How to Be Your Own Executive Assistant

Having an Executive Assistant (E.A.) is an essential component of running a successful company. Of course, many people who are self employed feel they simply can’t justify the expense of hiring a full time assistant. Sadly, these are probably the people who could benefit the most from an E.A.’s professional assistance!

Still, there’s nothing that stops you from being your own Executive Assistant and, in fact, most self employed people (or those looking to become self employed) already are and they just don’t know it yet. This article provides a few pointers to help you do it yourself in an efficient and effective way.


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    Understand what an E.A. does. Consider E.A.'s professional organizers, time managers or simply “professional keepers”. An Executive Assistant manages day-to-day workflow, organizes and prepares paperwork, establishes priorities, manages incoming correspondence (phone, mail and e-mail), performs general customer care, and that’s just the beginning. In general, an E.A. maintains the sanity of your day. A good one can truly act as an “alter ego”, taking your place in meetings and filling in on tasks when you’re unavailable. Being your own E.A. does limit that capability (unless you’ve already mastered the art of being in two places at once) but at least knowing the skills will set you in good stead for keeping organized as best you can.
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    Schedule a specific period of time every day for performing E.A. type tasks. These are the kinds of tasks that are easy to put off, however, once they pile up, they become a daunting and overwhelming project. Schedule time (generally about an hour) each day (preferably in the morning) to complete the basic office maintenance that your business requires. This may involve filing paperwork, scheduling meetings, sorting through mail, or reviewing and prioritizing task lists. Simply sit down and take care of these things one by one, before you get busy “doing business”.
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    Utilize tools of the trade. As your own assistant, it’s critical to develop routines and standard procedures that are rigorously and consistently followed. This will help streamline your daily activities. It helps to use a variety of detailed checklists to make most activities “standardized”. For example, when gathering materials for a meeting, run through a checklist to make sure you always has the same things with you. Of course, there is some minor tweaking for each meeting, but the basics always remain the same. Taking the time now to standardize your processes will save you time in long run. Download checklists from the internet to help you organise your activities. Find a good free information source that provides how-to articles, resources and useful links for Personal Assistants and Executive Assistants - search the internet for personal assistant tips or advice.
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    Organize your processes for incoming correspondence, especially e-mail. Below are a few tips for how to do this. Most of these ideas can be set up on any email program:
    • Establish files for all incoming email. There are a number of ways to do this. Some people sort everything into two folders: FYI only - no reply and Reply needed. Once everything is put into the appropriate folder, you can then go through them and reply as needed, then re-file into another group of folders. You may want to label these folders by project or client. Here’s an example of some: Travel Arrangements, Client Projects, Board Activities. Each folder also has sub-folders, further breaking down each category. This also makes searching for past e-mails much easier.
    • Flag emails that require follow up actions - set a date and time for a reminder to pop up.
    • You can set up most programs to automatically file correspondence from specific people into a particular folder. For example, if you are working on the Blue Project with Joe Smith, you can ask the program to file all incoming correspondence from Joe Smith automatically into the Blue Project folder. The number of unread messages in each file shows up beside the folder icon.
    • Set up the program to automatically add color coded flags for correspondence from specific people. For example, any email that comes in from certain people can automatically have a red flag by it. That way, you can scan through your in-box and it catches your eye right away if that person’s sent something. You can set up different colors for different people.
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    Establish a proactive tracking system. Executive Assistants are great at making sure things don’t fall through the cracks. There’s nothing worse than having a client call you to ask the status of a request that you’ve let go by the wayside. As your own E.A., you will need to create a system for following up on client requests and other time-sensitive tasks. These days, the best practice is to use some kind of electronic calendar system (such as Outlook). During your dedicated daily E.A. time slot (see number 1), do the following:
      1. Review your pending task list.
      2. Rank each by priority level.
      3. Make note of the next action for each and create a firm deadline.
      4. Review progress of established next actions and make note of what has been completed.
      5. Gather your next action tasks for the day and rank them by priority.
    • Daily review will ensure you are keeping on top of the various projects you work on at any given time. It will also make sure your day is spent working on the tasks you should be working on, not just the tasks that caught your eye first.


  • The basic philosophy behind being your own E.A. is to organize and standardize. Again, don’t let it pile up and the process will be much smoother.

Things You'll Need

  • E-mail program
  • Tracking system
  • Time set aside for E.A. organizational tasks

Sources and Citations

  • Original source of article from the very generous Zen Habits. Please feel free to visit and support copyright free information providers.

Article Info

Categories: Workplace Management Skills