Higher Education Innovation In Action

5 Ways to Make Efficient Use of Downtime in the Registrar's Office

Natalie Spooner, Sales Consultant Jul 25, 2017

As a registrar, you’re the steward of your institution’s educational records. You take pains to ensure student transcripts are accurate, secure, and sent out in a timely manner. You liaise and collaborate with every other department on campus. You’re busy almost all year-round, and sometimes it’s all you can do to focus on what’s right in front of you.

This is where office downtime is critical. Those rare occasions throughout the year when most students are away – midsummer, the fall semester break, late winter – are ideal for taking stock, advancing skills, and boosting morale. With that in mind, here are a few ways to make the most of those times.


Although cross-training requires some short-term planning, it pays long-term dividends. It can help your junior staff members advance in their careers – for example, you could invite a transcript assistant to shadow an associate registrar for a week or two. It also ensures you’ll have staff on hand to take up the slack during unplanned or extended absences.

Tip: Implement cross-training with a focus on the positive. Emphasize that the registrar’s office as a whole benefits from it, and that it’s not meant to devalue anyone’s specialized skills.

Staff Development Day (with a Side of Fun!)

Staff Development Day is another popular way to recognize staff and promote their careers. As with cross-training, some advance planning and forethought are necessary. Before you begin, ask your staff what professionally relevant topics they want to learn most. Next, plan a day of sessions, invite senior staff to present topics, or encourage any members of your department to share what they learned at a recent seminar or trade show. Finally, top off the day early with a picnic and camaraderie.

Tip: To help keep picnic costs down, plan it as a potluck or enlist senior staff to provide pop, utensils, hot dogs and hamburgers, buns, and chips.

Prioritize Project Requests

Your office is constantly fielding project requests from other departments – often more than you can manage all at once. The slower times of the year are ideal for prioritizing these requests. Invite staff collaboration during the prioritization process and communicate your plans to all involved. This will save you time and headaches when things get busy again.

Tip: The rule of thumb here is to look at all of the different factors that influence a project’s priority. For example, a project with regulatory compliance issues might take precedence over a committee request.

Information Audits

Taking a “policy inventory” during slow periods in the office will also help save time and prevent potential mix-ups among staff and students. Use downtime to ensure all of your materials are up to date: Audit the course catalog and SIS, and review any recent changes to academic policy.

Tip: This might also be a good time to check your department web pages and blog for outdated and broken links or information left over from previous school years.

Clean Off Your Desk Day

Studies show that a clean workspace boosts productivity, creativity, and efficiency. There’s even a nationally designated day for it: The second Monday in January. Unfortunately, that also happens to be one of the busiest times in the registrar’s office, so workspace organization may have to wait until a more appropriate time for you. Very little planning is involved. Simply shred and throw away papers you don’t need, tidy up paper and electronic files, and weed out email inboxes.

Tip: Make it fun. Encourage staff to take photos of the event and post them on your intranet or blog. Give out little prizes for the cleanest (or messiest) desks.

Whatever activities you plan, you’ll thank yourself when it gets busy again, as it will very soon!

Registrars, how do you and your staff make the most of office downtime? Please share your stories with us.