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Rules to Better Personal Assistants (PA) - 11 Rules

Rules to Better PA (aka Personal Assistant)

  1. If someone has shared their calendar permissions with you, you will be able to check their calendar directly without needing a conversation.

    Imagine someone wants to book some time with you. Offer to look up the calendar and book in time straightaway.

    Bad Example - "Try calling him."

    adams calendar
    Good Example - "Sure, I'll just look up Adam's calendar and see when he's free. Obviously, it's not a good idea to call Adam now as he is on a plane."

  2. Within a company, there are occasions that you are not able to access your computer to send sick emails, or you get a call from your client on the way to the office that you have to drive to a client site straight away; when such things happen, you need someone else to update your calendar when you call in, so others are aware of your availabilities.

    Always make sure that:

    • Admin people are able to access your calendar with full permission in order to add/edit/delete appointments for you.
    • The whole organization can see your full calendar details.

    Do this to allow Admins to edit your calendar permissions:

    1. Open Outlook (or Outlook Web) | Click Calendar | Click "Share Calendar" | Click "Add..." | Add the Admin group | Select "Can edit" Note: Check you are looking in the right address book using the "Address Book" dropdown if you cannot find a user or group.

    Share Calendar
    Figure: Click on "Share Calendar" in Outlook

    Figure: Give admins full access to your calendar in Outlook with "Can edit"

    Now do this to allow the whole organization to see your full calendar details:

    1. Open Outlook (or Outlook Web) | Click Calendar | Click "Share Calendar" | Click "My Organization" | Select "Can view all details"

    Figure: Give the whole organization access to your calendar in Outlook with "Can view all details"

    Once the permissions are given, opening other people's calendar is as easy as 2 steps:

    1. Go to the Calendar tab in outlook and click "open a Shared Calendar"
      Shared Calendar
      Figure: Opening a shared calendar
    2. Choose the calendar you want to open in the pop-up form
      Figure: Find the calendar you want

    Then you can have this shared calendar shown in your Outlook.

  3. Do you do daily check-ins?

    Do you check-in with your boss to make sure you are both on the same page?

    Even if your boss is not at the office, you should be in contact with them at least twice a day – first thing in the morning and at about 5pm in the afternoon.

    If your boss is away, you can still check-in via phone or on Microsoft Teams. Try sending them an instant message via Teams first and let them know that you are trying to get hold of them.

    Tip: Say "I'm calling you in 10 minutes if you don't answer!"

    During the morning check in:

    • Make sure your boss is aware of his appointments for day

      • Rather than telling them what they have on, ask them what their appointments are for the day. This should help them remember what they have on throughout the day and with whom they are meeting.
    • Ask if there are any urgent tasks that they need you to complete that day
    • Do a daily scrum to let your boss know what other tasks you’re working on that day

    During the afternoon check in:

    • Enter your boss’s timesheets

      • Every night at about 5 you should call your boss and say "I am doing your time sheets. Tell me what you did today."
      • You should follow Rules to Better Timesheets when drawing up the times
    • Ask if your boss is aware of their appointments for the following day
    • The afternoon check in is also a good time to chase up any emails or tasks for which you need your boss’s assistance
  4. As a Personal Assistant, you are responsible for reminding your manager not to miss any important meetings. However, sometimes your own schedule might get too busy, making you forget to remind your manager; or maybe your manager could be too busy to take your call.  

    Here is a practical and useful add-in tool on Teams called ‘Send Later’, which allows you to schedule all the important messages in advance, so both your manager and yourself don't miss any timely messages/reminders.

    You will be able to schedule the exact date and time your message/post is sent. It can be used for free with up to 2 users, each having a daily limit of 10 scheduled messages. 

    send later message example
    Figure: Scheduled/sent messages using 'Send Later' add-in

  5. Bosses are busy and forget. Just like you encourage a developer to book their own appointment Do you know to make sure that you book the next appointment before you leave the client? a boss should be the same.

    When your boss takes a call from someone wanting to book an appointment there are two options to offer the caller:

    1. create a 'Outlook Calendar Appointment', or
    2. call his PA and have him/her double check that they are free, and then create an Outlook Calendar Appointment

    It used to be that if the appointment was for the same day, your boss would have to take option 2 to keep the PA informed but now with mobile devices you should generally use option 1.

  6. Always give a heads up when you log in to someone else's account. Also, when you access a company account - which many people may use, like google [at] - send a heads up to that email so others know you are the one accessing it.

    A quick IM, SMS or email is enough to let the account owner know that you are the one accessing their account and it's not being hacked.

    twitter account new access
    Figure: An email like this can be pretty scary if you don't know what's going on

    heads up google account
    Figure: Good example - Letting others know you are the one accessing the account

  7. You shouldn't have to send emails on behalf of other people because people now have email on their phones. However, on the rare occasions that you do have to send an email on behalf of someone else (eg. your boss), ensure that you BCC the person you are sending it on behalf of and add [ ] in the subject field (at the end) so that such emails can be identified.

    Figure: Make it easy to identify when you are sending emails on behalf of someone else

  8. Do you keep the office looking great?

    The PA is often the face of the business. It is important to encourage everyone to keep the space looking as good as possible.

    If your boss is the host of a meeting, the space must be presentable and set up appropriately (for example, if the meeting will require the use of a computer or projector, ensure there are plugs and a space for them to be used).

    If the space has been double-booked or is already in use, call your boss as early as possible to arrange for an alternative location.

  9. Here are some general tips for booking flights:

    • Wherever possible, book direct flights, and try to minimize connection times.
    • Wherever possible, try to get flexible flights in case they need to be changed.
    • Appointments - If accommodation is also required then enter the accommodation details into another appointment
    • When booking flights, know the preferred time (on weekdays, avoid evening flights before 8pm. Peak times incur a Uber surcharge)
    • eg. Some people prefer 10am flights, some are not keen on overnight flights
    • When booking, always ask for an exit row or a window seat.
    • eg. Some people have 19" laptops and it is hard to open in other seating.
    • Avoid Paper tickets - they are hard to change. Go for E-tickets
    • When booking, leave an option to upgrade to business class
    • Note: On Qantas this can only happen if you have avoided the evil fare types of N, O, or Q (aka ReadyDeal fare)
    • Before finalising the booking always get written confirmation by having your boss sign a print-out of the itinerary or via email or IM.
    • Depending on where you are traveling, you may need to take extra precautions when it comes to protecting your luggage. If you will be visiting an unsafe airport or location, it might be worth upgrading to a more secure suitcase such as the type suggested in this YouTube video, "Defeat Dishonest Baggage Handlers"

    Learn more on Rules to Better Flights.

  10. Look at your boss's calendar, if you see a meeting at, say, 3pm, call him at, say, 12 noon and say something like "Do you have anything going on this afternoon?"

    If he knows he has a meeting at 3pm say "How many hours away is that?", "How long will it take you to get there?"

  11. It is never easy to be a mind reader.

    Try to help your boss by saving time by removing minor details or distractions before they arise. This means you will sometimes need to perform tasks such as rescheduling their appointment, researching a product they are looking to purchase (to help them make a faster decision) or chasing up repairs on their behalf.

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