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
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
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
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.