Weekender Issue #113

The Assist Newsletter
December 15, 2023

Brainteaser of the day: A man stands on one side of a river, his dog on the other. The man calls his dog, who immediately crosses the river without getting wet and without using a bridge or a boat. How did the dog do it?

Click here to see the answer.


Treat Yo’Self


🍫 The Creamiest Hot Cocoa
Warm up with this rich, decadent hot chocolate recipe you can make in the crock pot. Get your cozy cocoa fix here >

😭 Letting It Out With A Good Cry
Give yourself permission to release emotions and find clarity. Here are 10 ways to make yourself cry when you need to let it out >

👖 Flattering New Skinny Jeans
Score slimming denim for date nights and beyond. Proof this classic style will always be trendy >

🕎 Expanding Your Cultural Holiday Knowledge
Be more inclusive with your holiday cheer by learning about Diwali, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and more. Embrace new traditions here >

🧳 Cute New Luggage
Jet set in style with tips for finding the perfect travel bags and accessories. Pick from 2023 best reviewed suitcases>


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A Case for Closing Out of Your Inbox


What I’m about to share with you is probably the most controversial soap box I’ve ever stood on.

The reason I’m deciding to address this is simple. In my 20+ years as an executive assistant, nothing has transformed how I work (and how I view myself as a strategic business partner) more than this one thing:

Putting email management in its rightful place.

According to a LinkedIn survey I recently conducted, only 22% of executive assistants said they close out of email in order to strategically create more focus and get more done.

16% said they’d like to close out of email but haven’t yet. A whopping 62% responded no, out of fear of missing something.

Equally fascinating were some of the comments I received on this post:

“Kinda the main point to be on top of it, no?”

“It’s part of the job responsibility that you don’t miss something, and communication is timely.”

“No no and no. I have a monitor dedicated just for my inbox.”

The 62% that responded, “no” to the poll, coupled with these comments, seem to point to one key underlying belief when it comes to effective email management…

Closing out of one’s inbox is irresponsible and neglectful.

As much as I hate to break it to you, this belief is one you’ll need to challenge if you want to maximize your effectiveness and show up more strategically for your role.

Taking Back Control of Your Day

I think we have all experienced what it feels like to let your inbox dictate your day.

You start out working on a high-priority project, only to be derailed when you are interrupted by an email. Instead of prioritizing the request accordingly, you find yourself taking care of it the moment it’s received so you don’t “have to worry about it”.

Before you know it, you’re sucked in the email vortex, playing whack-a-mole as your life depended on it. That higher-priority task or project inadvertently gets put on the back burner.

Putting email management in its rightful place on your list of priorities will solve this problem.

Determine how often you want to check and respond to email, then commit to it. Starting small is 100% okay.

When I challenge my clients to close out of their inbox I propose starting with 20-30 minutes at a time. (Keep reading for strategies on how to effectively implement this concept.)

Other Benefits

Not only will closing out of your inbox help you gain a sense of control over your day, it will also help you focus.

The benefits to focus are many and are backed by science. Please check out this article summarizing a variety of studies.

When you’re focused you’re more likely to create higher quality work with fewer mistakes. You also tend to focus on the right things, prioritizing tasks and projects accordingly.

In other words, if you want to show up more strategically, and get more done in less time (and with less stress), you’re going to need to pause the incoming stream of requests long enough to allow for focus.

A Strategic Mindset Shift

In May of this year, I co-hosted an in-person training with Melissa Peoples. At one point Melissa asked what an acceptable timeline was for receiving a response to an email. The answers varied from a couple of hours to the next day.

Do you want to know what nobody said? Nobody said they expected a response immediately or gave a timeline that was less than a couple of hours.

If we don’t expect this level of responsiveness from others, why do we ourselves feel obligated to be overly responsive to email?

The answer is simple and boils down to a strong desire to do a good job.

What if doing a good job actually looks like producing high-quality work, and maximizing your productive output? Both of which require focus. (Again, see the link above for the science behind this.)

If you’re an ambitious growth-minded assistant, what got you to where you are probably won’t get you to where you want to go. If you want to get out of the weeds and operate more strategically, you’re going to have to set aside the reactionary practice of living in your inbox (and messaging apps) and put email in its rightful place.

Take a deep breath! As I write this I can feel the collective panic. I’ve got you!

The How

Right now you’re probably thinking, “Okay Annie, I hear you. What if I close out of my inbox and miss something?” -or- “Annie, my colleagues expect immediate responses from me.”

If your colleagues expect an immediate response it’s likely because you’ve inadvertently trained them to expect one.

The fix for this isn’t to live in your inbox, it’s to retrain them by setting the expectation for a more sensible response time.

The next time you receive an in-person visit or a Teams message 2 seconds after they’ve sent you an email, you can thank them for checking in, then set the expectation regarding a reasonable response time.

Here are a few more strategies vital to your success:

  • Have an open conversation with your executive about your desire to optimize your time, and create more focus by closing out of your inbox.
  • Give your executive an alternate way to reach you in case of emergency. I’m also a fan of closing out of Teams & Slack. In my personal experience, a text works beautifully.
  • Start small… especially if you’re afraid of missing something. Closing out of your inbox for 20-30 minutes at a time can be life-changing. As you begin to see the benefits, slowly expand your focus sessions.
  • Lean into your discomfort. You’re trying something new which means your brain will likely go into high alert. This is part of the process, nothing has gone wrong. Take a few deep breaths and remind yourself of the amazing benefits of challenging yourself in this way.

I’ll leave you with this story…

While I was supporting my last executive, both he and I received consistent praise about my timeliness when it came to responding to email.

Want to hear something interesting? I was only in my inbox 5-6 times per day.

I have a theory about why we received this feedback:

  1. I checked and responded to email as my first task of the day. I have a feeling this was translated by others as “responsive”.
  2. My correspondence was well thought out and articulated. My focus on producing high-quality work meant that when I opened my inbox, it had my full undivided attention. While I have no proof, I speculate that others were able to tell.

Putting my email management in its rightful place was key to my success as a strategic business partner. Closing out of my inbox not only reduced stress and mistakes, it also improved productivity and increased strategic thinking.

What if managing your email in a similar way could lead to success for you too? You won’t know if you don’t try.

To learn more about Annie, please visit her website: WholeAssistant.com or connect with her on LinkedIn.


Templates Galore

Miro free templates

We know you love a good template!

Here’s a quick hitting list of our fave templates from Miro:

🤩 Browse All Templates Here

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From June Jordan, Civil Wars


“I am a feminist, and what that means to me is much the same as the meaning of the fact that I am Black; it means that I must undertake to love myself and to respect myself as though my very life depends upon self-love and self-respect.”

Joanna’s Recs


Joanna Ericta

Show to binge 📺 :
Reacher S2

Song to bump 🎵:
My House by Beyonce

Movie 🎥:
The Family Stone

Book 📚:
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Wishlist Rec 📝:
2024 Vision Board Clip Art Book

Cameron’s Recs


Cameron Huber

Show to binge 📺 :
Rezimplified (YouTube)

Song to bump 🎵:
Wicked by Future

Podcast 🎙️:
Murder Sheet

Book 📚:
Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez

Wishlist Rec 📝:
Portable Cordless Heating Pad


Stuff we’re loving rn


  💊 Supplement: Restore your inner radiance with NativePath collagen for stronger nails, shinier hair and healthy joints.

💋 Beauty: Looking for a hair mask that will leave your hair soft, shiny and hydrated? Check out Daily Dose’s best-selling one here. Use code 20V9FKQL for 20% off.

📄 ReportCareerBuilder’s Hiring Managers: State of Hiring and Retention Report is the holy grail for anyone involved in hiring and retention at work. Key topics include the current state of hiring, how offer packages are changing, 2023 retention trends, and the future of work environments.

🛠️ ToolSanebox is something our team has been using to dig ourselves from anxiety inducing amounts of emails to inbox zero. It learns your behavior to help streamline your email mgmt process. We are especially loving the @SaneBlackHole folder that keeps unwanted emails out.


Latest Listings


The Assist's Corporate Holiday Gift Guide

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🔖 Catch up on all Weekender newsletters here.

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Delilah pet of the week

Delilah is a 4 year old Poodle and Cavalier mix.

She loves playing soccer with her dad, barking at heavy rocks that she cant flip over, and wrestling with mommy.

💌 We’re huge pet lovers at The Assist and want to feature a pet each week — fill out this form for your fur baby to be featured!
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