Being an assistant means that my day-to-day is never exactly the same. It means I get thrown random tasks and assignments almost daily and it means that my brain power is sometimes spread a little thin and I have to rely on alternate resources to help me figure things out.
One of my first weeks on the job presented a situation where a letter needed to go out in that day’s mail, and since our mail had been picked up already, it meant I needed to find the nearest mailbox. Stat. I took off, letter in one hand, smart phone loading Google maps in search of nearest mailbox in the other. For a brief moment, I felt just like Sue Ellen Crandell from “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead” – and I loved it. "I'm right on top of that Rose!"
Unlike Sue Ellen, I don’t farm out my duties to an overly eager co-worker, but I do rely on my co-workers for help an awful lot. They are, by far, the best resource I have. That said, sometimes I simply enjoy figuring things out for myself. The following are my top three resources for when I need to complete a task “on the fly.”
If you want to translate a paragraph from English to Spanish, I highly suggest you seek help elsewhere, but in many situations Google can be your very best friend. Need to book an off-site dinner reservation near an event venue? Google Maps. Want to put a face to the name of someone you’ve had only phone meetings with? Google Images. Honestly, when in doubt in nearly any situation… ASK THE GOOGLE! I’m not saying that you should believe everything you read on the Internet, or that every source you come across via Google is a reliable one, but it’s a starting point at the very least. Sometimes when my brain is completely blanking, I just need to enter a few words into the Google search bar, see some of the results, and my brain is right back on track.
Computer drives + search tool
In many situations the answers you’re looking for lie right within your computer drives. But since you likely didn’t set up those drives, and there can be folder upon folder containing countless files, it’s a good idea to become chummy with that search bar up in the right-hand corner. My search history tells me I tend to search for the same things over and over again. I could take this a step further and make a cheat sheet with locations of commonly searched documents too.
Speaking of which . . .
After repeatedly asking my colleagues the same questions time and again, I decided it was time to start make cheat sheets to reference. I have sheets for each client and they contain everything from links to commonly requested information, forwarding addresses for mail that comes here despite the intended not having “resided” here for quite some time, to names and a brief bio of industry partners for reference when they call sporadically. It’s easy to forget exactly who these partners are when you’re not in constant contact with them, so I love having a quick method of reminding myself of just who John Smith is when he calls. I’m constantly adding new information to these sheets and even removing something every so often when it seems it’s in my brain to stay.
I’m all about keeping it simple, so these basic tools work well for me, but in this app-happy world I’m sure there are numerous other resources that would work to help keep me on top of things. What works for you?