Time management

Why the Need for Time Management?

Because if you don’t control it, it will control you — your existing work life will become exhausting and depressing.

Key Time Management Points

1. Prioritising

  • Set Goals
  • Focus on the priorities — you don’t have time to do everything!
  • Split them up into
  • Important & Urgent — these are the ones that will help you most in achieving your goals – Activities which involve other people ie the action will affect others, should be considered as Important and Urgent they will enable the ‘whole team’ to function more effectively
  • Important & Not Urgent
  • Not Important & Urgent – Can you delegate these?
  • Not Important & Not Urgent – ?should you drop them?

2. Planning

  • Plan you week first. Then plan your day…on a day to day basis
  • Clearing the Decks
  • get small urgent tasks out of the way eg telephone queries etc
  • Delegate if it is delegateable
  • Plan the day by compartmentalising tasks into achievable blocks of work, tackle them one at a time, and ensure you have completed them before moving onto the next
  • Set deadlines for your activities — decide whether the deadlines are fixed or flexible.. .ie can change according to the situation
  • Ensure time set for tasks is adhered to —ifa job is meant to take 15 mins, ensure it takes 15 mins
  • Schedule the tasks according to your state of mind at different times of the day or week — eg if you’re really lively first thing in the moming, then get say the telephone queries Out of the way

3. Creating routines & systems

  • Use e-mail — it’s a good way of communicating rather than waiting for someone to pick up the phone!
  • Create standard templates and forms for regular communica~ons
  • Good filing system — make sure everyone knows how to do it!
  • Make sure the filing is done daily
  • Optimise your personal work space — keep your desk clear and tidy at the end of the day, it’s more conducive for working the next day
  • Establish procedures for common daily events — eg doctors telephone query log, home visits log etc
  • Build unpleasant or longer-term tasks into your daily routine.. ..a big job split into small chunks is a lot easier to handle and more stress free
  • Delegate routine tasks wherever possible — you will need to monitor this at first but once established, you should be able to stop worrying

4. Handling information/paperwork

  • Information overload is a big key element to stress
  • Ask for the information you need in a form that suits you —log book etc
  • Restrict your information gathering to what you really need to know — exclude areas that are not your responsibility or do not affect you
  • Set deadlines for making decisions
  • Consider the use of voice recognition software for dictating letters
  • Use the four-part plan for paperwork
    1. Act on it — if it is relevant and important
    2. Delegate it — if less important
    3. File it – relevant but not immediately important
    4. Bin it — for everything else that doesn’t fit the bill
  • Handle one piece of paper only once!

5. Minimising distractions

Again, another key element to stress at work! However, although the following methods are good techniques in minimising distractions, it is important that you do not cut yourself off from your team. It is also important for you to maintain a balance between restriction placing and being approachable as you don’t want to stifle the flow of ideas and creativity from your colleagues, staff and other contact’.

  • Phone calls
    • minimise unnecessary calls
    • set times when you are prepared to accept calls, ban all others until this time
    • limit the time spent on each call — keep a clock beside you and time yourselfi
    • Differentiate between calls — urgent vs not urgent
  • Email
    • a good and less intrusive form of communication
    • pick up your messages when you are ready to receive and respond rather than being dictated by others
    • deal with first thing in the morning and then just after surgery… be disciplined in this routine
  • Surgery Interruptions
    • Keep the door closed to keep uninvited people out. Inform receptionists of this rule.
    • Arrange times when you are prepared to be interrupted.
    • Keep a big clock in the surgery room to time how long people are in there
    • Standing up and walking to the door whilst talking to someone is a good way of getting them to leave without them even realising that you are chucking them out!
  • Meetings and Damned Meetings
    • avoid unproductive and inefficient meetings
    • agree a start and end time
    • timed agenda
    • leave if start time is delayed beyond a given point

6. Time management aids

Use a diary or one of those electronic personal digital organisers (PDA’s) — they’re good at booking in things there and then and help give you an overview of your day. You can create ‘to-do’ lists on them too. They also help you identify gaps in your day where you might be able to fit in something else.. .a meeting or something personal!

  • Creating ‘to-do’ lists
    • These are good in reminding you what you have yet to do Tick off the tasks as you complete them
    • They are also good in giving you feedback on how good you are at schedule planning
  • Project Planners
    • These are those wall chart things given as freebies by medical reps and companies. You can also get an electronic version on most personal digital assistants these days.
    • Their use is for long-term projects — to help you split the big task into smaller manageable chunks and create deadlines for each of the chunks.

7. Auditing your use of time

Monitoring your use of time is a real good way of improving your time management

Consider keeping a log book of your activities say for 1 week. Then analyse it.

Ask yourself — what did you do? Classify the activities intoUrgent & Important, Urgent & Not Important, Not Urgent & Not Important? What bits were really helpful in achieving your goals? What bits were a waste of effort? What percentage of your time was spent on these wasted efforts? (Note:

most people find that up to 30% of their time is spent on wasted efforts!) What tasks did you fail to do and which did you fail to do on time? Were they important or ugent?? (if they were, you’ll have to consider reducing the time spent on other less important activities)

Finally, decide on what changes you need to make to your schedule to make you more efficient. Do the change and re-audit after say a month. Keep re-auditing until you are at a level you are comfortable with.

Common Pitfalls

Trying to do everything yourself: no one can do everything – accept it!

Delegate wherever possible, but remember, only delegate it you think the person is competent to do so; if not, then either train them or send them to a training course — it’s a good investment! Good tasks to delegate are those that are time consuming + requiring no special skills +/- are a regular occurrence

Don’t aim for unnecessary perfection — it is usually unobtainable anyway. Only do jobs to the standard they require. Exaggerated perfection costs rime and money, and stops you getting on with something more important.

Why delegating might fail

  • failing to explain the objectives
  • failing to encourage ‘ownership’ of the project to whomever it is delegated
  • failing to set deadlines
  • failing to monitor the delegated task
  • failing to make decisions quickly enough
    Simple: on the balance are arguments generally in favour to go ahead? If so, go ahead. If not, then don’t go ahead. If the arguments for and against and equal and there is no alternative, then just go ahead with it or don’t go ahead with it you have a 50% change of making the right decision… .no point in wasting time over it!
  • chaotic filing systems
    • Get these sorted. They are essential to efficiency of the practice systems
    • Remember to throw out old stuff. In general, throw out anything older than 1 year. Keep the rest in some filing order

Hot time management tips

  • Keep a diary with all your social and academic appointments in it and refer to it regularly
  • Make a timetable early on with all of your work and social activities in it and be realistic
  • Prioritise between immediate and less essential tasks. Assess their time consumption. See if anyone else can help and give yourself deadlines
  • Make a task list. Don’t beat your self up with jobs from hell. Give yourself some smaller pieces of work to ease you into the swing of things
  • Be clear about what you want to achieve by setting yourself goals for each study slot. Around 45 minutes is the maximum time you can concentrate at a time
  • Splitting your day into chunks such as morning, afternoon and evening is probably more effective than hourly sessions – it takes time to get into a subject properly, and good planning if you’re going to do yourself justice.
  • When you start a piece of work, finish it at the time, if you can. Otherwise you will waste time while you pick up the pieces again and try to work out where you were and what you were going to do next. Handle one piece of paper the once.
  • Recognise our own preferences and working methods. Do you thrive on burning a candle at both ends and taking a blow torch to the middle or are you a little and often person? Differentiate between demanding and routine tasks so that if you have a ‘low ebb’ in the evening then that is the time that you tidy your files rather than read Freud.
  • Do things right first time. This will probably mean making an effort to get others to work to this standard, too. It is estimated that 150 o of all business costs could be saved if time did not have to be wasted on reworking and putting things right.
  • Only do jobs to the standard they require. Exaggerated perfection costs time and money, and stops you getting on with something more important.
  • Don’t put off important tasks that are unpleasant. You think you are gaining time, but your mind will be partly blocked by knowing that sooner or later you will have to face up to the unpleasantness.
  • Do put off tackling things that are unimportant. Sometimes things sort themselves out or the situation changes for the better.
  • When you are under severe time pressure, you must learn to delegate some of your less important tasks.
  • Don’t over supervise your staff. This robs you of valuable time and can be very demotivating for them.
  • Fix deadlines for everything that is important enough to merit them. Then stick to them. Do not set deadlines you are no tgoing to meet.
  • Monitor your own progress. If you feel your not achieving your goals then try approaching the topic in another way such as with a friend or another text book
  • Analyse the various interruptions you experience during the day and take steps to eliminate or reduce them.
  • Learn to say ‘No’ without feeling guilty. People must learn to sort out their own problems, without always expecting you to be there to hold their hands or rescue them.

Time management in the consultation

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