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Me, myself and I

I  had an employer once who had a sleek little Porsche, a house overlooking vineyards and a Wilkes Bashford wardrobe. The thing I really envied, though, was his personal assistant. Emily (not her real name) dotted i’s and crossed t’s, and went above and beyond the call of duty to make Mr. Jones look effortlessly organized and prepared, whether it be for a meeting, a trip or a gift for a colleague’s newborn. Emily was the assistant every executive ought to have.

But what if the expense of an assistant is out of the question? I watched and learned from Emily and began to do for myself a lot of the tasks she handled or invented to organize Mr. Jones’ work and life. I had to come in a little earlier and sometimes work a little later, but the results were worth it. By pretending I was my own personal assistant a couple hours each day, I took my work to another level.

The following are some of the ideas you might want to delegate to your own internal assistant. You will have to give up an hour of sleep or a television show or two, but the results could be life-changing.

When planning a trip: Emily always created a grid in Microsoft Excel for Mr. Jones’ trips. She would create one column for mode of travel, with all the confirmation numbers, times and details; one column for lodging information; one for restaurant reservations; one for meeting times and details; one for supplies he would need at each meeting or activity.

I’ve been doing this myself for years now, and always have complete confidence that when I travel, I have every single bit of information I need to have a successful trip, all in one place. I can also leave a printed copy with my family and colleagues so that they have a detailed account of where I will be.

Maintaining the calendar: A good personal assistant thinks ahead, looking at the boss’s calendar to find pockets of time to fit in his or her personal trainer, a massage, a doctor’s appointment, a facial. We can look at our calendars in the same way and block off time to exercise, take care of health and grooming or even see a movie without guilt because we’ve worked it into a schedule.

We can also use the calendar to track birthdays and other holidays. Being our own assistant means we schedule time to shop for appropriate gifts and cards and ship them in a timely manner. If you take it as seriously as a job, it tends to get done.

Screening calls and visits: Emily sat outside Mr. Jones’ office and prevented any interruptions when he was in a meeting or working on a project. She had amazing judgment about which calls should be put through and which should go to voice mail. It’s a great luxury to have quiet time to think. Are you a slave to the Marimba of your iPhone? We can control interruptions much more than we realize. Put the phone on silent mode, hang a sign on the door, use the time the kids are in school wisely and guard your peak hours of productivity like a pit bull.

Would your assistant fold your socks and underwear just the way you like? Would he or she make sure you had healthy groceries in the house and prepare you a nutritious breakfast and a steaming mug of organic, fair-trade coffee? What kind of luxuries, little or large, would your assistant provide? Is there any chance you could provide it for yourself?

Angela Hoxsey is a professional organizer based in the Napa Valley. For information about her services, go tohouseinorder.com or call 738-4346. Follow House in Order on Facebook for more organizing tricks and tips.