01 September 2006

What time-saving strategies do you and your staff use?

Quote of the week – "Time equals Life, Therefore, waste your time and waste of your life, or master your time and master your life."
- Alan Lakein

What time-saving strategies do you and your staff use?


Email – [It is important that time-saving strategies are used with email because in the library sector, email tends to ‘monopolise’ the work functions of staff]
The email in-tray is often fuller, but not more important, than the paper in-tray, (if you don’t count publishers blurbs & catalogues)
1. Action your email as you go, i.e. if you read it and want to keep it or don’t need it, either put it in a folder or delete it at the same time. Have a folder called ‘hard basket’ if it’s something you can’t decide where to file, or something that could go into 2 folders. Otherwise you re-read it down the track before you action it and this becomes double handling of email. [I know some people who worked with a very large email in-box, i.e more than 100 messages in their in-box, (not because they had just returned from leave). {These were also the people who had cluttered desks and were paper-chasers which = time-wasters].
2. Ask friends and family to send the ‘inspirational’ and ‘joke’ emails to your home email account and not work email (in fact, if you check your organisational policy on the use of email & Internet, you will find that this is a breach of email policy. They clog your email and if you forward them on, they are clogging someone else’s email as well as breaching email use policy). If it has been happening and you want to stop them coming in, just reply and request that they no longer send to your work address, if the request is ignored, then block the external sender from your work email account.
3. Use the ‘flagging’ features of email: Flag messages that need a reply if you cannot reply immediately.
4. Set up filters. This does 2 things, puts the messages you may keep immediately in the folder (filed automatically) and when you go on leave, mail is more manageable when you return and will save your time when you return.
5. Use ‘out-of-office’ when on leave and be very specific about how emails will be dealt with in your absence. For example: “I am on leave from …. To ….. If your request is urgent please contact …………….. . If your request is not urgent, I will be in touch as soon as possible upon my return. (Also set up a voicemail message if you have a direct phone line to your desk).
6. Set up ‘glossaries’ or ‘autotext’ for ‘common’ emails that you send out to the Faculty or Internal staff. i.e rosters, reminders to order for following term, reminders about Researchdoc registration and renewal, reminders about general policies, etc. You could also use your ‘sent items’ folder, but then you have to sort these to find them.


In-tray
1. Allow a specific time each day to action items in your desk in-tray. (these are just as important as your email in-tray, and shouldn’t be neglected, i.e. why should an email item from a faculty staff member be actioned before an item from a faculty staff member in your in-tray?)
2.Publishers blurbs and print catalogues are a thing of the past – (unless there is no online equivalent). Most publishers now provide email alerting services. Encourage your faculty members to subscribe. This provides a more streamlined ordering process, whereby you can forward to your Acquisitions or Collection Manager with all the required information and again eliminates paper chasing (you also have a record in your ‘sent’ folder of what was ordered and when).


Working documents – eliminate the paper chase
1. Do you keep items that you are currently working on in Manilla folders or some other appropriate folder?
2. Do you regularly attend meetings and have a folder specific to each meeting or working group you participate in?


Choosing an appropriate presentation method/software program
1. Are you going to do any calculations with the data? Choose Excel instead of Word, items like a marking sheet or anything which requires sorting or filtering. Often, MSWord is used when MSExcel would be more appropriate. Keep in mind that Excel saves time with autocalculations and autosorting and filtering.
2. Are you doing a brochure? Word could be used, but so could Publisher
3. Are you doing a presentation? Powerpoint is most suitable for this purpose, allowing you to readily do Handouts for the group.
4. Do you need information recorded which you will need to access time and time again? Perhaps it should be stored in an Access database, e.g. Programs & courses with Infolit embedded.


Filing print

1. File cabinet for printed documents which don’t have a file copy on your computer.
2. Always print out a back-up copy of every electronic file on your computer, so that if the unthinkable happens and there is a system crash and you forget to do a file back-up of the document, then at least you will have a print copy. (all the time you spent working on the document and think-tanking wont be completely wasted).

Filing in Windows Explorer –
1. If you have the ‘list’ view on within Windows Explorer your files are sorted alphabetical by filename, which makes it easy to find a file. Alternatively, use the Search function to find a file.

Scheduling your day
1. Use the tried and true method of only scheduling 70% of your day for ‘appointments’ and leave 30% for UFO’s (Unidentified Future Objectives; those things you just don’t know about), the unscheduled additional items to your day.
2. Prioritise according to the Urgent/Important rule:
1= Important/Urgent,
2=Important/Not Urgent,
3= Not Important/Urgent
4= Not important/Not urgent

Multi-tasking
1. Weeding while doing returns (if it’s Ugly, worn, and not a classic delete, particularly paperbacks)
2. Shelf-read while shelving
3. Solicit people for Workshops while issuing books to patrons
4. Weeding while shelving – duplicates which follow the MUSTIE principle or just need more room on shelves, send to another branch within your service if possible
5. Repairs at desk – all circ functions up-to-date, such as returns and DVD’s, then do repairs
6. Set up Filters in your email, so that emails are “filed” immediately where you want them.

Does anyone else have some multi-tasking tips to share?

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