If one were to describe my clerical abilities in a single sentence, it is highly unlikely that the words multi and task would be used favorably.  Whilst I do posses a reasonableHard at Work(40437)Credit: http://www.dreamstime.com/free-stock-image-hard-at-work-rimagefree513890-resi2571080 aptitude for doing many things well, I must confess that I am only on top of my game when I undertake a series of tasks in isolation. Despite this lack of multiple faceted simultaneous coordination, I am still able to hold my own in the capacity as Office Manager for a small manufacturing company.

The responsibilities of my current day job range from general accounting, payroll, website development and administration and a little financial planning thrown in for good measure.

If I did not apply some simple organisational techniques to this role, then I guarantee you that you would find me under a mountain of paper, on the verge of a breakdown and nursing a curious nervous twitching under one of my eyes.

So, what follows here a couple of the methods that I employ to help me stay organized and maintain an appearance to the rest of the workforce of being a multi-tasking wizard.

1. Have set days for each major function

My working week is built around the main duties that I am contracted to perform, so each working day I make one of these tasks the priority for that day.

Of course, there are some critical tasks that get done everyday, like making sure we have enough money in the bank and that the Office Manager tea and coffee cash fund is kept topped up.  However, having a regular day for each main activity allows me to fit in the myriad of other minor chores that seem to creep out of the woodwork and get in the way of my facebook time.

For example, Wednesday is a good day for us.  It is the day the payroll is run. On this day I am every body's best friend and there is a noticeable lack in the number of taunts and jibes thrown my way when I venture out onto the factory floor.  I would like to think it is due to my affable personality and magnetic charm. However, I fear that as I am the sole person in the company responsible for running the payroll, my guess is that my popularity is based on my role of paymaster general.

The End of the Week is Nigh

Running a major process in the middle of the week has provided me with an unexpected psychological benefit, which may come in handy to any aspiring office management personnel.  Once all of the financial and administrative requirements of the payroll have been completed it signifies the end of the first half of the working week.  By the afternoon I have "broken the back" of the week and can look forward the the arrival of the weekend.  If you have ever visited Brisbane or South East Queensland, you know that this is always a welcome event.

Am I Free To See Me?

In addition to assigning different areas of my work to specific days, I also allocate certain tasks to be undertaken during set times.  This may seem a little regimented and I could be accused of overkill, but making appointments with myself serves a couple of purposes.

Firstly, it means that I can allot a precious block of time to devote to key tasks.  I let every one know this so that interruptions that do not include the bank manager or the organisers of the state lottery are kept to a minimum.

Secondly, I am able to schedule each task to take place at a time to suit the way I work.  Between the hours of 1:30pm and 3:00pm I am at my least productive and any task that would require me to focus on anything even slightly numeric is prone to induce a mild state of catatonia.

So during this time I will make calls, run any errands that will take me out of the office, or perhaps help out the real workers on the factory floor and engage in a little manual work if I am allowed.

2. Create and maintain a procedures guide

This is one of the things that helps me the most.  I have found that the key to maintaining a procedures guide is the liberal use of hyperlinks to any documents or websites that will be needed during the course of completing the task.

A handy set of procedures provides a way for me to document the more complicated chores on my to do list or the ones that I do not undertake that often.  If a process requires me to use words of more than one syllable to explain, or is so infrequent that it causes my frontal lobes to ache when I sit down and try to remember the first step, then it is best stored in digital format, as opposed to in my single task orientated mind.

Dealing With Bureaucracy

One of the areas where we have successfully integrated this method within our existing back office processes is our statutory reporting requirements.  Each quarter, we are mandated to submit employee pension contribution returns and manufacturing output statistics to the state government in Queensland. 

Hey, wake up, this is how I earn a living.

I have not committed these riveting processes to memory, instead I have a link from my Master Procedure Guide (MPG) to the Quarterly Returns Guide (QRG) and then within this sub-level guide I have embedded links to all the documents and websites that I need to refer to or visit in order to be able to complete the tasks in hand.

Left Cutting Through Red TapeCredit: http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-left-cutting-through-red-tape-rimagefree1603546-resi2571080These might be checklists in Excel, official websites where we submit our returns electronically or Process Completion Documents (PCD) that need to be signed off by senior management.

Using procedure guides in this way allows me to "set and forget" complicated or non routine tasks.  Including links to active documents also acts as a preventative measure against loosing track of where these documents are stored. 

 I am always keen to avoid the scenario where I am clicking madly in Windows Explorer, as though I am attempting to defeat an end of level guardian who has insidiously hidden my files.

In closing

Should you ever find yourself as the person responsible for managing the various back office functions of a small company then you will have joined an elite club of administrative personnel, who operate an extremely vital and often times demanding role.

This is a key position as it requires the post holder to ensure that the non fee generating functions of the organisation are run efficiently and smoothly.  Getting your own processes in order in this endeavour is vital and is made easier with a couple of simple organisational tricks.