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How much should you document your workday?

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Question: "I have an admin friend who tells me that I should be documenting every single task I do in my job daily, with special detail given to any sort of small or large projects, which should have their own separate category. She says it's the only way come performance review time to truly make a boss see what you do and what you're capable of—because people tend to overlook so much of what goes into an admin's job. I think I agree, but I worry it might make me seem a little obsessive and self-absorbed, as if all I care about is my own bubble. What do other admins think of this strategy?" - Gail, membership coordinator

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeannette December 6, 2016 at 12:18 pm

For years now, I have been using OneNote to document my day. I don’t put in everything. However, I do put in key information especially for searches later. I don’t have the best memory and will note particular conversations. This has been an incredible help.
Also, when I take special training, I will note that line item with TRAINING. At the end of the year, I can do a search on all of the training that I had accomplished. Same thing when I get additional responsibilities or savings that I provided to the company. Or who did I call to do such and such? I love the search function.

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Lynetta December 1, 2016 at 7:05 pm

Do not make it about you and the performance review. Turn it around and make it about the job! Put your tasks, time, thoughts and procedures down in a sort of manual – of your design. Once you get use to documenting it becomes second nature and not time consuming. You will figure out your short cuts. It can be a valuable reference tool. I even document every call I receive while talking with date, time, who and a general reference for the call or special follow-up. Even calls you consider insignificant write it down. This has covered my you know what on numerous occasions. Even to the point that my boss asked me to look back for calls from a certain person regarding a law suit. So, bosses do notice and see a value which can be used to your advantage without feeling self absorbed about it. Good luck.

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Reasa Falgoust December 2, 2016 at 7:32 am

Agree….

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Tesstarosa December 1, 2016 at 4:52 pm

I disagree with Mark and Mere, documenting your work tasks, no matter how large or small is not any sort of overkill. Lawyers do it — why shouldn’t you?

It’s not that hard to write the time you start a project, a brief description and the time you stop (which could just be the start time for the next project.)

I’m told it takes you 7 minutes to get back into focus when interrupted, so documenting the interruption time could help with getting your office moved to a better work place.

It also helps identify what you actually do in your job. Your boss might think you spend most of your time reading email when you really spend it juggling meetings on his/her calendar.

And, it will help you see where you spend the most time during your day and how long it actually takes you to complete tasks.

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Derek Iannelli-Smith December 2, 2016 at 7:01 am

Totally agree!

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Marietta December 1, 2016 at 4:48 pm

That seems a little excessive but I can see your point. If it’s not very time consuming it might work for someone who really wants to impress but I have not felt the need to or have time to document everything. I suppose you’d have to keep a daily/minute calendar to keep up with everything.

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Lynn December 2, 2016 at 9:17 am

I left a comment/reply on an earlier answer….I use a desk blotter calendar; my boss uses an open weekly planner. This is separate from my SOP manual.

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Judith December 1, 2016 at 4:41 pm

I started documenting everything I do so I can better prepare a procedure manual for my desk. I use a sheet of paper with the week day, the boss ( I have 3.5) and the time to complete listed at the top and then note everything I do that day. I’m keeping it for about 6-9 weeks so it will help me catch duties and responsibilities that don’t occur on a regular basis as well as tasks I do every day. When I look back at that list, it really is surprising what I accomplish on a daily basis without realizing it!

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Faith December 1, 2016 at 4:13 pm

Absolutely document your daily projects. You don’t have to go into great detail, just enough to remind YOU of what you did so you can summarize it on your review.

I do this….I have categories like “Travel” “Procurement” “Admin”, etc. Then at the end of the year when I review, some of the things I actually forgot about. I did this last year and when it came review time, my boss said, “WOW. I didn’t realize you had your hand in so much!” So, it does prove to them how you spend your time.

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Paula December 1, 2016 at 4:12 pm

I agree with the comments above. I have a document where I track the projects I completed, or achievements that are more over-and-above my usual job description items. These are the things that I report at my annual review. If it’s something that I’ve used to add value, it’s worth mentioning. I was just told by my executives that nothing on my list is probably going to take them by surprise (as we prepare for my annual review), but it will give them more insight into why I deserve an adjustment to my salary. And I have a suspicion that I will actually catch one or more of them by surprise when they see some of my larger accomplishments.

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Gail P. December 1, 2016 at 4:11 pm

I can see how a list like this would be really useful come review time–I just wouldn’t share it in its original form. Instead I would use it to create a master list of all my tasks so that nothing is forgotten or overlooked when my boss looks at all that I do. It would also be handy for training a replacement, or another admin.

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Debra December 1, 2016 at 4:09 pm

During a recent HR training class, our group was told that each person should be keeping track of any small or large projects that they are completing and to have them acknowledged during your annual or semi-annual reviews. It is one way of ensuring that your hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. We have to be our own advocates!

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Mere December 1, 2016 at 4:07 pm

I agree with Mark in that I would wonder about the amount of time spent documenting every little thing that I do. I have a general list of tasks that I manage (the things no one is aware of because they are “magically” handled). I keep a log of the larger and cross-division projects that take of blocks of time and document my contributions to the team so I can share in team successes. I also have an outlook folder where I slide the emails that are sent to me requesting that I do something but that are not large projects. Just things that I am asked to do something with. If the request is verbal, I always send a follow up email recounting what it is I think I was asked to do and when I think I will have it done. I then put the sent email into my folder. Come review time, I have a pretty good list documenting how my time was spent and my value to the company. Sliding an email into a folder only takes a second and gives me a lasting record.

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Lynn December 2, 2016 at 8:52 am

I have purchased a desk blotter calendar since getting my first Keyboard Specialist/Office Manager/Admin Aide/Secretary job nearly 30 years ago. I then jot down daily at least one task everyday, repetitive tasks go once at the beginning of the year when I first perform it, and new/different/special jobs/tasks throughout the month. I save every month, filed in office, so that whenever asked, I can give a broad overview of any given month, trends, etc. I purge every second year, keeping the past year and current year at hand. This takes no time at all, and supervisors LOVE asking what day did such-and-such happen and the answer is right in reach all the time. Even execs who know I do this will ask if it had anything to do with our unit. Like a telephone message book, you can be jotting down brief comments as they occur, or be more specific, whichever is most comfortable. An opened weekly planer is what my boss uses and files. It is a good practice to get into, and I never have had a critique of time spent on this practice.

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Mark December 1, 2016 at 11:07 am

I think that documenting every single thing you do, every single day, is tremendous overkill. If someone came to me at review time with a detailed list of all they did every day, my very first question/comment would be, “How much time did you waste keeping all this detail?” This is a productive use of your time. I would instead have a list of ongoing things you do daily (not make a daily list, but just a quick bullet list of what ongoing duties you do every day) and only keep track of the “big” things you do, the accomplishments, the projects you assist on, etc. I agree with you that keeping too much detail DOES seem obsessive, but there is nothing wrong whatsoever of keeping track of your contributions and accomplishments.

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