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How taking control of your admin will stop your work from taking control of you
A letter from editorial director Lisa Smosarski.

Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I turn to admin. I know a lot of people fade at the tedium of an afternoon inbox-clearing or spreadsheet work, but for me it provides the same level of satisfaction as managing to get to the bottom of my laundry basket, with all of my clothes pressed and neatly put away. Absolute heaven.

Admin has a valuable lack of ambiguity to it. You have emails in your inbox or you don't. Your budget is up to date and in line or it's not. There is a semblance of order, a right and wrong. I relish the joy of a task with a tangible outcome or that provides much-needed structure to my life.

The admin I revel in most, though, is the managing of my to-do list and diary. I end each day with a fresh to-do list for the next morning, written old-school with pen and paper. Physically writing down tasks has the added benefit of clearing them from my mind, so I rarely take that buzzy overwhelmed brain into my evening. It also helps me reprioritise my tasks and gives me a chance to look at how much time I really have to do my work, which is so useful when it all feels a bit much. That simple 15-minute task means I end my day without niggling to-dos lingering around and messing with my sleep and start it with the clarity of what I need to achieve by the end of the day.

My to-do list maintenance is only really topped by diary management; it's giving me tingles of pleasure just thinking about it. I love to time-block my diary – that's adding chunks of blocked-out time with dedication to a certain task, to tackle those urgent to-do list items. It's a great way of reassuring an overwhelmed brain that there is time allotted to do what needs to be done, but also stops me avoiding tough or boring jobs or being distracted by my inbox or other less important tasks. And it really does show up where I might have taken on too much or need to discuss new deadlines, support or help with prioritisation.

So, if you're ever feeling that surge of "how am I ever going to get through this" panic, where even going for a wee feels like a waste of time, stop and prioritise admin instead: spend 30 minutes on organisation to save your whole day. Because taking control of your admin really does stop your work from taking control of you.


Work smarter: use auto-transcription for easy note-taking
Acting digital content director Ellen Scott shares insightful hacks to make work that little bit easier.    

Ever find yourself coming out of a meeting, feeling like you've got loads of action points to be getting on with, then sitting down at your desk to discover that all memory of what you just spoke about has disappeared into the mental mist? It's a common occurrence, and one that we often try to resolve by scribbling in a notebook or attempting to type on a laptop while maintaining eye contact with colleagues.

There's a far simpler solution. There are many free tools that you can use to not only record and automatically transcribe everything that's said in a meeting, but that will also summarise all the chat and pull out key points. Otter.ai does exactly this (the basic version is free and includes 300 monthly transcription minutes) and can be linked up to Teams, Zoom and Google Meet to virtually 'attend' conversations. Teams has its own 'recap' and 'AI notes' functionality, too. On Slack, I'll often record voice notes and pop them in a conversation with myself – which will then automatically get transcribed with decent accuracy.

Knowing that you have a tool taking notes for you doesn't just ensure that key points from meetings don't get missed. It also means you won't be so flustered as you try to jot everything down… allowing you to actually be present.  


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FYI, we may make revenue on affiliate links contained in this email.
Image credits: The Stylist Group; Getty
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