All posts by Abby Miller

25 Calendar Tips for Secretaries

By | Appointment | No Comments

A secretary or administrative assistant does much more than just schedule or reschedule meetings. You’re responsible for organizing and maintaining your boss’s calendar so that they’ll always meet deadlines and never miss an important event. Because of this added responsibility — you’re probably the most crucial person in your exec’s life. Here are twenty-five calendar tips for secretaries.

You will want to be continually improving your calendar skills. These additional ideas for higher productivity.

1. Know your boss’s preferences and priorities.

You’re responsible for your client’s and superior’s calendars. You’ll want to continue upgrading any needed calendar tools and helps.

First, you need to get better at “doing” the calendar process.      

  • For example, when are they most productive? How long does it take them to complete specific tasks?
  • When do they prefer to schedule meetings?
  • Do they have a particular time when they like to return emails and phone calls?

You can answer these questions by simply asking them what their levels are or what prioritizing do they want? You can also shadow them for a week or two to witness their routine first-hand. Go through their back schedules and calendars to note how their schedules have appeared before.

2. Commit to lists and planners.

As a secretary or assistant, you must be organized — for both your boss and yourself. If not, you won’t be able to prioritize tasks. And, even worse, you may make common scheduling mistakes like double-booking appointments.

The most natural solution is to create lists and use planners and calendars. While you can use a paper planner or calendar, going digital allows you to access this information anywhere, anytime. It’s also more convenient to share with others. You can also use these tools to set reminders and notifications so that important dates and tasks will not be forgotten.

If you do use several apps, such as an online calendar and a task management app, make sure that they’re synced and updated in real-time.

3. Get familiar with your chosen calendar.

If you do use an online calendar, set aside time to understand the essentials and how to use the Calendar thoroughly, for example, with what other tools does this Calendar integrate? How can it be shared with others? And, what shortcuts are there so that you can quickly add and edit information?

To get you started, here are some helpful guides you can refer to:

4. Create a calendar template.

After you’ve gotten to know your boss’s preferences, and how to use your calendar, you can create a calendar template. It makes managing a calendar easier since you can input essential dates and data instead of creating a calendar from scratch for every day, week, or month.

For example, does your manager prefers to have all meetings take place on Tuesday? Block out that day in the calendar for meetings so that nothing else is scheduled in the same timeframe. If they want to check their emails daily from 1 pm to 1:30 pm, then in the template would block-out that time for that specific task.

5. Use a shared calendar.

If you’re using a digital calendar, then one of the most important features it should have is the ability for the calendar to be shared with others. Most calendars allow you to share it via email or an URL code. As you’re creating and managing someone else’s schedule, they should have access to their calendar so that they know exactly what’s going on.

Additionally, shared calendars ensure that everyone remains on the same page. It also prevents surprises, conflicts, boosts productivity, and helps manages tasks, deadlines, and milestone.

6. Address possible scheduling conflicts before they occur.

Let’s say that you’re reviewing the calendar for either yourself or your superior and spot a possible scheduling conflict. For instance, there is a meeting that ends at 4:30 pm on Tuesday, but your boss has a dinner commitment at five pm. You may want to see if you can conclude the meeting earlier or push-back the dinner ASAP. Paying attention to the details that cause frustrations in scheduling will prevent your boss from rushing from one appointment to the next or even running late.

7. Create and stick to your routine.

Everyone needs a routine. Without one, you’re aimlessly wandering from task-to-task. What’s more, a set routine will keep you on track. You’ll know precisely what you’re working on and when.

An effective routine should be based on energy and not time. If you are most productive in the morning, then that’s when you would want to focus on your most demanding or essential work for the day. After you’ve determined your ideal routine, add blocks of time to your calendar that is set aside for a specific activity. Remember, your routine should remain the same every day.

8. Batch similar tasks together.

Batching is where you group similar tasks to accomplish at the same time. This way, your brain isn’t switching gears. For example, you could arrange all meetings on the same day of the week. Now you and your superiors aren’t interrupting your day to attend a meeting. The other days of the week would then be dedicated to your other priorities.

9. Never book back-to-back or standing meetings.

These suggestions may feel like you are going back to scheduling 101. Back-to-back meetings are disastrous since this doesn’t provide an opportunity to prepare and decompress from the previous appointment. If there’s travel involved, your manager could run late. It’s unprofessional to be late for any event or meeting and results in wasting someone else’s valuable time. Always add a buffer between meetings to prevent these mistakes from occurring.

Additionally, scrap any standing meetings. If the other party isn’t committed or the event doesn’t serve a purpose — it’s not worth adding to the calendar.

10. Optimize time for different types of meetings.

Speaking of meetings, they’re not all created equal. As such, they shouldn’t require the same amount of time. For example, a discovery call with a potential client should only take 10-15 minutes. A face-to-face appointment with a high profile customer should last around 45-minutes.

Knowing how to optimize time for various types of meetings means that you aren’t committing additional time to your boss’s calendar.

11. Always bring your calendar into meetings.

Whether you’re using a paper or electronic calendar, always make sure that you have that calendar with you — by your side whenever you attend a meeting. Having this calendar with you allows you to jot down how long the meeting lasted, who attended, and what was discussed. Having this information will make planning future meetings a breeze.

Rely on a tool such as Calendar as it will tap into the power of machine learning and make smart suggestions on how to schedule meetings to more significant advantage. Although voice-intelligent calendars are right around the corner, they’ll be able to make meetings even more productive. For example, smart calendars can analyze past events to see how everyone participated. You will also want to suggest to your higher-up that they find ways to make meetings more engaging and time-effective.

12. Plan for breaks and interruptions.

No matter how organized and prepared you are, emergencies happen. While it’s impossible to always plan for the unexpected, you can make it less of a problem by having some flexibility in your manager’s schedule. Now if there’s a fire to put out, it won’t completely throw their entire schedule into chaos. They can move a task back to an empty block of time.

Also, you need to build in breaks into everyone’s calendar. We all need time to unplug, rest, and refocus throughout the day. For some of us, if it’s not in our calendar, we may keep on working until we hit a wall.

13. Don’t offer open-ended scheduling options.

Let’s say that you leave Friday mornings open for your boss. They receive a request for a meeting, and you say, “Friday morning is open. What time works best for you?”

A high number of appointment requests and your boss’s Friday morning is now jam-packed with meetings. Now you have left them with little time to handle priorities like administrative tasks. Instead, only offer one or two options to reduce this from happening. However, I would reply by sharing your exec’s calendar so that they can see their availability for themselves.

14. Use a variety of tools.

If you want everyone’s life to run smoothly, you need to have an arsenal of tools. An online calendar should be the first tool that you embrace. Consider solutions such as:

  • Calendar to automate any meetings or events that need to be added to a calendar.
  • Trello for project management.
  • Dropbox for sharing files.
  • Todoist to manage all of your lists.
  • Slack to communicate and collaborate with others.
  • SaneBox to keep your inbox in check.
  • Hootsuite for managing social accounts.

15. Color-code everything.

A color-coding system is where you assign a color to a particular activity. For example, you could use blue to represent all meetings and red for concentrated and undisturbed work. It’s a quick and effective way for you, and your boss, to view a calendar with just a glance.

16. Double-check synching.

Always make sure that all of your boss’s devices are synched with her calendar. The last thing you want is for them to miss an important deadline or appointment because their calendar on their phone wasn’t updated. To make matters worse, Google Calendar is known for having syncing issues even though it’s one of the best calendar tools available.

17. Check the weather and traffic throughout the day.

Your executive is always on the go. One of your responsibilities is to keep up with the weather conditions and traffic patterns. If there was implement weather or an accident, it could result in them arriving late to a meeting or appointment.

In your calendar, you should set reminders to periodically check the weather or traffic so that your exec can plan accordingly. Some calendar apps provide real-time weather and traffic information and will notify you on when you should leave.

18. Keep others on-track.

Whenever there’s a meeting scheduled, it’s your job to confirm the event with everyone attending. You also need to make sure that you’ve sent participants an agenda and directions to the location of the meeting. Thankfully, most calendar tools will send event reminders. But, you still want to make sure that everyone will attend and be there on-time.

19. Become a timekeeper.

When your manager is in a meeting, they probably aren’t focused on keeping a sharp eye on the clock. As such, you could be the one keeping track of the time. When there are only ten minutes left, give them a cue so that they know it’s time to wrap up. You may also be expected to keep everyone on the team in line with the boss’s calendar.

20. Simplify your inbox.

As an assistant, you not only have to tame your inbox but also your supervisor’s email. Suffice to say, if not tamed, email can become an overwhelming and time-consuming task. That’s why you need to set aside times throughout the day to go through emails. Since you may not have time to go through every message, you’ll establish a priority matrix. Determine which messages are urgent and need immediate action and those that can be responded to later. The priority matrix will also help you identify messages, in email, text, or calls that require a follow-up. Those items require monitoring you’ll add to a to-do list.

21. Set an out of office message in your calendar.

Both you and your boss need time away from the office. But, what if someone asks when your superior is free or not? Instead of viewing their calendar and rattling off a series of dates and times, you can share the calendar with the other party. But, by adding an out-of-office message to the calendar, no one will be permitted to book an appointment whenever you and your boss aren’t in the office.

22. Prepare, prepare, and prepare again.

Preparation is vital when you’re an assistant. There’s no right or wrong way to prepare. However, the best place to start is reviewing you and your manager’s schedule in the evening to make sure that everything is for tomorrow. You don’t want to wake-up to any surprises first thing in the AM.

Personally, I also like to prep my meals and clothing the night. The decision the evening make that decision in the morning. Generally, you can’t pick your boss’s clothing without assistant-access permission to their items. However, some executive bosses do get desperate enough to allow you to have access to accomplish this task for them. But you can have their favorite snacks or list of their favorite restaurants readily available.

23. Set aside time to discuss your boss’s calendar.

No matter how well you know, your manager, schedules, and priorities will change. To address this, you should block out a time to discuss the schedule with them. Some secretaries like to do this weekly, while others feel that once a month is satisfactory.

24. Review this (and next’s) week’s calendar.

Once a week, preferably on Fridays, review your calendar so that you can see how the last week priority activities were spent. You can then use that data to make the next week even more productive and effective. For example, if you notice that your exec spends an hour per week hosting a team meeting that only takes 30-minutes, cut-back the meeting length going forward.

25. Follow the fundamental rule of scheduling.

Finally, make sure that you always follow the fundamental rule of scheduling; all scheduling goes through you. No exceptions.

Having a steel-control on the schedule may sound like a bit much. But, if too many people are involved in creating and managing a calendar, it can become extremely cluttered. And, it can lead to scheduling conflicts or errors. The fewer cooks in the kitchen, the better.

How To Market A New Business More Efficiently

By | Appointment | No Comments

After starting a new business, you’ll need some way to spread the word about your existence. Marketing involves improving your brand recognition and visibility while attracting new clients. Most entrepreneurs turn to digital marketing. It’s an accessible way to market and advertise your business. Your success in this area isn’t a guarantee.

If you want your business to be successful, you’ll need to think about the efficiency of your marketing strategies. In other words, how much are you getting compared to the time and money you’re investing? Doing this calculation is called your return on investment or ROI. It’s affected by many factors, including the strategies you choose and how you execute them. Most marketers focus almost exclusively on how much they are paying versus how much they are getting in new revenue. But, tt’s also essential to think about how you’re managing your time.

What steps can you take to make sure you’re marketing your new business as efficiently as possible?

Understand Your Goals

First, it’s crucial to identify and understand your goals. Obviously, marketing and advertising are all about raising awareness and attracting new customers. But, what are you specifically trying to achieve, and what are your highest priorities? For example, is it more relevant to you to increase brand recognition, or is it better to get new paying customers as soon as possible? A new source of revenue can play a significant role in which strategies you choose and how you execute them.

You’ll also need to think about your timeline. Some marketing strategies have a very high ROI. These strategies are useful for a wide range of businesses, but they take a long time to develop—sometimes months to years. Other strategies take effect immediately. Sometimes, they guarantee traffic to your site or new leads. Yet, they tend to be much more expensive. What balance would be most appropriate for your business? And, is a short-term or long-term focus more important for you?

If you don’t understand your goals initially, you won’t be able to come up with an effective marketing plan.

Work With an Agency

Thanks to the abundance of content on the Internet, it’s possible to learn the basics of how to market a new business on your own. However, for most businesses, it’s better to work with a digital marketing agency.

According to Crown Media Tech, “Agencies have access to more resources than the average business owner can gather on their own. It’s the only way to make sure your campaign funds are being used efficiently.”

Digital marketing agencies tend to have access to many different niche experts. Rather than hiring a generalist or tracking down a network of your own niche specialists, you can rely on the specialists within an agency. Digital marketing agencies tend to have extended networks. They also have more flexibility when it comes to workloads and service provision. Then, you’ll never have to worry about shortfalls or gaps between availability and needs.

Even more importantly, marketing agencies tend to hold themselves accountable to high standards. They want to keep you as a client. If results are lackluster, they’ll usually go the extra mile to troubleshoot the campaign and make things right.

The flip side is marketing agencies usually cost a few hundred to several thousand dollars a month to employ. The cost depends on the services you’re using. Compared to the results you get, this is still cheaper than what you’d pay for an in-house team.

Learn What You Can, When You Can

Even if you’re delegating most of your marketing work to an external agency, it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about marketing and advertising. The crucial knowledge about marketing will help you make recommendations for your campaign. It will also be useful for evaluating new angles to try. You can get a critical lens through which you can understand your agency or employee actions.

Start With One Core Strategy 

If you’re trying to manage your marketing strategy on your own or if you’re coordinating with a small team, start with one core strategy for your campaign. The core strategy doesn’t have to be your only strategy. But, it should be the focal point of your campaign.

In terms of how to market a new business, a core strategy is beneficial for several reasons:

  • Specialty expertise development. If you and your team are focusing almost exclusively on one strategy, you’re going to learn at a much faster rate. Over a period of weeks to months, you and your team members will grow to be much better versed in this strategy. Then, your expertise will start paying off.
  • Noise reduction. If you’re new to the world of marketing analytics, focusing on one strategy will help reduce noise in your measurements. You won’t struggle to figure out which of your sub-strategies is having the most impact on brand recognition. Instead, you can focus on the effects of your core strategy.
  • Min/maxing. In most marketing campaigns, it’s better to spend a lot of time and money on one, high-quality strategy than to distribute those funds amongst multiple, lower-effort strategies. In other words, this is a focus on quality over quantity. By starting with one core strategy, you can give it your full attention instead of half-heartedly pursuing a dozen strategies simultaneously.

Establish a Clear System for Communication 

Much of your marketing success will be dependent on your ability to communicate your ideas and collaborate with others. The principles of communication applies to most situations. Whether you’re meeting with an agency regularly to discuss new ideas and provide direction, or you’re coordinating with a team of writers to ensure your content is relevant.

For starters, establish a clear hierarchy and a precise arrangement of responsibilities. Who is responsible for organizing and coordinating meetings? Which marketing items require your approval, and which ones can be managed independently? You’ll also want to decide which mediums are most appropriate for each type of communication. For example, in-person meetings tend to be counterproductive, primarily when a group email could have accomplished the same goals.

The idea here is to improve the level of transparency and the clarity of communication between groups while minimizing the time spent communicating those ideas. Much of your communication is going to depend on the abilities of the individuals in your network. You may have to mentally translate, as they may not be able to express their ideas and needs as concisely as possible.

Experiment and Make Cuts

As you become more comfortable with your marketing campaign, start to experiment with how you market a new business. That could mean gradually incorporating new marketing strategies with which you’re unfamiliar or trying new angles with your existing focal strategy. Either way, experimentation is all about trying new things, measuring their outcomes, and keeping the angles that work.

It’s easy to become complacent with a marketing strategy. If it’s earning you decent results, you’ll be inclined to keep it running as-is. However, this blinds you to the possibility that there may be a different angle or different combination of strategies that can easily outperform it.

It’s also essential to cut consistently underperforming strategies. You may feel inclined to keep a strategy around indefinitely because you worked hard to understand it, or you’ve already invested so much in the “how-to.” This action is known as the sunk cost fallacy. In some cases, it’s best to cut your losses and move on with something else.

General Productivity Habits

If you’re trying to accomplish more in the marketing and advertising space, you can also focus on strategies designed to improve your bottom-line productivity in general. For example, you could invest in an app (or multiple apps) designed to increase your productivity. You could spend time physically exercising or meditating in the morning, clearing your head, and readying you for the day ahead. A different tactic is to invest in a better project management app or a task management system. Then, you can enforce new rules in how projects and tasks are assigned.

Another strategy is to develop a better hierarchical system for prioritizing your own responsibilities during the day. There isn’t a right or wrong way to approach this since different strategies will have varying levels of effectiveness on different individuals. However, it’s vital to give multiple ideas a shot. Then, see how your productivity is affected.

Practice How to Market a New Business

Marketing a business efficiently isn’t the result of a binary decision; you can’t flip a switch and suddenly start spending your time and money in a highly efficient way. Instead, it’s a gradual process. You’re going to make lots of mistakes as you try to better understand your business and its target demographics, but every mistake you make will bring you closer to an “ideal” setup.

Be ready to fail and ready to learn from your errors. As long as you’re actively trying to improve and make things more efficient, you should be able to succeed.

How to Improve Your Own Morale When Working From Home (and Why You Should)

By | Business Tips | No Comments
Improve Your Own Morale

If you’re working from home, you’re probably working by yourself, in a vacuum. This is especially true if you’re self-employed, running your own business or freelancing. There are some major benefits to this arrangement, allowing you to focus on your work without interruptions and giving you more flexibility to handle the demands of your personal life, but there are also some drawbacks.

Notably, your morale can quickly decline. If you’re working for yourself, there isn’t anyone above you to monitor and improve your morale; there won’t be a supervisor to throw your team a congratulatory party when you reach a goal, or a boss to give you a bonus when you achieve exceptional performance in a given year. And even if you are working for an organization, working in a solitary environment can get depressing after a while.

The solution is that you have to take charge to improve your own morale. But why is this so important, and how can you do it?

Morale and Productivity

There’s a positive correlation between morale and productivity, which makes intuitive sense, but the data verify this effect. Employees who believe they have a good work-life balance are 21 percent more productive than those who don’t. Employees who work fewer hours end up getting more done in each of those hours. Those who feel good on a regular basis, and report positive or neutral mental health end up taking fewer sick days, which means more time to commit positive work.

Whatever your goals are, productivity is going to be a part of them. If you can increase your morale, you won’t just feel better, you’ll work better, and you’ll be more likely to achieve your vision.

What steps can you take to improve your own morale?

1. Invest in a Better Workspace 

If you’re going to be happy at work, you need to be happy with your workspace, and if you’re working from home, that means investing in a more enjoyable home office. You’re going to spend hundreds or even thousands of hours in this space, so you need to be comfortable in every dimension.

For starters, make sure your home office is separated from the rest of your house; you need to separate your work life from your home life, even in the context of your home. Designate a specific room to use only for work, or segment a section of a room with a door or curtain to give yourself some professional privacy.

Then, splurge on some furniture and equipment that can make your job easier. Having an ergonomic chair, a beautiful desk, and a sufficiently powerful computer can make any job easier to deal with even on the worst days. You can also add little touches, like an oil diffuser for your favorite scent or good speakers to play your favorite background music.

2. Venture Out to a Coworking Space 

Coworking spaces are becoming more popular, in line with the increase in remote working opportunities, and they’re valuable opportunities to boost your morale. Working in the same place over and over can leave you with a feeling of ennui or a lack of stimulation, and working by yourself can leave you feeling lonely (even if you like the idea of focusing on your solitary work). Coworking spaces give you a nice change of scenery (usually with a lucrative work station setup) as well as the opportunity to engage with other like-minded professionals. There might be a fee involved, but it’s usually worth it. For more periodic changes in scenery, consider heading to a café.

3. Work Outside When Possible

Working outside can also provide a hearty boost to your morale, given the weather is suitable to do so. Like going to a coworking space or café, working outside gives you a chance to your typical environment. It also gives you a chance to feel the warmth of sunlight upon you, and breathe fresh air. People who spend more time outdoors are at reduced risk of depression and tend to report higher feelings of happiness and optimism. Just bring a mobile hotspot or be prepared to do some offline work while you’re out.

4. Mind How You Collaborate 

If you’re part of a remote team, either as a leader or collaborator, consider refining how you collaborate with others. Much of your morale is going to depend upon how you engage with other people (and whether you engage at all).

When it comes to the actual work you’re doing, you can improve your morale by choosing communication channels that are as clear and appropriate for whatever message you want to convey; for example, phone calls and teleconferences are better for hashing out complex issues, while emails are better for relaying instructions or documenting new changes. Using a mix of both can improve the efficiency of your communications and leave you feeling more satisfied.

Outside of work, you may boost your morale by having more personal interactions with your team. For example, if you work in the same city, you can have periodic in-person gatherings for dinner or drinks. If you don’t live in the same city, you could arrange an occasional meetup at some point central to all of you.

If you work mostly alone and don’t engage with many other people, it’s important to find some other way to collaborate with other people, such as a social hobby. Excessive isolation, even for the most introverted among us, will eventually result in lower morale.

5. Take Time Off 

This is one of the most essential strategies you can use since it will help you avoid burnout, reduce stress, and spend more time doing what you want to do. When working from home, you’ll often have some degree of control over your schedule, so make sure you specifically schedule breaks and vacation days.

If you’re self-employed and highly motivated, you’ll be tempted to work as long as possible. When you have the option for a break, you’ll convince yourself you can go just a little bit longer, and you’ll avoid vacations since if you take one, your income could temporarily plummet. However, it’s vital that you treat your breaks and vacations the way you’d treat a work meeting or crucial industry event; schedule them proactively, and prioritize them above your other work.

There isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way to take breaks or a minimum number of breaks to take, but do try to take at least one full-fledged vacation, with multiple days off, every year. And try not to work more than a few hours at a time without at least a few minutes to decompress.

6. Exercise

Physical exercise is remarkably beneficial for both your physical and mental health.

Committing to just 20 minutes of exercise a day can help you reduce stress, increase your energy, and stay in good mental shape. Even better, try to exercise in the middle of your workday, so you can get the short-term benefits of the energy boost while also having a good excuse to take a prolonged break.

Exercising before work (for the energy increase) or after work (to relieve stress) may also suit you well.

7. Shake Things Up

Repetition and lack of stimulation will almost always result in decreased morale; if you do the same things every day, and in the same way, it’s eventually going to get to you, even if you thrive on predictability and order. Accordingly, you can keep your morale high by shaking things up on occasion.

How you do that is entirely up to you, and dependent on what kind of work you do. You could, for example, change the types of tasks you usually delegate, take on different types of clients, or rearrange your schedule occasionally.

8. Keep a Journal

In the course of your work, it’s also wise to start keeping a journal. It doesn’t have to be in-depth or complex; sometimes, even a simple record of how you felt throughout the day is enough to be valuable.

This serves a few important purposes. For starters, writing about how you feel is a form of catharsis;

  • By specifically acknowledging your stress and negative emotions, they become less powerful, and you become more capable of understanding them.
  • Second, you’ll keep tabs on how your thoughts and feelings develop in response to certain variables. For example, when you have an increased workload, do you feel hopeless and tired of your job? If so, that’s a sign you need to spend more time delegating, or evening your workload across multiple weeks. This is especially important if you feel yourself struggling with low morale.

Morale is a tricky business, especially when you’re managing it for yourself, but once you master the fundamentals and learn which strategies work best for you, you’ll find yourself working with renewed vigor—and little to no risk of eventually burning out. Even better, you’ll be able to get more done every day and feel better about your work at the end of your shift.

How to Improve Your Own Morale When Working From Home (and Why You Should) was originally published on Calendar by Abby Miller

Register Now & Get a 30 Day Trial Register Now