Charlie Benjamin is the President & CEO of the Near East Foundation, an international development organization with field offices in 8 countries and HQ offices in 3.
Charlie’s main responsibilities are multi-faceted and require dedicated time to focus on the overall strategy and management of the organization. Working with Double has allowed him to delegate so that he can approach his most important work with energy and appreciation.
Describe what a typical day might entail for you?
My mornings are usually filled with meetings (and now, virtual meetings) starting from about 7am through noon. I try to keep meetings and calls as condensed as possible. And the afternoon is my focus time for writing and other projects that require deep concentration.
What do you love most about what you do?
First, I work with really great, committed people all over the world. The second thing I love is that the Near East Foundation is a mission-driven organization. We exist to help vulnerable people in the Middle East and Africa improve their livelihoods and wellbeing.
What's the most challenging part of your job?
I have to divide my attention across so many different functional areas —from program implementation to policy compliance to fundraising and board relations. The challenge in particular is in the volume and diversity of issues I work with.
What was the trigger / moment that you decided to start working with an assistant?
I saw an article in Forbes about Double’s founder and I signed up to learn more. I liked the idea of having a flexible engagement that’s tailored to the amount of help that I need. My double, Krista, and I have a weekly check in every Monday to figure out what needs to happen and we take it from there.
How does your double help you?
Scheduling. Scheduling can be particularly time-consuming when there are meetings that need to coordinate around multiple schedules. Our board meetings require coordinating with 10 different people. Krista handles that and gets everything on my calendar and sets everything up remotely–I never have to worry.
Email. Krista monitors my email responses, which is especially helpful as emails can get lost or deprioritized in an inbox. She makes sure nothing slips through the cracks. She even writes quick responses to emails for me.
Special projects. Organizing our board dockets, for example, is a very time-consuming project Krista works on. We have 3 different entities and each entity has 3 board meetings a year—that's 9 board dockets to create, format, and organize. Each one requires a docket of 40 pages or so. It takes a huge amount of work off of me, so I can focus on the content—and not the production—of these documents.
What has having a double given you more time for?
I’ve been able to work on projects that all require sustained focus: tightening up our business development systems, finalizing our strategic plan, and working to implement parts of that plan.
What tips or best practices for productivity have you learned from your work?
I always start my day with exercise. It sets the tone for the rest of the day. I also try to keep time as unfragmented as possible. That’s why I have all my meetings and calls in the morning and try to keep them to 30 minutes versus an hour.
I set aside time in the afternoon for my focused work and actually schedule it into my calendar. I have a four-hour block each day where I focus on a different functional area—correspondence, strategy, business development, systems development, and for board matters.
Today, for example, from 1-5pm I have a block for business development. I know exactly what I'm going to do during that time. It gives me the ability to concentrate, so I don’t worry about whatever else is on my to-do list.
Working with a double not only saves you time, but allows you the headspace and focus to do your most important work.