Doing it All, All by Yourself


By Odette Pollar,

This may sound like the time when dinosaurs roamed (or about 25 years ago,) but there was a time when managers took great pride in their lack of typing skills. No one would ever mistake them for clerks or secretaries! (More ancient nomenclature.) In fact, female managers who knew how to type deliberately hid their skill so they would not be assigned secretarial tasks along with their managerial duties. How things have changed. Not being able to type whether or not you call in keyboarding is a tremendous disadvantage. If you are to survive in this downsized world without administrative help, you will need to look for efficiencies in all aspects of your work environment.

Learn to type. It is worth saying again. Learn to type. There is no better way to boost your productivity than to type quickly and accurately. If you can hunt and peck "a little," it is important for you to increase your speed. Although it is not necessary to type ninety or one hundred words per minute with the accuracy of a data entry clerk, aiming for sixty words per minute is reasonable, and means you would type twice as fast as your current thirty mistake-filled words per minute.

Set up an efficient work space. Make sure the items you use most regularly are close to you, and that extraneous items are out of your way so they do not distract. Be sure the physical items in your workspace--tables, desks, computer stations--actually fit your physical needs. Think about how you work and how often you are required to get up to retrieve items, and make any changes necessary to improve the smooth flow of work as it crosses your work station.

Expect delayed responses. In this day and age, it is not unusual for the recipient of a call you place to have received forty others that same day, in addition to 100 or more e-mail messages. It is harder and harder for people, well-intentioned or not, to respond quickly. To reduce your stress level, start sooner. Although there are copy shops that can reproduce and bind that report quickly and may be open until midnight, your client may not call you back with the final count for two days.

Use a calendar or personal organizer to relieve the stress on your memory. Be sure to customize it to your use. Just because it arrived with 25 pre-printed tabs and three pounds of paper that does not mean you need to carry it all with you. Re-label the tabs with words that are more meaningful to you. If you prefer electronic organizers be religious about backing up the data daily.

Learn to write with accuracy, clarity, and speed. It is a skill that can be improved, just like typing. Strive for excellence, not perfection. Do not revise a memo or e-mail message eight times. It is probably just becoming different, not better.

Solve problems while they are small. The pile sitting on the corner of your desk will probably not go away, and the one problem from that pile that does blow up will inevitably cause the most damage. To avoid the headache, clear up problems before they turn into big time-consuming crises.

Group administrative tasks together. Try to avoid getting up from your desk for only one purpose. Ask a question and make a copy on the way back to your desk. Retrieve a file on your way to getting a beverage. Unless it is particularly time-sensitive, fax in bundles versus making a singular trip for each document.

Keep backup supplies, if you are working alone, such as an extra print cartridge, overnight delivery forms and mailing labels. That eliminates extra, under-stress and highly-irritated office supply runs or overnight rush delivery charges. When you use the last of any item, you know what I am going to say, don't you?

Call for assistance when needed. Use vendors for administrative help as well as for technical or special projects. It may not make sense, for example, for you to type a sixty-page document. It is probably faster and more efficient to send it out. The same is true for items that require a lot of formatting skill. Learn when it is faster and better for you to do it yourself, and when it is better to give it to someone else.


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