The Three “D’s” of Being a Better Assistant (and More Efficient Assistant)

By Kristina Schneider, Executive Assistant | Volume 2, Issue 5 (May 2014)

Whether you’re a busy executive or the assistant to a busy executive, you know the feeling of having far too many things to do in a day than hours available, right?  There are a lot of different tips and ways that you can handle such a workload.  One such technique of determining how to handle a heavy workload is something that Phil actually taught to us.  It’s the Three “D’s”: Do It, Delegate It, DeferIt!

Start by looking at your To Do List – – which we hope all of you have, because if you don’t, that’s a whole other story for developing habits for efficiency and organization.  It’s important to list your tasks in a to-do list, so you can then determine where each task falls under the three “D’s” below.

DO it.  The first of the three “D’s” is DO it.  There are some tasks that you, and only you, can or should do.  These tasks are the ones you determine need to stay on the To Do List and, from there, you can prioritize which ones need to be done in what order.  This more often than not is prioritized by deadline for completion; however, there are certain tasks that don’t have deadlines or require some on-going attention over time before the task will be complete.

DELEGATE it.  The second “D” is DELEGATE it.  This is one that most people struggle with, especially those Type A personalities and perfectionists.  It really involves a lot of trust in others. Sometimes, it’s easy to feel like we cannot delegate a certain task somewhere else because it might not get done right or, you think the time and extra work involved to train and supervise someone else to do it would not be worth it.  That mentality can really affect your level of efficiency, because now you are unable to complete certain things due to a sheer lack of time or other priority projects repeatedly bumping them.  Ultimately, you have to accept that nobody would ever be able to learn how to do certain tasks as good as you would and allow yourself an opportunity to delegate. You have to start to give up some of the control and start trusting others to take on those tasks that could be delegated away.  As a result, you will be able to free up your time to do the things that you need to do and, frankly, things that you enjoy!

Start by delegating some relatively simple tasks that you ordinarily take on and determine if there are others in your office that could be doing them instead.  For example, there can be some downtime for your receptionist between answering phone calls and assisting clients, which is great for doing certain tasks like sending out letters or putting together client files.

Delegating some more complex tasks may take a much bigger leap of faith, but you may be pleasantly surprised to find what others can take on when empowered to do so.  For example, Phil has built up a level of trust in me in the area of writing and has since given me the responsibility of initial drafts of correspondence, proposals and contracts. And, now I’m also responsible for authoring my own articles in our monthly newsletters!

Whether the task is simple or requires some training and supervision, once you learn to build up that trust and feel comfortable to delegate tasks to others, you will find that a lot more can get done.  What’s that lovely saying?  You can do more in teams than as an individual?  Something like that.  You probably won’t be able to jump in the pool right away, but you will need to dip that first foot into the water!

By the way, it’s important to remind you here that just because you delegate a task elsewhere, doesn’t mean that you’re still not responsible for the task or project.  You may still need to supervise and oversee the task to its completion and take responsibility for it, but the actual work might be done by someone else.  Sometimes it is okay to ask for help and, more often than not, there are others in your office capable of handling these tasks.

DEFER it.  The third and final “D” is to DEFER it.  It actually was “Destroy”, but the more I thought about it, as an assistant, you really don’t have the power to destroy tasks or projects.  “Destroy” would be a more appropriate fourth “D” for the boss, but not for the assistant.  And, like delegation of tasks, deferring tasks is probably one of the hardest things for assistants to do because it is not always clear what’s priority and what’s not.  Deferring tasks sometimes involves seeking assistance from your boss or supervisor and finding out what projects or tasks are expected of you.  Also, finding out which projects, goals and tasks are the most important to you and your role will also help you in understanding which tasks you can defer.  And, again, if you find yourself struggling to figure out if you should defer it or not, the task just might just fall in the DELEGATE category.

So, the next time you feel overloaded with things to do, go through your To Do List and determine what tasks you can DEFER until later (your “C” list), DELEGATE to someone else (your “B” list), and the ones that you will just have to DO (your “A” list).  Better yet, make this determination immediately when items come to you and get placed on your To Do List!

I am sure that once you master this, you will free yourself up so that you’re starting to do the tasks that you need to do, and hopefully the ones that you enjoy, too!  I know that I have!

Pssssst… are you an advisor reading this article?  If so, that’s fine.  While this article is written for staff members, many professionals would benefit from it as well.  But be sure to pass along this article to your assistant.  Click here to forward this article over to your assistant so that he or she can read it and benefit from it, too.  Also, you may wish to encourage your assistant to sign up to receive our monthly newsletter directly so that they can get these helpful tips and articles each month, too.  To sign up your assistant to receive our e-mails, click here.


Kristina Schneider is the current Executive Director of The Ultimate Estate Planner, Inc.  She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Pepperdine University in 2004 and was hired right out of college to work for the Law Firm of Kavesh, Minor & Otis, coordinating and facilitating Philip Kavesh’s “Missing Link” Boot Camps while also providing administrative support to Mr. Kavesh as his Executive Assistant for over seven years.  Through her direct hands-on experience in Mr. Kavesh’s law firm, Kristina has been able to assist numerous estate planning professionals through The Ultimate Estate Planner and, equally as important, many of their staff members, in the successful implementation of Ultimate Estate Planner’s products and systems. You can reach Kristina at (424) 247-9495 or by e-mail at


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