Office managers are responsible for making sure everything in the office runs smoothly. To achieve this, an office manager requires exceptional organisation and communication skills and the ability to delegate tasks to others.
From taking phone calls and filing documents, to scheduling meetings and enforcing occupational health and safety standards, there are plenty of tasks to keep you busy.
As an office manager, you’re responsible for tasks like:
- Greeting visitors
- Bookkeeping, invoicing and budgeting
- Managing office operations
- Dealing with contractors
- Designing filing systems
- Maintaining office records
- Reviewing and analysing reports
- Recruiting and training employees
The nature of managing an office is such that tasks can quickly pile up, which is why it’s important to have an effective method of managing your workflow. Here are a few ways to work more efficiently and get everything done as an office manager:
1. Establish a process that works for you
Being organised is incredibly important when you’re dealing with administrative tasks because, without some kind of structure, you will never quite know what to prioritise or how to manage unexpected tasks. A process is a system that you follow each day that should remain relatively consistent, while also allowing you the flexibility to deal with something that arises without warning—like an urgent building maintenance issue or safety concern.
To establish a process, write down the main responsibilities of your role and break them down into tasks. Determine which tasks demand the most time each week and the best times of the week to work on them. From here, you can allocate blocks of time in your calendar to attend to these common tasks to ensure they get done. Do this for urgent or ongoing tasks only and avoid scheduling your entire day out with no room to breathe.
Having a full calendar might appear to make sense, but you’ll find that your role requires some element of flexibility, otherwise, you risk burning out if your schedule is too rigid.
Developing a smooth, efficient process can take some trial and error, but it’s an important step to becoming more productive as an office manager.
2. Collect your open loops
In his book Getting Things Done, author David Allen refers to the idea of “open loops”. An open loop is any task, thought or project that demands your attention but hasn’t been dealt with yet.
Take this example—you’re on the bus heading to work when you receive a text from your boss. She asks you to send her a file and schedule a meeting with a client for this afternoon. A few seconds later, your mum texts you to ask what time you’re coming to dinner tonight.
You can either deal with both of these situations immediately or wait until you get to work to send your boss’s file and then reply to your mum’s text with a time that suits. If you don’t deal with them in the moment (which of course you shouldn’t have to), they become open loops. Too many open loops can cause unconscious stress and make you feel like nothing ever gets done. In the words of David Allen, “your mind is for having ideas, not holding them”.
To deal with open loops, write them down as soon as they enter your mind. You can use an app, a notebook, your computer or anything else that helps you record information. The goal is to get them onto paper and out of your head so you can deal with them when the time is right. No matter how trivial or overwhelming a task might seem, if it’s on your mind, put it down. The rule should be; record it, file it and deal with it at a later time.
3. Use tools to automate and process tasks
In addition to your calendar, there are plenty of great tools and resources you can use to help improve your workflow. Tools like Teamwork or Trello can display your tasks in a more visual way and remind you what’s due and when.
In terms of automation, you can schedule delivery services for things like stationery or ink cartridges, rather than wait for them to run out. Many office supplies (including toilet paper) can be set up as a subscription so that you always have a constant supply and eliminate the risk of emergency situations.
4. Keep records organised
Keeping records of all office activities is extremely important. Since office managers are the main port of call for workplace issues, they need to have organised records of things like when payments were made, as well as implementing appropriate filing systems so they can retrieve information when required. These days, most documents can be filed digitally, which makes things a little easier—so having a logical folder structure for your files can save you time to focus on other things that need your attention.
5. Know when to push back
Office managers always have something to do and sometimes that can be overwhelming. Certain tasks will be outside of your control and you won’t be able to do absolutely everything. If you are simply too busy or unable to do certain tasks, it’s important to make it clear to your boss and your team. If you’re worried about saying “no” outright, you can ask for more time or delegate the task to someone else.
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