How long does it take you to get your coffee each morning when you arrive at the office? How long does it take for your computer to boot up? How much time do you spend filtering through yesterday’s email before you get started on today’s work?
The average worker admits to wasting three hours per workday on non-work related tasks. “Not me!” you say? Well, intentional or not, if you were to track your time and tasks each day, I bet the results would surprise you!
A big part of creating effective procedures is knowing exactly what you do all day. Tracking your daily tasks in order to create those procedures can also increase your productivity and ability to focus. Here are some of the ways tracking your tasks can benefit you.
1. Identifying Time Drains
A conversation with a coworker who just dropped by your desk to say hello, a quick scan of your personal social media pages, a trip to the breakroom for a bagel or a cup of tea — it may not seem like a huge deal at the time. But when you do a combination of these things a dozen times a day, those lost minutes add up to lost productivity.
Don’t get me wrong, we all need to take well-timed breaks throughout the day. The problem is losing track of how many and how much time they consume. However, your awareness level rises when you have a time log sitting right next to you, and you’re committed to keeping track of what you do, when you do it, and how long it takes you. It becomes easy to see how five minutes here and 10 minutes there spent on non-essential tasks can completely derail your entire day — and your entire workload.
Identifying your time drains and productivity leaks while logging your daily tasks will help you better prioritize tasks, make conscious decisions about how you spend your workday, and ultimately help you develop procedures to make things run more smoothly.
2. Tailoring Your Support to Your Executive’s Priorities
Tracking your daily activities gives you (and your executive) concrete proof of the tasks you’re responsible for, which makes it easier to get and stay on the same page with the people you support on a daily basis.
“These are my top five (or 10) priorities. How do they align with yours? Is there something on the list that isn’t as important as the others? Is there something I should be doing that’s not on this list?” This conversation will allow you to develop a laser-like focus and do your job more effectively.
3. Batching Tasks Together
A while back, I coached an admin who we’ll call Laura. She was responsible for entering contracts into her company’s contact management system, a process that took several different steps. The task required a great memory and plenty of focus, but Laura had interruptions coming at her from all directions, and the contracts began to pile up.
Over the phone, I asked Laura to walk me through the procedure for entering the contracts step-by-step while I wrote it all down on paper. It took her about 20 minutes to remember and complete the entire process. However, during the next call, with the written procedure in front of her, Laura cut her time for entering the contracts in half!
But we didn’t stop there. As we worked through the steps together, we discovered that natural “batches” occurred throughout the procedure. Rather than taking each contract through each stage individually, we found that it was more efficient to put all of the contracts through each stage together (e.g. scanning, uploading, tagging, filing), saving even more time!
Documenting each step of the process and then looking for the most effective way to complete those steps allowed Laura to clear her backlog and stay on top of this task.
By tracking and documenting your daily tasks and batching things together, you can achieve the same result!
4. Making More Strategic Decisions
How many times has someone popped by your desk asking for a minute of your time, help with a project, or a “quick” favor? How many times have you obliged, only to realize too late that your own work suffered?
Having a written account of your daily tasks arranged by priority level makes it simple to see, at a glance, whether you can agree to help, delegate the task to someone else, or respectfully say no. Your decisions naturally become more strategic. They are based on hard data rather than general feelings.
5. Increasing Your Self-Awareness
It’s easy to sit at your desk each day and spin your wheels. But at the end of the day, do you really feel like you’ve accomplished anything, or have you spent all day putting out yesterday’s fires? Tracking your daily tasks can help you become more aware of your personal time drains.
You can’t eliminate them all. Things will always pop up and demand your attention right this instant. However, documenting what you do each day will make you more aware of time drains when (and perhaps even before) they happen. You’ll be able to recognize the situation, say, “Uh-oh, here it comes!” and, in most cases, redirect yourself to your tasks before any time at all has been wasted!
Ready to Try It Yourself?
Commit to spending a few days tracking your tasks, and let my team and I know what you discover. It’s one of the best strategies I know for helping you save time, reduce inefficiencies, and boost your productivity!
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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity, and Become a Procedures Pro: The Admin’s Guide to Developing Effective Office Systems and Procedures.