The Administrative Time Hog

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


Duration in minutes

Ideal Hours

Difference vs. Ideal

Middle Manager






Senior Manager






Sales Manager












All Managers






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One Response to “The Administrative Time Hog”

  1. By lju on Jan 11, 2012 | Reply

    One of my clients works for a national company and oversees a territory of 11 stores with 20 Independent Contractors. They have been told that they are not allowed to consider emails from the company as time paid. They are simply part of their home office, which is not paid for except for the monthly office supplies very limited..BLACK ink, paper, pens paper clips, not postage the supply are allowed at $50.00 a month.
    The phone is paid at 37.00 a month. They are asked to have set hours that the management can contact them during and that their contractors can also contact them during. These are not paid. The are also on call for Friday sat and sun also not paid.
    They are paid for booking fees at 4.25 a booking which may be for 2 to 40 a week.
    They were recruited at 18 to 25 hours a week. This has changed apparently and there is no specific hours now. It is a bit confusing, but people need their jobs!!

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