We certainly need to “focus on being productive instead of busy”, as Tim Ferris once put it. But how to achieve that in practice?
Puzzled by this question, I started scanning the internet and also going through my own experiences. Either way, four topics came up at the top of the list: overcoming excessive administrative work, knowledge gaps, limited access to vital information and problems with communication.
Let’s now look at the first of these topics closely. I will get back to the other ones in a couple of follow-up articles.
The burden of excessive administrative work
A new survey conducted at AtTask by Harris Poll showed that US office workers spent only 46% of their time on primary job duties; yes, less than half of their paid time! While around 14% of time was spent on emails, the remaining 40% went to meetings, administrative tasks and interruptions for non-essential tasks.
Indeed, Julian Birkinshaw and Jordan Cohen concluded in an HBR article the simple truth: productivity requires eliminating redundant activities or unimportant tasks and focusing on what is crucial and adds value.
But how to do that systematically and consistently? Along the lines of Julian and Jordan, the AtTask survey provided some answers from workers themselves:
- Better resources (23%)
- More efficient work processes (18%)
- Uninterruption of work time (18%) and, last but not least,
- More advanced technology (11%).
How technology helps reducing time spent on administrative work
Current data and information management technologies allow us to automate work processes and develop standard procedures to speed up the execution of many tasks that take a lot of time – including the administrative work we discussed before.
Having the appropriate tools will not only automate business processes but ensures that information is available for anybody, who needs it and communication is more fluent, both internally and with customers.
For example, a CRM system allows keeping track of all information related to each customer under a single record and streamline the work processes by providing automatically alerts on key events and task assignments. But what about providing reports and documentation, the ‘necessary evil’ often considered administrative work? Here is a tip: a good-quality document automation plug-in application can help a lot!