Skill: Organisation

The most fundamental rule to any Administrator’s CV is this very skill. Organisation. Disorganised people (usually those who can tell you best how you should be doing your job) are often seen salivating when an Admin person arrives in the office for the very first time. “Finally! Finally! Someone has come to sort this place out! To get systems started and processes down!”

I care little for systems, processes or sorting anywhere out aside from my overcrowded head when I have to lurch from Sunday night to Monday morning. But I have been making a decent attempt at an appearance of organisation for the last ahem, few years. So, how best to portray it?

  • Colour code every single thing you can get your hands on. Forms, days of the week, priorities (especially when you assess your entire workload as non-priority level), stationery stores – if you have to, members of the office. People seem weirdly grateful when they are told that all their work goes in the blue folder while Gracie Grater’s goes in the green folder. It’s up to you what happens to the contents of the  green and blue folders. 
  • Have a diary with a to-do list neatly penned in at the start of every day. This is your essence of order. An A5 page a day diary works well, especially if you have large handwriting and maintain a single space line between tasks. If you ensure you write down every single thing you are asked to do, ranging from Do Something Important to check emails, you run out of space fairly quickly. When someone comes begging, you can show with actual proof that you’re too rushed off your feet to do their request today, but there might be room tomorrow. People rarely look at what’s on the list. They see a mess of a page and feel stressed. Play on it.
  • Have a printed list of all the important telephone numbers you will ever be asked for blue tacked above your desk. This gives the impression that you are concerned about a. knowing what you need to know and b. providing a quick response to anyone who might ask for a number. You only need to make this list once. As soon as it gets out of date, people will stop asking for numbers, but when they start keeping their own list, they’ll simply feel proud of their own organisation skills and not wonder why yours is out of date.
  • Know where everything is. The best way to do this is to start your employment by throwing away anything you consider pointless. If it turns out to be important, you can always find it on Google. Most of the time.
  • Bring in snacks (and lunch if there’s nowhere to eat except a miserable coffee shop/canteen/cafe that refuses to change it’s menu). This is suprisingly effective as it is bigger than just the desk at work. You give the impression of being naturally organised, a trait seen in few but envied by many. Or at least I like to think.

Strategy: Brainwashing Yourself

I find it difficult playing the part of the Tazmanian Devil I am expected to be at work. When the printer runs out of paper, or when Gracie Grater can’t immediately find a form, it doesn’t qualify as an emergency to me. Even the fire alarm blasting into the office is no longer an emergency – practice runs really have ruined it for everyone. The upshot is that the collective office perception of emergencies heightens every single event – and who, in those gritty times, better to address it than Queen Administrator?

But what if my job were as important to me as Ms. Manager seems to think it should be? What if, when Gracie Grater wails about her pen disappearing from her desk, I, Queen Administrator were to appear immediately with a glazed smile and a new pen? What if, when Prof. Petulant waved around an empty jar of coffee in the middle of the meeting, staring intently at Queen Administrator, I was to produce a full one from my bottom drawer and, with that glazed smile and thousand yard stare, not only make him coffee, but wash his cup up too?

But swallowing the practicalities of being inane is a practical difficulty. I have started to get around it by brainwashing myself. Every morning, as the journey to work starts to draw me closer I tell myself the three following things:

  1. You are not who you think you are for the next 7.5 hours of your life;
  2. If you were not at work, not only would your department fall apart, but it is wholly likely that the entire organisation would be lucky to still be in business by the following morning;
  3. You are, as they always say, an absolute star (more on that later).

Is it giving up to give into the bizarreness of being everyone’s new hands? In some areas this is a metaphorical concept – a bottom of the barrel compliment at times. Where I work, it’s actually true. But it’s one hundred per cent easier than trying to make them change.