fine on the screen, but when printed it looks like D A T. Every second letter is missing. If you have experienced the same thing, here is what I discovered will fix that.

To create a Watermark in Word 2007:

  • On the Toolbar (or Ribbon) go to the Page Layout Tab – click the arrow down beside Watermark and choose Custom Watermark. The screen below called Printed Watermark will open.

Click on Text Watermark and then choose the text of the Watermark you want. Unclick the Semi-Transparent box located at the bottom right-hand corner. I then choose a lighter colour for the Watermark so it will print lighter, but will still be visible on screen as a Watermark. (You will see the Colour choice to the left of the Semi-Transparent box). Press Apply and OK. You will now see DRAFT on screen and off.

Perhaps there is another way to fix it, but this works for me.

4 August 2008

Four Reasons why Outlook should be called -- Lookout!!

Someone I know said they thought Outlook should be called Lookout because of the speed in which you could mess up. Here are some reasons why I agree:

  1. It is easy to send mail to the wrong recipient. The e-mail memory feature can be helpful when you don't want to look up someone's e-mail address, but if you aren't paying attention you may pick Susan in Accounting and you meant to send it to Susan in HR and you were forwarding your performance appraisal.
  2. Recall doesn't always work. It is a handy feature to have and if you read my last post you will see how it works, but it does not consistently work. It usually works when you are doing a test run, but when you really are hoping it will work, "Please, please, work..." -- it won't.
  3. E-mail can bring in viruses. Remember the I Love You virus. People came in to work in the morning and when they opened their e-mail thought, "How sweet," and opened an e-mail they thought was from a loved one and ended up shutting the whole company e-mail system down for a day.
  4. It is too easy to make user errors and reget it. A lawyer I know pressed Reply on a message, but he meant to press Forward and ended up giving the other side in a law case his strategy. He thought he was forwarding the opposing lawyer's e-mail to his client with his advice on the settlement, but instead pressed Reply. Oops!

3 August 2008

Don't press Send and Regret it

I'm sure we've all done it at one time -- pressed Send on an e-mail and put the wrong recipient in the To box. No matter how diligent you are, sometimes these mistakes happen. Thankfully, there is an option to Recall the message.

In Outlook 2007 this feature works much better than the 2003 version. In 2003, the recipient still gets the e-mail and has to agree to let you recall the message. They will receive a message in their Inbox that you want to recall the message, but it's up to them whether they agree or not. In Outlook 2007, you get the option to recall the message directly from the recipient's Inbox. If the recipient does not have Outlook 2007 or has already picked up the message this feature will not work.

To recall a message in Outlook 2007:

Go in the Sent message that you want to Recall. In the Message tab under Actions, you will see Other Actions in the Toolbar. Click on the arrow down and you will see the option to either Delete Unread copies of this message or Delete unread copies and replace with a new message. You should also click the box Tell me if Recall suceeds or fails for each recipient.

Regardless of whether you think you will ever need this feature, keep the instructions close at hand. The sooner you can perform the action after you press Send, the more successful you will be.

Recall is an option, but the best defence is to carefully look at the recipient name and don't press Send until you are sure.