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.


Anonymous said...

I do use Outlook tasks, and one of my recurring tasks is to check the bring forward file for the next day *laughs*. Otherwise, I never remember to check it.

Patricia Robb said...

I know what you mean...

Anonymous said...

Those are some great ideas. I'm pretty new to the world of assisting and I have found myself struggling over the last year trying to get and stay organized and proactive. Do you have any suggestions for my OVERWHELMINGLY large "to follow up on" folder. Everyday it seems to grow and get messier and messier.

Patricia Robb said...

I feel your pain and know exactly what you are talking about, but yes, there are ways you can get things under control and take control, rather than it controlling you. If you would like to e-mail me at pattyannrobb@rogers.com, I would be happy to give you extra tips.