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Layoffs, shortened workweeks, stressed-out workplaces … it all can lead to another byproduct of the recession: increasing workloads and work slippage.

How are administrative professionals ensuring that, with stakes soaring higher than ever, no work falls through the cracks?

Use your online calendar to leave mental breadcrumbs.
While you might ordinarily trust your brain to recall regularly occurring events, mental recall becomes more difficult as responsibilities pile up.

Rita Pope, an administrative specialist at WorkSource Spokane, says she uses Outlook to set up reminders for everything—daily tasks, weekly meetings and events, and monthly deadlines.

“I use this function to remind myself to print monthly reports when they are available on our agency intranet, service our agency vehicles and even when to water my boss’s plants,” she says.

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Set up a mechanism for follow-up. Tickler files—31 files for the days of the current month and 12 files for the months ahead—serve the purpose for many admins. Pope uses neon-colored files so she “can’t ignore them.”

Keep a capture tool at all times.
Whether it’s a hand-held device or a steno pad, have something handy for capturing thoughts and tasks as they pop up.

Pope keeps two steno notebooks on her desk, one to track the IT service tickets she delivers to the IT department, and one to “jot down quick notes like items to add to our next supply order, someone’s request that I research the cost of replacing all of the visitor chairs in our waiting room, a reminder to order lunch for the directors’ meeting on Thursday, etc.”

She dates items as she enters them and crosses them off once completed. Because it’s a running list, she can look back for trends. For example, she says, seeing that a particular fax machine had three breakdowns may be a sign that it’s cheaper to replace.

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Conduct a morning prep and end-of-the-day review. Much of the day is devoted to tackling whatever pops up. But mental preparation can crystallize priorities.

“At the end of my day I do a once-over to prep for my morning meeting with Joan, and I make my to-do list, and then prioritize that list,” says Jasmine Freeman, executive assistant for admin trainer Joan Burge. Freeman and Burge meet one-on-one each morning.

“Some days there just aren’t enough hours in the day, so knowing what those A1 priorities are is key,” she says.

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