Hi, here’s Michael, Nozbe founder. I hired Magda two years ago for a position of an editor in the Productive! Magazine. As this wasn’t a full time job really, I also asked her if she could temporarily become my assistant. I’ve never had an assistant before and I wanted to learn to work with one. She said yes, and two years later she’s still helping me get things done. In this post I want to share how we work together. I hope this might be helpful to anyone thinking about working with an assistant or searching for ways to improve their collaboration. We’re actually thinking about recording a short video about it, soon. Here’s how we work together with Magda:
Magda manages my email
Although we said farewell to email in Nozbe long time ago, we can’t prevent the whole world from using it :-) I receive hundreds of emails every week and it is Magda who takes care of them.
At the beginning of our cooperation, I set up all my Gmail accounts so that every single new message is being forwarded to one email address that we call “CEO”. I’ve also given Magda an access to the “CEO” account - in Gmail, it is called “delegated account”. This way we both have access to my emails and we both can receive and send emails from the “CEO” address.
There are various emails coming to that shared Gmail inbox:
- business - individual
- personalized business emails sent by companies to multiple receivers
- automated invoices, billings, account statements and other finance-related notifications
Magda archives the emails that don’t require any reply or are just advertising; she sends regular finance-related messages to a dedicated notebook in my Evernote. If an email is not too personal and Magda’s competence is enough to reply to it accurately, she does it.
Now, the most important: messages that require my reaction, reply, confirmation or simply advice. Here’s how we deal with them through Nozbe:
Our project in Nozbe is called: “CEO”
Magda forwards them to a dedicated project in Nozbe called CEO, using Nozbe’s email-to-task feature.
She simply clicks forward in Gmail. Then, in the address field, she types her personalized Nozbe email address which is:
She deletes Fwd: from the email’s subject to make it look good as a task name in Nozbe. Sometimes she totally changes it so that Michael can see what is the task about with just one glance.
She adds parameters by the use of hashtags in the subject field. She delegates the task to me with
#Michaelhashtag (Michael is my username in Nozbe :-))
She points her message to appropriate project by adding
#CEO(meaning: #Your project’s name). Nozbe will guess that #Michael stands for delegation and #CEO - for destination.
If there are some needless images or other superfluous parts of the message she removes them as well. It is simply to let me see only the necessary content.
In case she wants to add something from herself, ask for my advice or make any suggestion - she types whatever she needs at the top of the message body.
She clicks “Send” :)
After a couple of minutes the forwarded email appears in the “CEO” project and I can see it on my Priority list as the task is delegated to me. I write what’s needed and delegate the task back to Magda so that she takes care of it.
Sometimes, I go to Gmail inbox and reply to an important email myself and mark the task as done.
Magda organizes my meetings
When I want a meeting scheduled, Magda is writing emails to iron out the details and posts status updates as comments to the task, like this:
They can only talk to you Friday 1:30pm, European Time. I see you have no appointments at that time. Is it OK?
OK, that’s perfect
When I agree in the comment, Magda contacts the other party to confirm the date and she notes down their Skype ID as a comment in the task.
All is set: Their Skype id is “MrXSkype”
Magda delegates this task to me and adds date and time needed:
- Who is responsible? Michael
- Date? Friday, 14 August
- Time? 1:30pm
- Time needed? 30 min
I now can safely remove this task from my Priority list for today, as I know it will show up on this list again on Friday and I will receive a push notification 30 minutes before the meeting.
Because my Nozbe account is also synchronized with my Google Calendar, the appointment appears there automatically as well so I won’t miss anything.
Working on a project together
Very often I’m working with my assistant on marketing and other stuff together. For this purpose I set up a completely new project for us and I invite Magda in.
Let’s say I’m going for a business trip. I add first tasks for Magda and she takes it from there:
- Find a venue - research
- Guests list
- Press release and contacts
She accepts the invitation to this project and gets to work. When she’s working on longer documents, she saves them in her Dropbox folder. She then writes a new comment in Nozbe and attaches the file directly from Dropbox thanks to Nozbe and Dropbox integration.
We comment on this file and the other things related to this project in the comments to each task.
Working under time pressure :)
When I don’t reply to a task Magda has delegated to me for too long, she would ping me, by adding a comment to it:
@Michael - I am waiting for your reaction here!
As I never go out without my iPhone and Apple Watch I will know that Magda mentioned me in a task, as I’d receive a push notification about Magda mentioning me in a comment to a task.
For the purposes of these urgent tasks, Magda created an Urgent category in a red color in Nozbe. She adds this category to the tasks that she thinks are really important. This is very convenient for me, because I can then filter my priority list with these tasks and focus on getting them done.
If you wish to see how it all works in real-life, watch a screencast we’ve prepared:
And how do you work with your assistant and people around you?
Communicating through tasks works great not only for managers and assistants but also for partners, colleagues and entire teams! Hope with this article I’ve given you enough ideas to start working with others through Nozbe, and not trying to organize things via email only. Email is for initial communication, Nozbe is for getting the thing done.
(written by Michael Sliwinski, Nozbe founder, and Magda Blaszczyk, his assistant)