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The Administrative Time Hog


by Mark Ellwood  | 

Hand and budget

Managers spend much of their time doing everything but managing. With all of the daily crises, pressures, and trivial tasks that are thrown at them, it is tough for the typical manager to stay focused on the things that are important. So it is not surprising that administrative tasks are a massive time hog.

The classical definition of the organizational manager is one who plans, organizes, coordinates and controls. However, the reality is that there are numerous, mundane activities that take up a manager’s time – some of which actually impede his or her productivity. Many of these non-priority tasks are unavoidable; they come with the job, but are never written in the job description. Managers try to focus on their priorities, but often get bogged down in the requirements of the job.

Administrative tasks are an unavoidable reality of work. In our time and motion study consulting projects, we define administrative tasks as those that don’t necessarily advance work toward achieving its major objectives, nor directly support these activities. Instead, they are necessary requirements of the job. They might support the operations of the organization, such as filling out time sheets, reports, and paperwork. They might support the dissemination of information, through internal, non-planning meetings. Or they might support other workers, providing assistance by answering questions or filling in for others.

The irony is that since we began conducting our time studies using the TimeCorder device in 1990, technology continues to proliferate; yet there is no reduction in administrative tasks. This is because for the manager, the computer is not an automation tool; it is an information-processing tool. With the increasing number of tools, or programs available, from word processing to spreadsheet analysis and presentation software, options have also increased. Now, more scenarios can be checked, more reports can be printed, and more data needs to be inputted.

As shown in the table below, the administrative burden is massive and takes up 11.6 hours of the manager’s work week. This is 25% of his or her time. The activities in this category are also very interruptive; 43 of them occur each week lasting 16 minutes each.

Administration is also an area where managers would like to spend considerably less time than they do. Managers spend 11.6 hours in administration time, but would ideally only like to spend 7.3 hours doing these activities. No one likes doing paperwork.

Administration time increases as one moves higher in the organization (see table below). Some of the time in this category is simply staying in touch through networking, writing and responding to e-mails or communicating with head office. Nonetheless, even when communication activities are excluded (some of which are routine and some of which are people management), administration for presidents is still 11.7 hours per week or 18% of the time.

 

ADMINISTRATION ACTIVITIES
 

Hours per week

Occasions

Duration in minutes

Ideal Hours

Difference vs. Ideal

Middle Manager

9.8

39

15

7.6

+2.2

Senior Manager

13.6

46

18

9.8

+3.8

Sales Manager

10.9

37

18

6.2

+4.7

President

14.1

26

32

14.8

-0.7

All Managers

11.6

43

16

7.3

+4.3

 


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
  

Administration – A Time Hog for Managers


by Mark Ellwood  |  14 Comments

Administrative activities are a massive time hog for managers. Prior to conducting our time studies, we ask managers in a questionnaire, “What are the most important things you need to do in your job?”. Their responses show that paperwork and administrative tasks are well down the list of managerial priorities cited. Typically, these activities are mentioned as a main priority by only 6% of managers. Clearly, handling paperwork is not what they perceive their job to be. Yet based on our work measurement studies, administration is the largest category of activities that a manager is engaged in.

Administrative tasks are not acknowledged in other analyses of managerial time, but are an unavoidable reality of work. In our time study consulting, we define administrative tasks as those that do not advance work toward achieving major objectives.. Instead, they are necessary requirements of the job. They might support the operations of the organization, such as filling out time sheets, reports, and paperwork. They might support the dissemination of information, through internal, non-planning meetings. Or they might support other workers, providing assistance by answering questions or filling in for others. Or they might be activities that could be delegated entirely to an assistant, to another department or to technology, with no changes to the manager’s performance.

In one of our questionnaires, managers are also asked “What things, outside of your control get in the way of your productivity?” Since we began asking the question in 1990, the issue of paperwork and administrative tasks continues to lead the responses to this question across all job categories. For managers and non-managers alike, the percentage is the same.  20% of respondents cite administration as an impediment. See Table 4 below for responses to the second open-ended question cited by more than 4% of managers.

What things outside of your control get in the way of your productivity?  
Paperwork / administrative tasks 20%
Customer requests -service / problems / complaints 18%
Computer / system / equipment problems 14%
Changing priorities / ad hoc / unplanned projects 13%
Interruptions 12%
Staffing / HR issues / changes / people absent 12%
Phone calls / phone interruptions / inquiries 11%
Meetings – too many / too long / unnecessary 9%
Other depts. inefficient / make mistakes 7%
Volume of e-mail 6%
Fire fighting / emergencies 5%
Volume of work / not enough time 4%
Customers without appointments / walk-ins 4%
Central office visits, interruptions, requests 4%

The irony is that since 1990, computers and new software programs continue to proliferate; yet there is no reduction in administrative tasks. This is because for the manager, the computer is not an automation tool; it is an information-processing tool. With the increasing number of tools, or programs available, from word processing to spreadsheet analysis and presentation software, the options have also increased. Now, more scenarios can be checked out, more reports can be printed for review, more data needs to be inputted. It is no surprise then that the issue of paperwork and administrative tasks is seen as a huge impediment to productivity.

As shown in the table below, the administrative burden is massive and takes up 11.6 hours of the manager’s work week. This is 25% of his or her time. The activities in this category are also very interruptive; 43 of them occur each week lasting 16 minutes each.

Administration is also an area where managers would like to spend considerably less time than they do. Actual hours spent versus ideal expectations are the most dramatically different for this category compared to others. Managers spend 11.6 hours in administration time, but would ideally only like to spend 7.3 hours doing these activities. No one likes doing paperwork.

Administration time increases as one moves higher in the organization (see table below). Some of the time in this category is simply staying in touch through networking, writing and responding to e-mails or communicating with head office. Nonetheless, even when communication activities are excluded (some of which are routine and some of which are people management), administration for presidents is still 11.7 hours per week or 18% of the time.

 

ADMINISTRATION CATEGORY
   Hours per week   Occasions   Duration in minutes   Ideal Hours   Difference vs. Ideal 
  Middle Manager     9.8 39 15 7.6 +2.2
 Senior Manager    13.6 46 18 9.8 +3.8
Sales Manager 10.9 37 18 6.2 +4.7
  President 14.1 26 32 14.8 -0.7
All Managers 11.6 43 16 7.3 +4.3

How do employees spend their time in your organization. Conducting a time and motion study is a powerful diagnostic tool to identify productivity hurdles on your way to increasing effectiviness, gettting more done, and increasing profits. 


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
14 Comments
  

How Long Is A Typical Work Week?


by Mark Ellwood  | 

Days of the week

We have been collectiong time study data since 1990, and have recently taken an interest in overtime hours. We were interested in what constitutes a typical work week for knowledge workers.

Our definition of knowledge workers mostly includes people who work in offices; managers, sales reps, service reps, researchers, engineers, supervisors, university faculty, municipal employees, and many others.

Our definition of a work week includes all of the work an employee is contracted to do during the day, plus overtime hours and weekend work. It includes lunch and breaks during the regular workday, but not after hours. Lunch and breaks typically take up about 4.5 hours per week, so a truer figure for work time might exclude this. Commuting is not included, because it varies by employee.

Our data includes results from TimeCorder data from time studies since 1990. Over that period of time the typical work week is  46.7 hours per week. That doesn't sound like a massive amount. But bear in mind. If you're working 9 to 5 every single day of the week, and then staying one extra hour right through to 6:00 p.m. every day, then you're actually a bit below the average. And our database includes a large number of service employees who only work about 43 hours per week. Their results tend to pull the average down. Our time and motion studies show that managers work about 50 hours per week - that's at least two solid hours of overtime every single day. 

So how do overtime hours break down across large groups of employees. We've classified different amounts of overtime in the bar chart below. And since some full-time employees work slightly fewer than 40 hours per week, we've classified them as "undertime"

Excluding part time workers (i.e. those who work less than 30 hours per week), the percentage breakdown among those we have measured is as follows:

Category hours

Categories of Hours Worked Per Week

We consider anything above 80 hours to be “danger time” because sustained activitiy at this level is likely to be dangerous to health, relationships, and even mental stability. Our database shows 0% for this group because our focus is on corporate employees. But there are entrepreneurs, partners, and those involved in urgent projects who occasionally work those long hours. Our best advice for those who work danger hours is: Get a life – outside of work!

Long work hours are simply not sustainable over the long term. If you're in that group, it's time to look at your time management for efficiencies. And you can always start by tracking your time - conduct your own personal time and motion study to measure your productivity. Sometimes awareness leads to better results. Your time is worth it. 


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
  

Only three-fifths of managers’ time adds value to the organization


by Mark Ellwood  | 

Management

There are many ways that managers add value to the companies they work for. Too bad they only do it for three-fifths of the time.

The pie chart below is based on our time and motion studies of 565 different activities measured by managers since 1990. These activities are combined into 12 major categories.

The participants are managers from 38 different job types; sales managers, bank managers, vice presidents, construction supervisors and others. All of them are responsible for managing people.

These managers each tracked about 15-25 activities, corresponding with alphabet letters on our proprietary TimeCorder device. Each manager typically conducted a time and motion study of his or her own time for two weeks. The categories that appear on the pie chart each consist of a number of individual activities.

Ask managers what they do, and they will tell you that they need to be coaching, supervising, managing operations, planning for the long term, etc. These high priority activities fall into the first 7 categories clockwise (people management, strategy / analysis, planning, selling, customer administration, customer service, and operations)

Altogether, these pie segments show that only 59% of a manager’s time is spent on activities that add value. The rest are administrative, internal, travel, training (oneself) travel, personal time and miscellaneous activities. These do not directly add value to the organization.

Manager Time Chart

Companies need to recognize that operating at 100% efficiency or 100% capacity is simply not feasible. Time for long term priorities and daily responsibilities is limited. Numerous “requirements” or burdensome tasks will inevitably eat up time that managers would like to allocate to their priorities.

These job “requirements” are the unwritten or administrative tasks that are a necessary part of being an employee in the organization or that must get done eventually. These include administration, training, travel, personal time and miscellaneous activities. For managers, they can account for up to 41% of the time!

Managers should maximize their productive efforts by first understanding how they allocate their efforts through a time and motion study. Then they should look to improve processes, delegate tasks, automate, and get training on how to maximize productivity.

Following are brief descriptions of the main categories:

  • Planning – Activities oriented towards developing new products / services / clients, etc.
  • Strategy / analysis – Reviewing business results to aid in planning
  • Selling – Direct contact with prospects or customers to obtain additional business
  • Customer Administration – Internal activities that support sales and service
  • Service – Responding to customer requests or provision of products and services
  • Administration – Required internal activities not connected with main priorities
  • Internal Operations – Internal work that keeps the organization running
  • Training – Personal and professional development done on work time
  • Travel – Travel to customers, other offices, but not commuting
  • Personal time – Lunch, breaks, calls to spouse, short medical appointments, etc.
  • Miscelleneous – Activities not covered elsewhere


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
  

The Calm Manifesto


by Mark Ellwood  |  3 Comments

Sometimes getting more done means doing less of the stuff that's cluttering your life.

This 4-minute podcast combines insights, inspiration, and some wry humor. 

If you are inspired, then spread the word!  Click on the picture to listen. At the end, click the the upper right corner to share via social media or email. 

Be inspired !


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
3 Comments
  

Daily Planning – How Much is Right?


by Mark Ellwood  |  12 Comments

Daily planner with pen

Time management trainers always encourage you to plan your activities every day.

This makes intuitive sense. But what does a time and motion study reveal about planning time? We have conducted numerous time and motion studies since 1990 using our proprietary TimeCorder device. Employees track their own time with this portable device, which is easy to use. The results are anonymous, so employees provide honest feedback, resulting in a remarkable 94% participation rate.

One subset of employees that we regularly study is sales reps. Their main job function is to call on prospects and customers, aiming to increase sales and service existing needs. On a weekly basis, their planning time typically takes up 4.8 hours per week, or 10 % of a 47 hour work week. Planning activities are what we refer to as “A priorities” These are activities that affect one’s results a month or more in the future.

Included in these activities are determining long term strategies, territory management, account planning, deciding which customers to contact and presentation preparation. It also includes team meetings to plan strategies and share information, plus planning one’s daily to-do list.

Within the 4.8 hours per week on planning, most sales reps spend about 2 hours planning their daily schedule and activities. Another hour is spent in presentation preparation, and just under an hour in team meetings. The remainder is other planning activities, listed above.

So what do we know about planning and results? Are time management trainers correct to encourage you to do more planning? The answer is yes, to a degree. There is in fact a correlation between daily planning and time spent directly selling to prospects. (Selling time includes making presentations, calling, and sending emails.) The chart below shows four groups of sales reps, distinguished by how much daily planning they do each week.

Those who plan more are able create more time for selling – but only to an extent. Spending 2-3 hours per week, or 24 to 36 minutes per day results in 12.5 hours for selling. This represents 26% of the time. However, too much time spent doing daily planning (over 3 hours per week) becomes counterproductive and as a result, selling time decreases, as shown in the bar on the far right.

So be sure to invest the time to plan well. It’s easy to procrastinate, or to let interruptions get in the way. Instead, take the time to focus on your goals. But don’t go overboard. Your time is worth it.


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
12 Comments
  

How Do Consultants Spend Their Time?


by Mark Ellwood  | 

Consultation

I recently conducted a presentation for the Association of Independent Consultants, highlighting some of my time study research.

Independent consultants work on their own providing a range of services from accounting to cost management, coaching, productivity improvement, graphic and web site design, and strategic planning. Some bill their time by the hour; others bill by the project and some are on retainer.

Over the years, a number of them participated in a time and motion study using our innovative TimeCorder device to track how they spend their time. Most tracked about 100 hours.

The main categories of activity where they spend their time include planning, marketing / selling, client service, administration and travel and other. The “other” category includes activities that are not part of other categories as well as personal time.

Overall they work 52 hours per week, a considerable increase versus other knowledge workers in our database who work 47 hours per week.

Selling time takes up 11 hours per week or 20% of the time. Veterans who had many years experience and a full calendar of clients spend just about as much time selling as those who are new to the business; 10 hours per week for the veterans and 12 hours for the rookies. The message for consultants is clear; you always need to be marketing.

As for client service time, it would be great to be billing every hour of the day. But the reality is that all the other activities need to be done. So client service time, most of which is billable, only reaches 13 hours per week, or about one quarter of the time. For those who are really successful, service time is higher, in the range of 20 hours per week or 36% of the time.

Planning is a key activity that represents 3.5 hours per week. Critical within this is 2 hours per week spent developing new products and services. Consultants recognize that they cannot rest on their laurels; they constantly need to be thinking about what new products and services they can introduce to their clients.

Administration is a huge time hog for most knowledge workers. And so it is for consultants who need to take care of all the tasks that are not connected to sales and service. General paperwork represents about 4 hours per week; filling out reports, submitting tax forms, and everything else that is required to keep a business going. This along with other administrative tasks adds up to 10 hours per week.

Finally, travel is also a necessity. Consultants who deal with local clients need to be there to do on-site work, present reports, and gather data and implement their recommendations. Typically consultants make 8 trips per week of 47 minutes per week, adding up to 6 hours altogether, or 11% of the time.

Check out the video below where I highlight some of the key points from the time study of successful consultants. If you are a consultant, be sure to allocate your efforts on your highest priority activities. After all, your time is worth it.

 


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
  

A Time and Motion Study for the 21st Century


by Mark Ellwood  | 

Watch our 2-minute video below to see how our time studies improve productivity.

The TimeCorder is an easy way to measure how employees spend their time. Our time study consulting has benefits for process improvement, time management, work measurement, benchmarking and more. Best of all, employees enjoy the process – we achieve an employee participation rate of 94 % – people really enjoy the process because it is anonymous. That’s why we call it a user-friendly time and motion study. Call us at (416) 762-3453 or email mark@GetMoreDone.com to find out how your organization can benefit.

Hypnotism clock


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
  

Eliminate Time Wasting At Work


by Mark Ellwood  | 

“What a waste of time!”

Do you ever hear this at work? It’s an incriminating observation for what is often just a petty inconvenience. Time was wasted, and someone is to blame. Though it’s curious how no one ever dares to take ownership of the problem. In so many cases, it’s always someone else’s fault. “That guy in the other department wasted my time. Of course I would never waste someone else’s time, let alone my own. But jeez, look at all the waste all over the place.”

We accuse others, but we toil in perfection, never attributing wastefulness to our own actions.

So what exactly do we mean by wasted time?

To understand waste, we first need to understand how time should be spent. When people are spending their time well at work, they’re doing what their job descriptions say they should. They’re managing, or selling, or designing, or processing, or teaching.

That’s what they get paid for, what they excel at, and it’s how others see them. They spend their time on the important activities that create results. These are what we call “A” priorities.

Employees also spend time on activities that support their priorities. These are the “B” responsibilities that need to get done.

Employees occasionally do things that aren’t part of their main job, but are imposed by others. These are their “C” requirements. These activities can be substantial. For instance, administrative tasks add up to about 25% of a manager’s time.

Finally, there is necessary time. At work, employees have to take breaks, eat lunch, use the washroom, and travel to customers. Anything else is non-productive time.

There is plenty of non-productive time during working hours, but that doesn’t always mean it is wasted. For instance, if you get up to stretch your legs for a moment, or gaze out the window to reflect, it would be unfair to classify this as wasted time. There’s a necessity for this. You need to relax and recharge.

So companies should expect some amount of time expenditures that are not always productive. Reboot time is just one type of non-productive time. There are others.

Time not spent on the things that should get done fall into three major categories: personal issues, work habits and corporate impediments.

Personal Issues

On occasion, employees take time from their employers. This is what’s traditionally known as wasted time. It’s the goofing off, the theft of time. This includes some of the following activities:

  • Personal calls
  • Long lunches or breaks.
  • Water cooler chats.
  • Social media chats.
  • Entertaining oneself.
  • Entertaining others
  • Unnecessary research
  • Outside interests

Work Habits

The second type of non-productive time involves poor work habits by employees who would never admit to wasting time. In fact, they probably aren’t even aware that their pace is slow. Some of their practices include:

  • Slow moving activity
  • Distractions
  • Poor problem solving
  • Poor systems knowledge
  • E-mail cc and virus warnings
  • Clutter
  • Administrative tasks
  • Lack of training
  • Tardiness
  • Not following instructions

Corporate Impediments

Many employees are at the high end of efficiency. They are not wasting time personally. Their work habits are top notch. But as efficient as they might be, they can end up wasting time because of factors outside of their control.

  • Equipment issues
  • Changing directions
  • Unclear mandate or job description
  • Major changes
  • Legal battles

Others’ Waste

The waste that others cause is one of the biggest reasons why employees’ time is wasted. Some of these include:

  • Unnecessary emails
  • Late starting meetings
  • Meetings without focus
  • Petty requests
  • Unclear communication
  • Mistakes by others
  • Interruptions
  • Poorly run meetings

Some waste is inevitable. It’s an expected part of the corporate environment. People will chat with their friends. They’ll daydream now and then. Things will go wrong. The office will never be a perfect place. That’s what makes it interesting. Anyone who seeks perfection is chasing an illusion.

SMARTER WAYS TO REDUCE WASTED TIME

  • Accept that some portion of work time will be wasted. It will probably be minor. Writing policies about how long water cooler chats should is a waste itself.
  • Assign meaningful work so that employees keep busy and feel that their contributions are making a difference.
  • Establish protocols for internal communication, particularly for email.
  • Disconnect employees from anything they don’t need on the internet. Do employees really need access to YouTube, Facebook, or Pinterest at work?
  • Make employees accountable for their results in performance reviews and in periodic goal setting sessions.
  • Train employees on soft skills such as supervision, time management, communication, and problem solving.
  • Provide employee assistance programs for those occasions when pressures from outside work affect what goes on inside work.
  • Engage in process improvement projects to understand how time is being allocated and to create systemic improvements through automation, re-structuring, and centralization.


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
Articles, Research Reports  
  

Conduct A Time and Motion Study To Improve Productivity


by Mark Ellwood  | 

Pick up just about any time management book and you’ll find a common piece of advice somewhere near the beginning. “Conduct a time and motion study on all of your activities for a week”. This will be accompanied by a nifty table with snappy rows and impressive columns all nicely laid out for you to fill in. The text goes on to ask you to analyze the results of your time study, doesn’t give much more perspective than that.

Indeed understanding time use can be a useful diagnostic tool for understanding productivity. I’ve been running a time study consulting business since 1990, using the innovative TimeCorder device that I invented and launched in 1989. Whether you use a TimeCorder, or an app, or the back of an envelope, or a form from a time management book, understanding something about your time usage can be useful. Only when you measure your productivity can you improve it.

But once you discover that you spend ten hours per week on one of your major activities, what does that mean? Most statistics gleaned from research are only helpful when they are placed in context. How do those ten hours compare to other people who are like you? Perhaps they are similar, but do those people have the same job or family situation? Also, how has the data changed? Are those ten hours going up or down over time? Are there occasional peak periods? If so, what causes them? And how does your time use in one area affect all of the other areas? An illustration of this is when overtime hours are examined. If you work longer hours than usual during a particular week, that time has to come from somewhere else. Something has to give. More work might mean less family time, or less exercise.

When you spend more time on one thing, then some other thing will either disappear completely or become compressed. Time for meals is an example of this. With all those overtime hours, chances are you’re not eating massively lower amounts of food. You may simply be compressing your meal time. Rushed breakfasts, lunch on the go, and fast food for dinner take the place of long lingering meals over a glass of wine and good conversation. Another artifact of large amounts of time use in one area is overlapping activities. More and more you start doing two things at once. So those rushed meals are eaten at your desk or (heaven forbid) in the car while driving to work. Ask a busy mother what keeps her going, and she’ll tell you how she can feed children, speak on the phone and clean dishes, all at once.

Based on our time motion study research, the thing you are most likely to discover is that you spend fewer hours than you might like on your highest priority tasks while spending much more of your time than you would like on low priority tasks. In the work place, those low priority tasks are administrative activities; filing out reports, going to staff meetings, answering routine internal requests and other activities that aren’t part of the main thrust of your job. Outside of work, those lower priority tasks will be household chores, shopping for groceries, minor repairs, laundry, and cleaning up.

So track your time and put it into perspective. You are likely to be surprised about something. Then you have to figure out what to do next. Are you happy with the way things are or do you genuinely want to improve your productivity? A thorough time study analysis leads to insight. And that leads to results. Your time is worth it.


Mark EllwoodMark Ellwood is president of Pace Productivity, an international consulting firm that specializes in improving corporate productivity. His passionate mission is to improve people and processes through consulting and training. 
  
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mark@getmoredone.com

Pace Productivity Inc.
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