How I Use Fin at Work to Get More Done
Sam Lessin, 26 Apr 2017
We believe that everyone should have an assistant, but the truth of the matter is that when you first get started working with one, it isn’t always obvious how to most effectively use their time to help you work more efficiently. This is true of having a full or part time traditional executive assistant, and it is true of using Fin as well.
Here are some pointers / things to consider when you start using Fin — or a traditional full time assistant — to make yourself more effective at work:
1) What recurring tasks do you have to do every week, month, quarter, or year that an assistant can take care of for you?
There are key sets of collaborators, partners, and customers that I like to meet with on a semi-regular schedule. I tell Fin who these people are and how frequently I want to make sure I am meeting with them. I also usually tell Fin the context — sometimes I want to do dinner or drinks, other times coffee is more appropriate. Fin remembers the list, reaches out to each on my behalf at the specified cadence to find a time to meet, and adds the events to my calendar.
Try it: “Fin, I want to make sure I am getting a chance to grab coffee with Bob and Jane and Susan at least once a quarter. Can you remind me every three months and reach out to them to find times that work?”
2) Do you remember to follow up with new people you meet at events?
When I go to events or conferences I usually meet a lot of people, but I will quickly forget the context of the meeting or what to do next if I don’t save the context then and there. So, when I meet someone new I always send Fin a picture of their business card. Then I use the microphone to quickly give Fin some context about the person, what we discussed, and if I want a reminder to follow up. Frequently I will tell Fin to send the person an email so he or she has my contact info (I don’t carry cards) and also so that we have a thread going in email.
Try it: When you meet someone new, take a screenshot of the business card. Then, use the microphone and say something like “Fin, remember that Bob and I sat next to each-other tonight at the benefit. He loves soccer and I should follow up in a month and ask how his bitcoin mining is going. Also, send him an email saying it was nice to meet and zip him my contact details”
3) Is scheduling and rescheduling meetings taking too much of your time?
Frequently people email me asking to meet for one reason or another. Some people I want to meet with right away. Others I don’t have time for right now, but would like to check in on in the future. When someone asks to meet now, I reply to the email, cc fin and say something like, “Hey Bob, Fin can suggest some times that work next week at my office”… Fin can then make some suggestions that work with my calendar and handle follow up. When it is someone I can’t meet with right now but do want to meet later I might reply adding Fin to the email and say something like “Hey Bob, sadly I am slammed right now, but Fin can you remind me in a month to follow up with Bob on how the project is going”
Try it: The next time someone asks to meet with you, reply and CC Fin with some high level instructions on when you want to meet. Let Fin take it from there…. or if you can’t meet reply and ask Fin to remind you in the future about follow up.
4) Do you want to be more prepared for meetings with new people?
Sometimes when you go to meet someone new for the first time it is helpful to have some context on them. I always feel like I should google the person, read their blog and social profiles, and skim any articles written about them. Sometimes I even want to ping mutual friends in advance to ask them about the person. Of course, I rarely have a chance to do this myself, but a great chief of staff or assistant does this for you and always has the context summarized for you before you walk into the meeting.
Try it: The next time you are meeting for business with someone new, ask Fin in advance to do some research and send you a summary of what you should know about them for the meeting ahead of time. If you share more context Fin can do a better job!
5) Are you on top of ‘administrivia’ like submitting expenses?
I am terrible at doing things like submitting expenses. Fin can take care of this for you. I shared my expensify login with Fin and told Fin the recipe that it needs to follow to successfully submit expenses on my behalf. Now, all I need to do is snapshot a bill and say “Fin please expense this” and it is done.
Try it: Remember to add your expense account login to the vault, and when you set this up you must tell Fin the steps to take (since all expense policies are a little different) … then it is off to the races. Take a photo of your next receipt and say ‘expense this’.
6) Do you need to book travel for work?
Booking travel is one of the most painful experiences, and as the world has gone more and more digital, it is more and more the expectation that people book their own travel rather than using an agent. I always feel like even if I have the dates locked, and know which flights and hotels I want, actually completing the transactions to book flights, lodging, and more is time-consuming. Now, if I know what flight I want and where I want to stay I can just say “Fin, book me the 9:30 am United flight from SFO to JFK and a room at the Ace hotel from Tuesday to Thursday” and it is done. Of course, if I don’t know where I want to stay or would rather Fin research flights for me as well, Fin can handle it.
Try it: The next time you are traveling somewhere, whether or not you know the flights and hotel you want, have Fin handle it for you. The first time you do this is a little harder, unless you have already told Fin your frequent flyer numbers, TSA Pre, and seat / room preferences, but once that is setup it is a breeze because Fin remembers!
7) Are there frequently things you would love to research but don’t have the time?
There is a long list of questions that usually come up in the course of work where it would be great to have a more informed opinion of options, but it just isn’t high enough priority to spend the time to research well. Recently, I wanted to have some t-shirts and stickers made for the company. I don’t know what the best options are for making things like this, but I do know that there is a bunch of online content suggesting different options. I told Fin what I was looking for and the quality I wanted, and Fin sent me back a quick report on suggestions of what to use.
Try it: When you need to buy something for work, anything from stickers to branded waffle-irons, ask Fin to come up with a few good options for you.
8) Do you host events / dinners that you need help setting up?
I frequently get groups together for 10–20 people to discuss work. Sometimes I do things like this for more general ‘marketing’ as well. Managing RSVPs, finding a good venue, etc. is an extreme pain. This is especially true when you have an event in a city you don’t know well, or when you don’t expect everyone to be able to make it, so want to add more people if some people don’t show up. Fin handles this well for me. I give it a list and a date, I can say ‘Find me a few options for private rooms available around the Mission’ and then add, ‘please invite the following 20 people and track their RSVPs for me on a list’.
Try it: When you are next having an event for a larger group, tell Fin about it and ask Fin to find the venue and manage the invites and RSVPs — and to invite more people from a separate list if some are unable to make it.
9) Do you want to send gifts, flowers, etc to people for holidays or big events?
I have always wanted to send seasonal holiday cards & occasional gifts to groups of colleagues… but it is sufficiently difficult to do so well that I always end up failing to actually send anything. Fin makes it a snap to collect mailing addresses, purchase, and send either cards or gifts for holidays or other events. Now, I am much better at sending people gifts for holidays, weddings, and births because someone has my back doing all the legwork to get thoughtful gifts sent (including the selection if you ask!)
Try it: When a colleague or customer next has a major event, have Fin send them a gift. Tell Fin to track down their address, then ask what to send. If you have something specific in mind, just tell Fin what you want.. Else give an indication of price range and context and let Fin suggest options!