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"low capacity" assistant + 60% unprocessed office?

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  • "low capacity" assistant + 60% unprocessed office?

    I must be insane... I have agreed to give a relative (whom I barely know at all) a paid part-time office job, starting with a minimum of two half-days a week, assisting me in my home office until she finds a "real" part-time job. She needs something to put on her resume and to get office experience. These two mornings are the ones I had carved out to "process" my home office. It is semi-organized and also a mess. It is the hiccuping nerve center of my family and my business (which is off site), and the warehouse for materials for my current and prior roles and functions. It contains many piles of stuff that is partially processed or semi-sorted out but not integrated yet into the system I am building, many papers "ready" for filing,and a big back log to process. At the same time there is some defined project support, nicely filed reference (A to Z for 10 drawers), a family drawer, a friends drawers, two financial drawers (last year and current year), and 4 drawers related to one big project, and an active project drawer that I have outgrown, so active projects are all over the place, in brief cases, under chairs, etc. Much I hope to get rid of, a project I have been working on with considerable success. They know my car at the document destruction place! This young person seems to be pleasant, reliable, honest, compliant, but just barely average in knowledge and comprehension. She has some mobility problems and I doubt she can get into the bottom drawers of of my filing cabinets and she may not be able to stand for long periods for filing into the top drawers. I will need to start by clearing the areas in front of my file cabinets and around my central work table so she can maneuver herself in position to access these. She wants to succeed and sees this as a great opportunity, having been job hunting for 9 months and only getting work transplanting seedlings in a green house and bottle feeding a calves. She is a recent high school grad., in community college to become a medical assistant, meaning clerk/receptionist who gives patients forms and takes initial vital signs on patients. She opted out of regular high school to take a vocational program where she trained to be a health aid but then did not take the test because she "didn't like body fluids". She tells me she is a two-finger typist and can make spread sheets. Any thoughts on how I can make this arrangement productive? I am thinking that I need to have really clear objectives and simple processes so we can work together and accomplish something.

  • #2
    keeping the tasks simple

    This is how it worked today: I looked through a notebook with about 30 pages of notes, extracted information pertaining to three SDMB projects and I had assistant enter this into the project list while I dictated the information to her. While not strictly GTD when a project is incubating, if I have a little thought or piece of data that I want to consider when I really plan the project I type this in after the project name. This took about 20 minutes, probably I would have spent about 40 on it if I was working alone. Sense of productivity: high

    Sorted out a big box of papers, all related to one another but not organized in anyway. I had her spread them out on a work table and then collect like-with-like based on addresses and names of people or companies. Then for each group, I asked her to put them in chronological order with the most recent on top. I then removed any duplicates and unnecessary items which reduced the box to a 6" stack of searchable papers. She put the ones that had no matches in one pile for me to review. Next time it might be easier for me to list the categories first rather than have her "discover them". This took about 2 1/4 hours. Sense of productivity: moderate.

    Took a toppling pile and just squared it up. 10 minutes. This will make it much easier for me to process. Sense of productivity: Low

    Any ideas or suggestions are welcome!
    Last edited by Jamie Elis; 11-10-2010, 03:10 PM. Reason: spelling


    • #3
      Ive had some arrangements a bit like this when I have been "given" staff for random periods. The key question for what to give them is how much time can you devote to it as well. If you can devote time to what they are doing as well you can get incredible productivity. If you cant, you will struggle to make much productive.

      Create a task or project to create some workflows in which she has some work to do and you have some work to do (You cant do this on the days she is there, or at least you cant as effectively I find). You have already done this with "collate", "sort", "organise" etc. Once that is done see if you can immediately take that output and do what you need to do with it - normally some processing/extra organising, then get her to take the resulting piles and do some completing steps with those - trash, file (including making the file) and so on.

      This comes back though to find her strengths and make some processes that take advantage of those, and you fill in for those as required, or her strengths assist areas you are weaker in (for example you may find some tasks like creating or sorting or cleaning dull and menial but she excels at them, she may have a head for numbers that far surpasses yours etc.)

      You may also find that if theres a lot thats variations on the same theme, she ends up doing almost all of it and you just need to review, but thats down the path.

      Good luck.


      • #4
        you have stated this so well

        I appreciate how you have have articulated the problem and it helps reveal where I need to apply my thinking before hand:

        What needs to be done?

        How might it be done?

        What tasks can she do?

        What tasks can I do while I am available to guide and direction if needed?

        What can she bring to completion or a logical stopping point so that she has a sense of accomplishment?


        • #5
          Id like to add one question in particular which will help with the end game too.

          She is doing this presumably so she gets experience that can be translated into a differnet job. What skills does that next job need? If you pass on to her the question "what skills do you want/need to get out of this arrangement to help with the job search?" it may provide some direction for you two as well.