29 September 2008

Cystic Fibrosis

Hello Readers,
My great nephew Owen has recently been diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. He is just eight months old and will have a lifetime of treatments ahead of him. What I wasn't aware of was the many changes the family will have to make to their home to make it habitable for young Owen. I am planning a local fundraiser to help the family with the costs on November 15th, but of course it will be in Ottawa, Canada and I know most of you are elsewhere.
In the meantime, I have decided to donate the royalties on any sales of my book to the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. They raise funds for research and to support Cystic Fibrosis clinics. For more information on Cystic Fibrosis please click here. Donation information is also available if you are interested in making an online donation directly to the Foundation.
My book is currently available on Amazon. Please click here for Canadian orders and here for the States and other countries.



28 September 2008

Using an electronic Check Box - Check! Check!

When you are searching through Word, perhaps looking for something else, you may be surprised at what you find. My sister and I were refreshing our skills in Word at the advanced level and found this neat little checkbox. Not the checkbox you can insert from Symbols (Insert, Symbols, scroll down until you find Symbols and then choose your checkbox and press Insert), but this is a checkbox that you can use electronically to either put a check mark in it or unclick it. Here is how you do it in Word 2003 and in Word 2007:

Word 2003
  • View - Toolbars – choose Forms – go to the icon that looks like a checkbox and click on it. A checkbox will be inserted into your document where your cursor is.
  • To check the box, go to the left of the box and double-click – when the pop-up appears, go under Default Value, click either Not Checked or Checked. Unchecked is the default for a box.
  • To take the shading off the checkbox, click the [a] icon in the Forms toolbar, it is a toggle for shade and unshade. Shading is the default for the checkbox.

Word 2007

You will need to activate the Developer Tab.

  • Click the Office Button (top left of ribbon), at bottom right there is a box called Word Options, Click on that, choose Popular (at top) and then click Show Developer tab in the Ribbon

To add a checkbox:

  • On the Developer tab, in the Controls group, click Legacy Tools (you will need to hold your cursor over the icons to see which one is Legacy Tools, on mine it is the last icon)
  • Under Legacy Forms, click Check Box Form Field (or the icon that looks like a checkbox)
  • To take the shading off the checkbox, click the [a] icon in the Forms toolbar, it is a toggle for shade and unshade. Shading is the default for a box
  • To check the box, go to the left of it and double-click – when the pop-up appears, go under Default Value, click either Not Checked or Checked. Unchecked is the default for a box.

19 September 2008

Using a Bring-Forward System to Help Organize Your Boss

Of all the articles I have written, the one I wrote on the bring-forward system by far gets the most views. When I wrote it I was writing from my perspective of working in a law firm and most of the things I had to bring forward were 'me' generated. Only occasionally would I have to bring forward something for my boss.
Fast forward to my new job and my focus has turned completely around. I still have things that I need to bring forward for myself and I still use the techniques I wrote about in my previous article, but to a lesser degree. As an Executive Assistant to a busy CEO, I have to organize my boss and I needed a bring-forward system to meet his needs.

I have always believed in communicating with other assistants to get ideas and to share tips and tricks of the trade, so it was no surprise to my friends when I started my new job that I wanted to tap their brains for anything they could give me to help me adjust to my new role. One of my friends was able to help me with many things I needed to know. A tip she passed along had to do with the bring-forward system and has been a great tool for me. It is actually the same bring-forward system that I learned in high school, back in the 1970s, but in all my career had never needed to use until now.

I use hanging file folders labelled from January through to December. They are legal-sized folders, because I like a lot of space, but letter size would work just as well. My boss will give me items that he wants brought forward on certain dates and I just put it in the appropriate month he wants it with a note on it with the date, and sometimes time, he needs it by and it is as simple as that. Every afternoon before I leave for the day, I go through the hanging file for that month to see if there is anything I need to bring forward for the next day.

Another bring-forward and organizing tip my friend shared with me (that she picked up from another assistant along the way) is using two-fold folders, with inside pockets.  The folders are labelled from Monday to Friday. On Friday afternoon I take out the Monday folder and start to fill it with what my boss will need on Monday. My boss likes me to print his weekly calendar on Monday so he can see at a glance what he has for the week so I clip that to the front of the folder. I then print his daily calendar and slip that in the left pocket of the folder and on the right side I put everything he will need for the day. I put it in the order of when he will need it and flag anything that he will require for teleconferences, meetings and travel. I do this for each day of the week.

Looking ahead on your boss's calendar will be important so that you can put the appropriate information in the folder. For instance, if your boss is travelling on the Monday, you will have to give him or her everything they will need on Friday.

It is a simple system, but works really well. My boss is now organized for the day and I can relax and get on with my other work.

I am sure I will hear from some readers about the electronic age and getting with the program, but I have not found a more uncomplicated system than I use right now. I do however use my Tasks and Reminders in Outlook throughout the day for my own deadlines and projects, but for organizing someone else, this system beats even that for simplicity and it just plain works!

For a boss who is on the road a lot you can use the electronic method of dragging the e-mail or whatever they will need for their meeting into the calendar date, including directions on how to get to the meeting, flight numbers and times, call-in numbers for teleconferences, agendas, e-mails, etc. I always put (OPEN) in the Subject of the meeting so they will know to open the calendar appointment for more information.

Having a good bring-forward system and keeping your boss organized will go a long way to make both of your work lives better.

13 September 2008

Why I love my job?

OK so I don't love it, but I do enjoy it.

I have always enjoyed the places I worked. When I interview for a job I interview the person interviewing me and try to get a feel for whether we will work well together. That has always helped me to determine whether I take a job.

Good boss, bad boss

On one interview I went on, when I met the two men who would be interviewing me, I met the first one and thought, "OK, so he seems like a nice man and I could work with him." When the next man walked in I thought, "Absolutely not, I could never work for him." When we proceeded with the interview it was the second man however that I connected with. It taught me never to judge a book by its cover. Once he opened his mouth I found he was entertaining, smart and easy to get along with. Both men ended up being great to work with. Unfortunately, both of my bosses have since moved on and I was put in another area that I didn't feel was challenging enough so I decided to look for another job.

Now I have gone on another interview and I hit it off right away with my new employer. He is smart, funny and seems to not only need an assistant, but appreciates having one. Those are some of the main ingredients for a fulfilling job in my books. Your boss can make the difference on how much you enjoy your job.

But I don't know everything yet...

My new job is filled with challenges. I took the job knowing I would have a learning curve in a few areas, but that has made it more interesting. Sometimes doing something that is a little outside our comfort zone ends up being just right.

One of the things I am required to do is take minutes and I have avoided having to do that for 25 years. But guess what? I found that I enjoy it. Who knew?

Whistle while you work

I don't mind hard work, but I do like to have fun while I work and when I can I like to joke around with my boss and co-workers. I think it makes it more interesting not only for me, but for those I work with.

That is the message I try to give my readers. We all have to work, but we can have fun too. We spend too much time at work for it to be boring and ho hum all day long. There is a time however when we have to knuckle down as we are running around in many different directions, but at the end of the day we can laugh with each other and enjoy having accomplished a job together and with good humour.

The first thing I noticed about this new job is that they pay attention to what I think in areas of the office that are typically the administrative assistant's expertise. At many offices I find they make decisions without our input and then wonder why it doesn't work. I am enjoying being taken seriously as a professional.

So why do I like my job?

It has all the ingredients that I want in a job. It is challenging, but not too much out of my area of expertise. My input counts so I feel needed and appreciated. There is room to grow in my profession, but most importantly, I like my boss and that makes all the difference in the world.

6 September 2008

Going Checklist Crazy

I am organizing a Board meeting and I have checklists and to-do lists coming out of my ears. I'm sure my assistant must think I am the Checklist and To-Do List Queen.

Making a List, Checking it Twice

The Board meeting I am preparing for is a two-day event and I don't want to forget anything that I need to do leading up to it, or anything that I need on the day of. I have a checklist for each day with a list of things I have to remember to bring or do before and after the meeting.

On Day 1 we have Committee meetings so there is a list of things I need for those. In the evening is the Board dinner with a checklist of what I need to bring to that: menus, name cards, seating map, myself...

On Day 2 is the actual Board meeting, but because I have checklists I only have one item to put in my Outlook Tasks the day before the meeting, "Don't forget to bring my checklists!!!"

It is so easy to forget the little things and sometimes the bigger obvious things that you think you won't forget -- you forget.

I like to take minutes on a laptop (yes, I did say minutes). Some of you may remember my article called The Art of Minute Taking where I bragged that in my almost thirty years as an assistant I had never had to take minutes. Well, now I am the Minute-Taking Queen.

If I forgot to bring my laptop with me to a meeting out of town, that would be an almost disaster for me because I prepare my minutes ahead of time on my computer and basically all I have to do at the meeting is fill in the blanks. As an aside, pen and paper will suffice if I have to, but you can see that the checklist can help avoid any unnecessary stresses from happening.

Another thing to put on your checklist if you are using a laptop is a memory stick. A memory stick is my back up if my laptop and I part ways. I can always rent a laptop, or the venue may supply one for a charge, but with the memory stick, I still have all my data that I need to make my job easier.

Being organized helps de-clutter any task and makes it more manageable and doable. I think I feel another checklist coming on, gotta go...