One piece of advice that I give to every up-and-coming administrative assistant is this: NEVER SIT IDLE! If you have nothing to do, then go out and find something to do. Occasionally, though, you do find yourself temporarily at loose ends, so here’s a list of 10 things to do when you have nothing to do.
1. Clean up/Reorganize your desk
Go through your whole desk. Clean out the inevitable junk drawer, move things around to make them more accessible, toss out old pens that don’t write, clean your keyboard, monitor and phone (in my experience these always need cleaning), move your deskpad and clean under it, clean the crumbs and dust from your keyboard tray. In other words, just give everything a good sprucing up and make everything nice and organized.
2. Review Your Files
Go through and review all of your files. Start with your working files. Make sure everything is current and appropriately labeled. Make sure no labels are falling off and need to be replaced. Move any no longer current files to your reference/history files. When you’re done, do the same thing for your main files, moving older items to archives. If you haven’t already done so, type up a file structure for handy reference for when you’re looking for a file but can’t remember where you filed it (that’s saved my buns a time or two).
3. Read Through Your Contacts
Whether you keep them hard copy in a Rolodex or electronically in a program like MS Outlook, you should periodically review your contacts and update the information. I’m not just talking about phone number and address, but also little details you learn over time like the assistant’s name and number (vital information), spouse and childrens’ names, likes and dislikes. Also any negatives that you might need to know about next time they visit or call, like we had a major glitch on their account last year and really, really want to keep them happy. These are the kinds of details that help cement relationships and make clients feel appreciated.
4. Review Your Desk Reference/Procedures Manual
Go through your Desk Reference/ Procedures Manual and look for items that need updating or adding. Have you taken on a new duty that you don’t have documented? Have some of your duties changed? Take time to update your desk manual so anyone coming in behind you knows how things are done.
What do you mean you don’t have a Desk Reference Manual? Well, this is the perfect time to make one, isn’t it?
5. Organize Office Supplies
It’s been my experience that it doesn’t matter how often you organize your office supplies, they always need straightening again. I don’t know what it is, but when people get into the office supply cabinet, they are like little kids, just scattering things too and fro. Straightening up the office supply cabinet is always good for a few minutes work when you’re at loose ends, and people actually do notice and appreciate when the supply cabinet is user friendly.
6. Set up Recurring Tasks
Go into MS Outlook and set up recurring tasks for all of your daily, weekly, monthly and yearly duties. That way, when days are crazy, it’s easy to remember tasks that might otherwise slip your mind. I have reminders set up for little things like remembering to lock my file cabinets when I leave, as well as big things like running year end reports. While I don’t need the reminders every day for some tasks, it’s nice to have them there on those infrequent days that I do forget them.
7. Review Your Office Equipment
Is some of your office equipment aging? Spend some time looking at and pricing alternatives so when you do need to replace some of your equipment, you can do so quickly and easily.
8. Redesign Reports
Are there some regular reports that you look at and think could be done better, but you just never had the time? Well, now you do. Go in and redesign some of those reports that have good information but are ugly to look at or the ones that have good information but could have better. I always like to keep a list of little projects like this to have around for when times are slower.
9. Enter Business Cards into Contacts
Enter that huge stack of business cards your boss is hoarding into his Contacts list in Outlook. If you have a business card scanner, that makes it even easier.
10. Brush Up On Your Software Skills
These days the amount of software skill a good administrative assistant is expected to know is mind boggling. Use your down time to increase your skill with existing software, or even expand your skills with new software.
Remember, nothing looks worse for an Administrative Assistant or other office professional than to be seen sitting idle. Regardless of how much work you do, trust me, what they’ll remember at review time was the one time they saw you sitting with nothing to do.