A Celebrity Personal Assistant's Top Time-Management Tips
To work as a celebrity personal assistant, you’ve got to be a masterful manager of time. Not only are you managing your time, but also, a huge part of your job is to manage the time of your employer. You’ve got to keep them on task and make sure that they arrive at their appointments on schedule—all the while answering their (and your) emails, maintaining the household staff, running errands, and doing whatever else needs to get done. Although scheduling is an overwhelming task, especially when there are a lot of moving parts, it’s rewarding when your planning pays off and the calendar starts moving like clockwork. To get to this point, you’ve got to do the legwork and make some time-saving changes. If making the most of your time is on your New Year's resolution list, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s how to better manage your time.
Start by taking a week to study yourself and your daily habits. Pay attention to how much time it takes you to perform a task, and make notes. Then use this information to better structure your day moving forward. If you wake up at a different time each morning, don’t schedule important calls on a day when you know you might not be up. If you have to submit an expense report every Thursday and it always takes you 90 minutes to do so, block off 90 minutes of your time every Thursday. Knowing how much time it takes you to do certain things is crucial to allotting the amount of time necessary to perform and complete a task. It feels great to cross things off of a to-do list, so empower yourself to check items off by giving yourself enough time to process and carry out each assignment.
Find a calendar tool that you like, and use it. Add everything to the calendar even if it’s unconfirmed or subject to change. This will ensure that you hold the time for it when it's confirmed. I keep Google Calendar in an open window all day so I can add and delete things as necessary. Color-code it and share it with all the prominent players on your team. If you’re supporting an executive and multiple people are scheduling them, find out what role you play in the scheduling. For example, when I worked for a lieutenant governor and his wife, I was in charge of scheduling personal events and anything in relation to the house and children. Her executive assistant was in charge of her day-to-day and his scheduler took care of his day-to-day.
Put all of the information of the event on the calendar—including the exact address, contact names, phone numbers, and anything else that is relevant. Copy and paste it from the original email. While this may seem tedious, you are saving time in the long run. You won’t have to respond to a team member’s email asking for details about it, as they will know all the essential info can be found by looking on the calendar.
I’m a huge fan of reminders. I set them for all sorts of things. Setting reminders ensures that you won’t forget to complete significant jobs. Many times I have set a reminder to do something months in advance, and when the reminder finally shows up, I’m thanking my past self for being so on top of things. Reminders can be about anything: an invoice is due, a friend or family member is having a birthday, the batteries in the smoke detector have to be changed, your hair needs to be colored, etc.
Everyone has a different style of working. Some people like to wake up early and start the day by plowing through their to-do list. Other people are night owls who are most productive in the evening. Figure out your work style and use it to schedule your time to your advantage. For example, I know that in the evenings, I get tired and can’t think as straight. Therefore, I schedule time to write in the mornings and time to relax in the evenings.
You can’t manage your time properly without some systems of organization in place. Take the time to get organized and you’ll save time in the long run. Set up templates to emails you send frequently. If you’re always asking someone for a mailing address, set up a template so all you have to do is fill in the receiver’s name. Create a routine to the responsibilities that you undertake on a regular basis, then inform the proper players of your schedule. I would shop for groceries every Tuesday and Friday and go to Target for home-good supplies every other Tuesday. The household staff (nannies, cleaning lady, gardeners, and my employers) knew this schedule, so if they needed something—batteries, orange juice, diapers—they would get it on Tuesday or Friday. Start your morning each day by writing out a manageable to-do list and go over your schedule.
When managing a high-profile person, you have to prioritize their time. To do so, look at all of the tasks on your list and put a number one next to the most important, must-be-done, cannot-wait item. Put a two next to the second-most important task, and so on and so forth. Then accomplish each item in the order of priority. If you’re not sure how important an item is, ask yourself the following question: What will happen if I do not get this finished today? If the answer does not affect your end results, then you can put it off a day. But if you answer, I will not meet a deadline or achieve an important goal, then you know it should be higher up on your priority list.
I’ve never been a procrastinator. In fact, people who procrastinate make me anxious. Why put off something that you can easily and quickly accomplish now? If it will take you less than five minutes to do a quick task, simply do it. Avoiding tasks because you dislike doing them will not make them easier to do tomorrow. You will still dislike doing it when you finally get around to it next week, so don’t waste time and energy figuring out ways to procrastinate.
If you’re on top of your calendar and have it open for most of the day, you should be able to easily see whether or not you can attend an upcoming event. Instead of ignoring the invitation, check your calendar and send off a short and sweet RSVP. Politely decline if you can’t go. If your schedule is unclear, ask the event organizer if you can get back to them at a later date. Put a hold on the calendar with the event details so you know to reply to the RSVP. As someone who plans and hosts events often, following up with people who have not RSVP’ed takes up so much time. Plus, if you’re replying for a high-profile and well-known celebrity, they probably don’t want a reputation of being a person who ignores invitations. It takes two seconds to RSVP, so don’t procrastinate—do it.
To better manage your time, you have to block out distractions. Close your inbox and put your phone on silent when you’re performing high-priority tasks that require your full concentration. You’ll be able to focus on the matter at hand and will get it done more quickly than if you are distracted by a Facebook chat with a friend about who’s winning in the fantasy football league.
When I worked for the lieutenant governor and his wife, I spent every day at their house. While they were not around, their three children and nanny were at the house in the afternoons when the kids were done with school. I knew that if I had to make any important calls or accomplish a project that required peace, quiet, and my full attention, I would have to do it in the morning. In the afternoons, I would prepare gifts or cook dinner—tasks that had to get done and were important, but could also be conducted while answering the inquiring mind of an adorable 6-year-old. Planning for interruptions allows you to cut yourself some slack and take a break from the heavy workload. If you know that a co-worker always like to have a chat with you after the weekly meeting, build this chat into the time you schedule for the meeting.
Create systems that run themselves—like subscriptions—and you’ll save tons of time. These days there is a subscription for everything, from meal deliveries to farm boxes to Amazon subscriptions that allow you to automatically order toilet paper every two months. It may cost a little extra for the delivery, but if you have the means, it’s worth it because you’re free to do something else other than run to the store.
Know when to say no. If your calendar is jam-packed and you simply don’t have time to do something, don’t do it. Recognize your limits and stick to them. This will ensure that you don’t overwork yourself and end up sick.
Shop chic 2016 calendars that will keep you on top of your time below.
How do you manage your time?