Oct 5 / Helen Bryant

Are You Wasting Valuable Time on Admin? Find Out How to Stop!

Have you got some fiddly admin that you dread doing?

A report, an expense form, a sales forecast, or an activity that seems to take a disproportionate amount of time, and you are not sure of its value?

What about your team?

If so, you are not alone. I often see this challenge of time-consuming admin and how it frustrates and stresses people out.

In this blog, I share six ideas on what to do to reclaim your time and create efficiency in admin tasks.

There can be a high cost of time consuming admin

In a recent workshop, a group of managers shared that they often worked late into the evening, catching up on admin. 
They all agreed that one particular report seemed to add no value whatsoever, but if they tried not doing it, they would feel the full wrath of their manager as it had to be completed.
They assessed that time-wise, admin made up 1-2 days a week. The problem was that those days were already full; hence, it was often done around the edge and creeping into their time.

That is a lot of time to not be on high-value activities.

The result was stress, frustration and a feeling that they were not working on the highest value work that would make the biggest difference to their team and their organisation.

Why does admin overload happen?

- Some admin is needed and valuable, but it is done in a labour-intensive and fiddly way. Often, there can be low awareness of how long it takes to complete, i

- Some admin was bought in for a good reason some time back, but it no longer serves its purpose.

-Sometimes, admin is a form of control. More senior managers may use it as a way to check on what is going on, and then it takes on a life of its own. It is not the most effective method.

Time is your most valuable asset. The best leaders control it and use it wisely, for themselves and their teams.

These are the 6 steps I think make the difference:

#1 Mindset: You know your workload better than anyone. If you are confident that specific admin adds little value, you must address the issue proactively, find a better way to get the work done, and work smarter, not harder.

#2 Purpose: We all know there will always be some admin, but the key to understanding why it has to be done. Defining the purpose for each piece of admin will clarify why it is needed and help assess its importance or need.

#3 Eliminate: If you have an admin issue, start with what you could eliminate. Once people talk about what is involved in doing the admin task versus the outcome, they often agree that there is a better way to achieve the purpose.

A client once told me that he had a report he had to do each month; it took ages, and he was pretty confident no one used it. He then was off sick, and it did not go out. Not one person chased him for it. He used that as the catalyst to talk with colleagues and propose stopping it. Everyone agreed a more light-touch approach would work.

Starting the conversation of streamlining administration can often help you here.

#4 Automate: Both specific apps or intelligent use of polls and forms can help automate administration. There are many digital solutions to help, plus apps that link other apps like Zapier and Powerautomate. Easy-to-do examples include expenses captured as you go, a form or poll for issue feedback that consolidates onto one spreadsheet, or scheduling meetings. 
To automate, it is often a case of having to go slower to go faster. Spending time to work it out, set up, launch and nurture it until it is an established way of working can make all the difference.

#5 Simplify: For the essential admin that is left, ask if the current way is the most straightforward, easiest-to-do approach.

Simple changes can reduce time and maintain the quality of output, and mean that everyone has efficient admin practices.

#6 Review: Ask your team and your colleagues quarterly what works well and what does not in how you work.

This keeps the feedback loops open and means you will constantly ensure that the admin required is done in a timely and time-efficient manner, keeping everyone happy.

Action Step: Be proactive on inefficient admin

If you recognise some of these issues in the way you work and are looking to master admin tasks for yourself and your team, do the following in the coming week:

- Ask your team members about how much time they are spending on admin. What works and does the job? What does not and could be reviewed?

- What of your admin takes up the most time? Are there tasks that could be improved? Share your ideas with your line manager and colleagues.

Discover how 10 minutes a week can step change your leadership impact.

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