At which time do you wake up in the morning?
6 am like clockwork like clockwork. Weekends later. I need my sleep.
What is the first thing you do?
Get coffee, read news, Take dog for a walk.
Which news sites do you read (if any) in the morning?
FT, Guardian, BBC News, Quick skim of the few people I follow on Twitter.
At which time do you go into the office (or start working remotely)?
I work from home 2- 3 days a week. Then I start at 8:00. When I commute, I drive to work, listening to audible book or making calls. I get to work around 8:30, depending how messed up the traffic is.
How many times a day do you check emails?
I check my emails about 3 times a day. I turn off notifications. If it is urgent, people will What’s App me. When I am waiting for something, I’ll go in and delete some on my iPhone.
When is your first meeting?
Not before 10 am and no later than 4 pm.
How do you plan your meetings across the week?
I focus my limited meeting time on external meetings with clients and decision-makers.
For meetings, I like an agenda and prefer pre-reads sent in advance. If not, I’m likely to cancel or not accept the meeting. I tend to bunch meetings into Monday and Friday. I’ll attend meetings when I am useful for whatever decision or recommendation is needed. Most project updates can be done by project management software. Otherwise, I’ll send my suggestions by email or screencast.
I prefer to focus on deep work for the rest of the week. I schedule a lunch meeting when I am in the office.
Requests for meetings get scheduled at the end of the day a week or so in advance with a request for questions/pre-reads sent in a few days in advance. As knowledge workers, we need to focus on deep work, not meetings.
What is the split between internal and external meetings?
Looking at my agenda, I see that I spend 3 times as many external meetings as I do with internal meetings. External is with clients and decision-makers. Colleagues know to What’s App me on anything urgent.
How do you follow news development between meetings?
I don’t. Once a week something will pop up that is sent to me, but it is rare.
How do you organize your calendar?
Time chunking. I sit down on a Sunday afternoon and organise my week ahead. I overbudget the time for each task as I’ve learned that things take more time than I hope they will. When I work from home, I focus on drafting advisory notes. I don’t get interrupted.
How do you take notes?
Otter.ai for EP debates etc., otherwise paper. I mainly jot down the key points, next actions, and some observations/lessons learned.
What is your relationship to Excel?
What is your favorite app & why?
Personally, I use Evernote as my second brain, and What’s App..
How many external lunches do you have a week?
Around 2 lunches a week – usually sushi. It is a good way to have a focused conversation with a colleague or client. Never long.
Which time do you go to bed?
Around 9:30 p.m. with a book/audiobook, and typically fast asleep at 10 p.m. with the book having fallen on the floor.
Where do you keep up to date on Public Affairs?
I am lucky to do some teaching with Iskander de Bruycker at Maastricht’s MA in European Public Affairs and Jakov Bojović at the EUI’s School of Transnational Governance. They bring me into contact with some very useful insights and people. Otherwise, I read, especially Peter Ludlow’s Euro Comment and anything by Vaclav Smil. I find reading the most effective way to keep up to date. I spend an hour a day of my own time keeping up to date in the few areas I am interested in. I read the LinkedIn posts from Stefan Borst, Laura Shields, and Alan Hardacre.
What is your best tip for managing work/life balance?
Your work is a job, it is not a religious vocation. If you disagree, take vows. Do something you enjoy, but it is useful to remember that ego is the enemy. Your health and well-being are way more important.
What do you do to unwind?
Walk my dog, read and watch something that closes the brain down.
How does your desk look?
Work tidy because of hot desks, and home a big pile of papers that get cleared up once a week, and too many coffee cups at the end of the day.
Do you answer emails on your phone?
Name a PA pro in the industry you respect and why
I’ve learned a lot working with Marco Mensink. He reads a room better than anyone I’ve worked with, and he delivered something that I did not think was possible. I learned much from the late Tony Long (WWF EPO) and Simon Bryceson. Chris Rose’s writing has influenced much of my thinking.
When you go on vacation, do you still answer emails?
The last few years, no. The out-of-office replies says so. I work with a great team, so my absence is not noticed.
Which book did you read recently or are you currently reading?
I listen to and read a lot of books. I’m reading Christopher Volger’s the Writer’s Journey and Lon Fuller’s The Morality of Law. Volger offers a simple insight into applying Joseph Campbell’s ideas of storytelling, and after all lobbying is just a form of storytelling. Fuller because of his examination of 8 ways to fail to make a law. Mike Herron’s Slough House series is a newfound gem. Reading is still the best way to better understand an issue.
Which skills will PA pros need the most in 5-10 year?
Today, I think that the most useful skills are: 1) The ability to understand the legislative/regulatory process you are working on, 2) The ability to communicate clearly, 3) Understand the values that drive people (clients and decision-makers), 4) The ability to re-learn and learn quickly, 5) Have a portfolio of mental models to apply to the issues you are working on, and 6) Tell the right story to the right person at the right time. I think those skills are evergreen.
Do you prefer LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or TikTok, and why/why not?
I follow a few people on LinkedIn and Twitter. I post on LinkedIn. I personally use blog posts in an attempt to summarise issues in plain English in around 300-500 words.
Where should the PA function ideally be based in an organization & why?
From my experience, both in-house and in an agency, PA should act like a good friend who tells you what you need to hear but don’t necessarily want to hear. You need to have the direct ear of the Real client/CEO/Director-General. They can’t receive news too late before anything can be done to bring about positive change. If you don’t have that direct access, you won’t be able to do your job. I learned a lot from my oncologist. You want an expert who can tell you where things really are and what you can and can’t do about it. You need to be able to give an accurate diagnosis and prognosis without fear or favour.
About Aaron Mcloughlin
Aaron is a Partner at FleishmanHillard.
Read more about Aaron on his LinkedIn.