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     Admin Time? What The Heck Is That?

Managing your time at the office can be a real challenge -- how do you stay on top of daily to-do's when you have meetings to attend, fires to put out, and people knocking on your door every 5 minutes asking for something? The key is to have a regular chunk of time blocked off for getting YOUR work done.
Structuring Your Admin Time

My first question to any business client who feels he has fallen behind is, "When do you take care of phone calls, paperwork, client follow-ups, e-mails, and other to-do's? When do you work on projects without interruption? When do you schedule your admin time?" The answer is usually, "I fit it in when I find a few free minutes." Unfortunately, you'll never find enough time to stay on top of the daily grind -- you have to make time for it. Start by setting aside a morning a week (Mondays are good) as "admin time" -- no appointments, no clients, nothing but catching up and planning ahead. If you need more time, that's fine -- some people devote a couple of hours to admin every morning before their appointments. Whatever allows you to be more productive.

However, simply sitting down in front of a pile of to-do's without a plan is entirely counterproductive. How much work time have you wasted thinking, "What should I do next?" You'll get more done if you follow a routine -- taking care of the same responsibilities in the same order each time. You will find that you get into a groove, are more focused, and accomplish more in a shorter time. Maybe you start out returning emails, then make all of your phone calls, then spend a chunk of time on data entry. Of course, if you have a big project due, you might set aside your entire morning for uninterrupted work on that -- it's your admin time, you choose the priority! Before your admin day arrives, figure out what specific tasks you plan to tackle during those hours. Who do you need to call? What letters will you send? What reports should you write? Make a list, then plug those to-do items into your admin schedule. You will avoid the "I know I have plenty to do but can't think of what" syndrome that seems to crop up so often!

Lay Down The Law

The key to making this system work is treating your admin period as a commitment -- block it off in your calendar and don't schedule anything else during that time. Let colleagues and clients know that you are unavailable because you already have an appointment scheduled. It's true, you do -- with you! Shut your door, post a do-not-disturb sign, and send your phone to voice mail -- you can return calls and see visitors after you're done. When you respect your time, others will learn to do the same. And when they see how much more you get done, you may start an "admin time" trend!

Here's another little hint fer ya -- you don't just have to save the admin time for your job. I'm sure your personal life could benefit just as much from a regular period devoted to completing all those annoying little "to-do" tasks that clutter up your schedule. I use my admin time to deal with incoming mail, catch up on email responses, clean the house, schedule appointments with the dentist and hair dresser and whatnot. Then, for the rest of the week, I don't have to worry about these things. It's a wonderful feeling!


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