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Show off star power with a desk manual

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Showcase your talents by putting together a desk reference manual. Done bit by bit, it can become the ultimate productivity tool. Here's how to do it:

 Motivate yourself for the job. Keep in mind the manual's main purpose: It helps temps, or anyone else, who has to sit at your desk, to be productive and effective. It also saves aggravation, stress and time. Someone filling in for you won't be able to turn to your boss for help.

"Since a lot of execs don't know the ins and outs of their jobs, it's the assistants who know all the little things," says Joan Burge, author of Become an Inner Circle Assistant.

Beyond the fact that a manual keeps the office running smoothly, "It also makes you feel proud, when you look at how much you know and the extent of your work. It can be a vehicle for marketing yourself, when you start competing for positions," says Burge.

 Use a three-ring binder, with a table of contents and tabs. As you go through your day, put in samples: templates, examples of formal correspondence, regular reports. Create a Word document for writing down processes. Each time you work on a core task, make a note of how it's done. Build the notebook as you go.

Put in day-to-day tasks and tips on managing your boss. Your table of contents should reflect the full range
of your work, including sections on the day-to-day occurrences, such as morning routine, telephone/voice mail, filing and correspondence.

As you're filling out this section, ask yourself: "How does the boss like people to answer the phone?" and "What's the most effective way to communicate with her about priorities, whether e-mail, morning meetings, another method?" and "Does she have a specific way of signing off her correspondence?" Example: "Joan likes to use 'hoping to serve you' at the end of her letters, instead of 'sincerely.'"

Share tips particular to your boss or office. Include sections labeled "Travel preferences" or "People you should know," including outside clients, your travel agent, printers, etc. Or store your notes in a "General notes" section.

Example: "If you don't have a good memory, take a lot of notes. Joan is a big thinker, so she likes for you to keep up with the details."

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