In-basket exercise
In-basket / Prioritizing Test
Farm Accountant Position, Wickstrom Dairy
Tim Wickstrom
November 1999

You have a maximum of 20 minutes to complete this task. Let us pretend you have arrived for work today, Friday, at 8 AM, and you have a number of tasks to prioritize (see items in the in-basket, below, section II). What task would you complete first, second, and so on. If you do not have time to finish today, what task(s) would you leave for tomorrow?

I. Here is additional data—that may or may not give pertinent information for this assignment.

  • You will be working 4 hours today (it is not an option for you to work longer or shorter hours).
  • You will also be working 4 hours tomorrow, Saturday.
  • Your next day on the job will be Wednesday, next week.
  • It takes about 5 minutes to pay each bill.
  • Our philosophy is to pay bills so they are received the day they are due, or earlier.
  • We have a tradition of paying employees midday when payroll is due. Payroll is due today and takes about 1 to 1 ½ hours to complete.
  • The feed and cow inventory takes about 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours to complete. It is critical to note that this task, once started, must be completed at one time and may not be left to finish at another day. We would like, if at all possible, to have this inventory completed today, but it is actually due tomorrow.
  • Our veterinarian is punctual and paid by the hour.
  • Tim Wickstrom goes to town once a day (at which time he delivers and gets mail), at 10 AM. (For the purpose of this exercise, assume that this time is firm and cannot be changed, and that it is not practical for someone else to go into town.)
  • For the purpose of this exercise, let us pretend that additional distractions during the day will be negligible, other than the tasks you have in the to-do or in-basket now.

II. The following items are found in the in-basket (here they are described, but actually consisted of paper notes including "work-order" forms, telephone message form, and invoices).

  • Work order form: From Tim. Submitted this Wednesday, completion wanted no later than this Saturday. Priority, not marked on form. Regarding: cow/feed inventory.
  • Invoice from Turlock Dairy Feed dated 5 November 99, and due 11/22/99, for $435.17.
  • Phone call form: Dan Smith, State of California Cost Analysis Office, called Thursday at 4:30 PM. Phone (916) 838-7733. Remarks: Needs to re-schedule visit from next Tuesday to either next Monday or Wednesday. Sounds desperate! Telephoned and please call boxes checked. Message taken by Tim.
  • Work order form: From Vern (Tim’s dad). Submitted this Thursday, completion wanted: not marked on form. Priority: low. Regarding: milk weights, please enter milk weights into the computer as you have extra time (takes about 1 to 2 hours to complete).
  • Invoice from Union Oil Company, dated 10 November 99 and due 6 December 99, for $786.22.
  • Work order form: From Tim. Submitted this Thursday, completion wanted no later than this Friday. Priority, not marked on form. Regarding: pregnancy/check list, veterinarian is going to arrive at 11:30 PM. The list takes 1 ¾ to 2 hours to prepare and print.
  • Invoice from ABC Electric due 23 November 99, and dated 25 October 99, for $212.55.
  • Work order form: From Tim. Submitted this Wednesday, completion wanted no later than this Friday. Priority, not marked on form. Regarding: working cow report, herdsman needs report by 8:15 AM, and takes 5 to 15 minutes to complete.
  • Invoice from Hilmar Lumber, dated this Monday, 15 November 99, and due 12 December 99, for $125.89. (Today is November 19th.)
  • Invoice from Hilmar Milk Equipment Supply due 11/22/99 and dated 1 November 99, for $2,245.00
  • Invoice from A1 Veterinary Supplies for $212.55. Dated 5/10/99, due 22/11/99.

III. Prioritize

A. Prioritize tasks for today (which would you complete first, second, etc.)

1. ____________________________________________________

2. ____________________________________________________

3. ____________________________________________________

4. ____________________________________________________

5. ____________________________________________________

6. ____________________________________________________

7. ____________________________________________________

8. ____________________________________________________

9. ____________________________________________________

B. Task(s) left for tomorrow (no need to prioritize these):

1. ____________________________________________________

2. ____________________________________________________

3. ____________________________________________________

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 94-61150

© 2000 by The Regents of the University of California
Agricultural Extension, Stanislaus County

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Labor Management in Ag
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15 November 2004