As the global economy shifts and software continues to eat the world, we assistants need to continuously find ways to stay ahead. It’s important that we work on not just familiarizing ourselves with the latest software systems that could be adopted by our current or future employers, but also to find software that works for us. The art of strategic multitasking is something I talk a lot about with novice and senior assistants alike. While there are many facets to it ( we’ll dive deep in another article), one aspect I always share is finding ways to leverage software to make you better. Most of us don’t have an admin working under us, so we have to find ways to source our own Force Multipliers and for me, technology is a great way to do that – Thanks Humans!
There are all kinds of apps claiming to help people in all kinds of ways. I’m sharing the techs, apps, and software I’ve found to be the most effective in helping me stay one step ahead.
Chances are you manage a lot for your boss, not just professionally but personally as well. You’re probably drowning in passwords and credit card numbers. Before I found out about 1Password, I used to keep them all on one page in a notebook, old school style, in case I ever lost access to any of my email accounts. Now that I have 1Password, the only password I need is the one to login here (DON’T forget this password!).
1Password is great because you can create profiles to share with other people. You can also use it to store more than just passwords. You can keep credit card numbers with the name and use for each one, plus passport details (which we ALWAYS need) and any other sensitive information you can think of. 1Password also received the “Best of 2013” award from Apple – as if you needed another reason to check it out.
Every assistant has read how important it is to have a network of great EAs, PAs, VAs, and AAs to leverage for tips, tricks, and sometimes to help get you out of a serious bind. (I’ll have to share some of my crazy stories on this another time!). Cabinet is a great place to ask questions and get answers from other assistants who’ve been there. Membership is free, although they’ve recently launched Cabinet Plus, a task-management software I’ve yet to try out.
My favorite feature of this community is the “Places” recommendation. All you need to do is type in a location and a wide variety of venues will pop up that are already assistant approved! Looking for a great hotel for your exec in a region you’ve never been to? They’ve got it. Need a place to host a business lunch at a restaurant you haven’t seen? There will be options for that as well. The group is really friendly and is knowledgeable on a broad range of topics. When you join, be sure to share your knowledge too!
If you’re working with your boss, a team of other assistants, or trying to explain something to a video contractor halfway across the world, you need Loom.
What is Loom? It’s one of the most effective ways to get your complex message across because frequently it’s just easier to say it with video. Loom allows you to easily record your screen while working on your desktop. Trying to explain how to download the Yearly Calendar from the team drive and there’s 18 written steps involved and missing even one will cause the whole thing to fall apart. Instead, you can quickly and easily record a minute or two of video. Your recipients can play (and replay) walking them through how to do the thing. Loom hosts the video, so you don’t have to bother with downloading, uploading, or copying to a shared drive. The moment you stop recording, it gives you a link to share and boom, you’re done.
Ahoy is a very straightforward travel app that makes travel much more simple. What I love most about this app is that it holds airline seats for up to 90 minutes. When I left a 10,000+ employee company for a much smaller one, we didn’t have in-house travel agents that knew all the ins and outs. These magicians could hold tickets on multiple flights for up to 24 hours (which was really lovely). We had “a guy we could email” who would get back to us at his convenience. I had to relearn the art of booking flights. I started looking into where and how I could find awesome new apps that would help me do what I needed in simple and convenient ways. Ahoy is one of the apps and is especially great for assistants who are working independently or with smaller companies/startups.
World Time Buddy
Candidly, I don’t know an assistant who doesn’t use World Time Buddy! This tried and true tool, on mobile app or desktop, is a most reliable friend. You’ve likely had to work across multiple time zones before, which is tricky but fairly straightforward. What about working across three, four or even five different time zones? This is often the case in my current role and it gets messy, fast. As the march towards globalization continues, organizational workforces are increasingly spread across the globe. If you’re a virtual assistant you’ll likely work in a different time zone than your employer at some point in your career and this tool is a lifesaver. I highly recommend you add it to your arsenal.
I don’t know an assistant who hasn’t been commissioned to “put together a party” on a short or impossible deadline. It’s stressful and hectic and usually requires long hours. Even if you have a great network of EAs, all the little details are still on you. EventUp is a phenomenal resource to have in your back pocket next time duty calls. Their website has a wonderful UX that lets you sort by Event Type, Number of Guests and Budget (because Hello! Why would I want to see a bunch of gorgeous venues we can’t afford to use? I have NO time for distractions!).
I’ve used EventUp on more than one occasion and have loved being able to reach out to multiple venues from one spot. The details provided on the site are extensive so most of your questions will be answered after you review the venue. You can email the venue directly from the website and they’ll respond usually within 24 hours. Having access to this kind of one-stop shop definitely takes a lot of stress out of planning. There are a couple of honorable mentions here, including Peerspace, but will save those for another post on event planning.
Tech is Power
On the whole, these resources represent the tip of the iceberg when it comes to software you can leverage to extend your reach. I’m always researching, experimenting, and finding ways to employ software to work for me. It can be hit and miss. Some things work great, even better than expected. Other times they fall short and don’t live up to the hype. When that happens, don’t sink more time into trying to make it work for you, just move on quickly. There’s a lot out there, so get exploring. Find what works for you and be sure to share any tech you love here in the comments below.