01 April 2019

Office Hacks for Assistants: 7 Tips and Tricks for an Easier Day at Work

Whoever you are, before you pull up your chair and open your laptop each morning, the moment your emails start pinging, you’re in office administration mode. Disturb at your own peril. Whether you’re having a productive week or your task list is building up, most of us would welcome the opportunity to save time and have a slightly easier day of it. Cue this article.

The internet is full of bright and surprising tips and tricks. Because we know you’re too busy to browse them all, we’ve gone ahead and done it for you. Here are seven of our favourite office hacks for making your day (that little bit) easier.

Seven tips and tricks for an easier day at work

1. Start the day with the highest priority or most challenging task

Great if: your time’s getting swallowed up by lots of high-volume, low value, repetitive tasks like emailing and call fielding

According to scientific studies, your productivity peaks from 8.30am to 12pm each morning, and rebounds back from about 4pm. If this sounds familiar, you might find it makes sense to tackle the day’s most challenging or highest priority tasks first, leaving lighter workloads like email responding and social media for the mid-afternoon trough. Remember, you can work this theory alongside point four in our list to make your day even more productive.

2. Sign-up to frequent flyer business travel programmes

Great if: you always find yourself booking your colleagues’ flights

If you’re in charge of researching and booking flights for your director or colleagues, it’s time you reaped the benefits. Many airlines now offer frequent flyer business loyalty programmes aimed specifically at passengers flying for work, with business rewards varying from free flights and cabin upgrades to seat reservations and extra baggage allowance.

Lufthansa Group, for example, offers a PartnerPlusBenefit programme that can be used with 11 different airlines in addition to collecting miles with your personal air miles loyalty programme. Not only will your whole company collect points every time one of your colleagues flies, but the perks include free cabin upgrades, global hotel vouchers or even gadgets for your office.

3. Embrace the usefulness of binder clips

Great if: your desk always ends up a mess of paperwork, wires, and clutter

Your boss urgently needs you to find meeting minutes from yesterday’s presentation, but you can’t find that one USB stick under the jungle of papers, wires, and stationery on your desk. The solution? Organise your desk using binder clips. Simply clamp the clips to your workspace and feed the wires through the metal grasp. Their applications are endless:

  • Quickly and easily organise that tangle of wires protruding from under your desk.
  • These grasps can also be used as stationery holders for items like elastic bands, pens, paper clips, and whatever else you can feed over the top.
  • Fed up of untangling your headphones? Clamp your binder clip onto the desk and wrap the wires around the metal grasps to save you from looping under and over the wire the next time you need them.
  • Use your desk partitions to hook a binder clip onto a drawing pin to create a holder for your heavier, over-ear headphones. Just another solution to a clearer desk.

The creativity doesn’t stop there. Binder clips can also fix your everyday office gripes. Is one of your keyboard feet broken? Not to worry, just remove the metal clamp from the clip and feed that into the keyboard feet holes. Need your mobile phone to act as another screen? Simply clip two together at a horizontal and vertical shape to create a phone stand your mobile can rest on.

4. Use Google as a timer

Great if: you have a deadline approaching or the days keep slipping away from you

Most of us have stopwatches or alarms on our mobile phones, but it isn’t always appropriate for you to be seen using your phone during work hours. Instead, let Google keep track of time for you. Just enter ‘set timer for X’ in the search bar, and a handy countdown clock will appear on your screen. (Go on — try it out.) You can leave this mini pop-up timer open on any tab, meaning you don’t have to keep straying away from your screen. For best practise, search using Chrome, Safari, or Firefox browsers.

This feature is also handy if you have to log time for projects. Stop and reset whenever you need. (Fancy a latte from your company’s new, complimentary coffee machine from WorldShop, one of the PartnerPlusBenefit reward partners?)

5. Avoid changing gears: group similar tasks

Great if: the whole office decides to drop work on your desk

We’ve all had those days where you’ve been handed a multitude of different tasks to complete by the end of the week. Before you know it, you’re phoning your partner to ask them to keep dinner warm in the oven.

Switching gear and getting your head into a new task is one of the more time-consuming aspects of managing a varied workload. To minimise it, start by writing a to-do list using online or built-in ‘sticky note’ apps on your computer. (They’re very easy to find. Here’s one.) Then, group your similar tasks together, making a note of the deadlines for each one. From there, you can block out times in your calendar to work on similar tasks, avoiding the need to keep switching between jobs and losing your train of thought.

For example:

9am-11am - book all upcoming travel flights

11am-12pm - replenish equipment cupboard, replace printer ink and paper

1pm-2pm - write up meeting minutes from yesterday’s conference

6. Use apps for last minute catering needs

Great if: you frequently book or are involved in managing company events

You’ve got a call from the director letting you know there’s a last minute conference occurring tomorrow morning at your office. It’s your duty to provide the catering. Don’t panic; nowadays there’s an app for almost anything. Uber Eats, Deliveroo, and Just Eat are just a few that offer a range of food from your favourite restaurants, available to deliver to your door with just a click of a button. That means less time rushing around for a caterer or a trip to the local store and more time to complete those high-value tasks.

7. Stay away from your mobile phone and unrelated web browsing

Great if: your mind has a tendency to wander…

Possibly the most office common distraction is your mobile phone. According to an article by HR software provider People, the average employee wastes five hours per week on their phone, whilst it takes more than 25 minutes, on average, to resume a task after being disrupted. Whereas this may seem like the end of the world for some, turning off notifications and only checking your phone during breaks can improve your efficiency two-fold.

If you prefer not to turn off push notifications on your phone, there are some apps that can aid in your productivity. Forest is a quirky app that lets you plant a virtual tree when you start working, which ‘grows’ over the course of 30 minutes. The longer you abstain from using your phone, the larger the forest will grow on your screen. But if you leave the app, you'll have to start all over again and your tree returns to a seedling.

On the subject of helpful tools, StayFocusd is a Google Chrome extension that breaks the need for unrelated web browsing. Have you ever started searching for something, say ‘cheap business travel flights’, and found yourself browsing ‘cheap food alternatives your cat will love’ twenty minutes later? StayFocusd blocks distracting websites after a set amount of time per day, keeping your attention focused less on your Kitty’s dietary habits and more on the important things (such as the director’s flight).

Hack the daily chores of office life

Like most jobs, office administration has its stresses and strains. By implementing our handy tips and tricks, you can hack the daily chores office life throws at you, increasing your productivity and efficiency, whilst saving valuable time in the process. Sharing these initiatives with your colleagues can also help their workflows, making for an easier day at work and creating a friendlier, relaxed atmosphere for all to enjoy.

Don’t miss a step when next arranging business travel for your colleagues by downloading our handy booking checklist now.

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