Remembering It All

One of the most challenging responsibilities for an assistant is remembering it all. Each day we are told through hallway conversations, text messages, emails, and phone calls about details we need to remember, follow up on, or complete by any given date. Some of these tasks are due that day, others in six months, and even others are simply to just “file away for later”. Hilariously, a close friend and former assistant used to keep a file in her cabinet called “Stuff I was Told to Hold on to”.

New assistants ask me how I remember all the things I am told each day (unfortunately, I don’t and still am learning new ways to make sure I don’t forget). We all have to figure out the best system for us, but here are some routines and resources that have really helped me along the way:

  • I carry my phone with me everywhere, so if I have a hallway conversation, I don’t even expect to remember by the time I get back to my desk. Instead, I add a note in my Google Tasks app so I can check it off when I get to it.

  • If I receive a text, and it’s…

    • something I need to do, I will copy and paste it to my Google tasks

    • something I need to follow up with someone else on, I will either copy and text that person immediately, or email to myself to take care of when I can give it my full attention

  • If it’s an email that I need to get more details about before responding, I will print it for when I get to meet with my boss OR I will flag it to go over later

  • If I am given a paper invitation, I will add the date to the calendar (with a week out alarm), RSVP, and order a gift right away, and then put in my tickler file to review the day before.

  • Any receipts I get, I put in a red folder to reconcile on the 2nd of the month.

  • Any papers for my boss, I put in a blue folder that I bring in to our meetings to review.

  • I keep a notepad at my desk when I am overwhelmed to jot down notes that randomly come to mind but I don’t have the minute to address.

Recently I have started trying to do these two things at the end of each day, which have been game changers for my forgetfulness:

  • I review all the text conversations I have had (Apple, please make an “unread” option in your iPhone texts!) that day to make sure there wasn’t anything that I overlooked.

  • I have a 10 minute mind unload when I review the day and conversations I had, asking the Holy Spirit to bring to mind anything I forgot to complete. It is amazing what a kind and gentle helper He is in my weakness.

This is not a full proof system, but it has helped me greatly in remembering everything that comes my way throughout each day.

Your Turn: What ideas and resources do you use to help you remember it all?

Assistants are the Exception

I have always appreciated the quote “a lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine”. It encourages people to think ahead and be ready for what’s coming. But this quote absolutely does not apply to assistants. This is actually just one of the many reasons assistants exist. It may not be for lack of preparation but rather for the pace of running a non-profit, church, or business, our bosses rely on the fact that we as assistants are here for exactly these moments, (please understand this in the healthiest way) to drop everything and tend to these urgent needs. Sometimes life just happens, and when the unanticipated springs up, we are here to help care for people or get a task completed.

When people ask me what I do every day, I smile. Each day can be totally different. Sure, I have my consistent routines of responding to emails, scheduling appointments, sending cards, and taking meeting notes. However, what makes this job so exciting (and overwhelming at times) is that I enter each day never exactly sure what I will be responsible for accomplishing.

My boss is one of the most prepared people I know, so please understand my context when I shared the above quote, but truly “an unexpected opportunity, a last minute flight change, a family in a desperate situation, or an urgent conversation on their part IS what consitutes a change of priority on ours” and that is what assisting is all about — being there for when the unplanned circumstance arises to say, “I will take care of it. You can trust me to tend to this need, in an excellent and timely manner.”

The Choice When Chosen

1 Kings 19: 19 So Elijah went and found Elisha son of Shaphat plowing a field. There were twelve teams of oxen in the field, and Elisha was plowing with the twelfth team. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak across his shoulders and then walked away. 20 Elisha left the oxen standing there, ran after Elijah, and said to him, “First let me go and kiss my father and mother good-bye, and then I will go with you!”

Elijah replied, “Go on back, but think about what I have done to you.”

21 So Elisha returned to his oxen and slaughtered them. He used the wood from the plow to build a fire to roast their flesh. He passed around the meat to the townspeople, and they all ate. Then he went with Elijah as his assistant.

This scene is one that captivates me and comes to mind often as I reflect about my journey as an assistant. I moved to Louisiana to teach math with the idea of eventually living overseas. Somewhere during this duration of certification and spiritual growth, God changed the narrative of my story. Instead of moving to the mission field, I was asked to assist the missions pastor at our church. Assisting was never my dream or plan; my degree is in mathematics and African studies.

Five years ago, my boss (our missions pastor) was asked to step into the role of lead pastor. I remember vividly the day he sat me down in his office and had a conversation with me about this transition. After a long drive around the city, intentional conversations with spiritual advisors, and much fasting and prayer, his wife and he felt the Lord's leading to accept this mantle of responsibility. He asked me if I would do the same: "We would be honored to have you continue as my assistant into this next season. Please make time to talk it over with your husband and mentors, pray and fast, and consider if you would be willing to accept this position." 

I have worked many places and held many positions, but this moment marked me. This was a "cloak over the shoulder" call. The future would look differently, and it was not to be entered into without thoughtful reflection. For me, this was not a year commitment kind of question, it was a reconsideration of my calling. It was choosing to make my roots here, plant my heart and feet in this place, behind a desk just outside a door -- it was laying down my dreams on the altar and trusting God with the future He had planned instead.  Even as I write this, I realize that many chapters of my story echo this same theme, so it should have come as no surprise to me that God would change things up just to keep me close to Christ rather than idolize my calling.

Obviously, I accepted and am still his assistant today. There are days that are more difficult and moments that I am not sure I am truly cut out for the job, but then I remember: I chose to say yes to this, and I left the fields and slaughtered the oxen of other options. In doing so, I am only able to look forward and believe that as I am faithful with what God has placed in my hands, He is faithful to bring to fulfillment all He has placed in my heart.

My pastor still encourages me every year to go to Africa, and I am grateful for the opportunity because overseas missions will always be in my veins, but also I recognize that over time new passions and desires have taken root in my heart. My husband and I live as missionaries in this city, and I jump with joy every time I get the chance to meet with or encourage assistants in the journey. 

So today I want to encourage you: God is doing a great work in you, and He who began this work will bring it to completionPress on toward Christ who has called you. Lean on Him, even when it doesn't make sense to you, look the way you expected, or turn out the way you planned. Let Him be the author and finisher of your faith, and I promise, by its ending, you will look more like Jesus, and this will be the best story you could have never written on your own.