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By: Emma Robinson


In this era of financial cutbacks, organisations are getting used to being asked to deliver more, cheaper, better services.  Key staff reduce their hours, support services are in-sourced, project deadlines pile up, and the remit of “office admin” grows ever larger.  Something’s got to give!  Fear not for there is another way – you can embrace the principles of Smart Admin:


Stop trying to be a superhero. Unrealistic deadlines and workloads just lead to burnout and poor quality. If you're asked to juggle an impossible set of priorities, ask for help. Once you understand the requirements of each piece of work ask the board / your manager to decide the priorities. New projects mean something else has to move down the list. It's not necessarily your job to decide which. But only if you deliver what you promise will the board / your manager trust you're not just trying to shirk your work.


Sharing knowledge is power. It’s tempting to assume the role of Indispensable All-knowing Being; it’s smarter to be an Overseer of Efficiency.  To get most things done in an organisation today requires a collaborative effort. If you try to work alone, you are likely to fail.  Knowledge sharing is not just about sharing ideas, it’s about improving the way that things get done. Each of us has lots of knowledge that is of little use on its own.  Share it with others who can make use of it and in return they will share knowledge with you.


Let people manage themselves wherever they can. Many people are perfectly capable of buying their own diaries, updating their PCs, fixing the photocopiers. So let them. And if your role includes IT support, don’t feel you have to police people’s use of personal technology. Unless you have a specific policy that prevents it, let them install iTunes, Skype, and the like on their computers, with the understanding that if the computer gets messed up, you'll wipe it and reinstall the defaults, not troubleshoot any damage that’s been caused. Make sure that everyone knows all the risks, and the reasons you’re doing this. After all, with freedom comes responsibility.


Eliminate the unnecessary. Go through your routine tasks and assess what value they actually bring to the organisation. Don’t keep recording stuff, maintaining stuff, writing stuff or sending stuff just because you’ve done so in the past. Ask yourself at every turn: is this piece of admin strictly necessary?


Automate everything you possibly can. Order supplies online, link spreadsheets, set up direct debits, use a milk delivery service, create recurring task reminders.


Enhance your wellbeing. Yes, everything you do is probably urgent, but don't get stuck on the hamster wheel of the day-to-day.   The organisation is poorly served if you're an admin zombie.  Make time to connect with people and take notice of what’s around you.  Take regular breaks from your computer screen and try and remain physically active, even if it’s just a few stretching exercises at your desk and a walk at lunchtime. Stretch your brain as well -  be open to learning something new every day.


Make leaving work mean leaving work. The quickest way to un-Smartness is to never learn how to relax.  Don’t stay late, take work home or answer emails out of the office unless you really have to.  If you like to be busy in the evenings and at weekends, take up a hobby.  

when the going gets tough - admin gets smart!