Many moons ago, when I was learning how to drive, my driving instructor kept telling me to “look 12 seconds down the road.” As tedious as it seemed at the time, he had me cite a running commentary of everything that I saw approaching us: There is a street light up ahead; I am about to enter another car’s blind spot; I need to come back to check out that store …

Getting in the habit of planning ahead was valuable. Having someone acting as my co-pilot, pushing me to plan ahead … priceless.

One of the biggest benefits of working with an assistant is they can push us to plan ahead. What is the plan for today? Who do we need to follow-up with? What do we need to start working on?

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From the newly appointed manager up to the savvy executive, many people struggle with how to partner with their assistant most effectively. Here are some more detailed suggestions:

Tip #1: Your assistant is your partner

The best manager/assistant relationships are true partnerships. Both parties have a detailed appreciation for the current projects and are committed to achieving common goals. Each person focuses on their areas of expertise. But they are both working towards common goals.

Tip #2: Daily meetings

Begin each day with a brief pow-wow (~10 minutes). Use this time to plan your day and review outstanding tasks. One of my clients makes it part of his daily routine to call his assistant during his morning commute (using hands-free of course). They review his plan for the day, and his assistant prompts him to think about looming deadlines. When he enters the office, he hits the ground running.

Tip #3: Your information

Ask your assistant to help you establish and maintain one central To Do list, establish systems to organize your office and develop a strategy for the transition of information in and out of your office.

Tip #4: Your focus

If you’ve been reading my blogs for awhile, you know that I wholeheartedly advocate focusing (versus multi-tasking). Your assistant can help to keep you focused by reminding you of your daily plan, helping to manage your interruptions and playing devil’s advocate if you find yourself distracted with other work.

Tip #5: Your priorities

Engage your assistant to help you balance your time across your key priorities. This can include blocking off time for your work, helping to follow-up with colleagues, keeping you honest about how you balance your time, etc.

It all comes back to planning

There are likely many other opportunities. Consult your assistant for his or her ideas. Dedicate some time to sit down with your assistant and plan how to make your partnership even more effective.

If you have any suggestions to share, please do so!

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