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Professionals in every industry know that the more they plan, the more effectively they use their time. However, when you’re working in the healthcare industry, how can you schedule your day in such a reactionary workplace?
Well, it’s definitely going to have to be a flexible plan in order for it to withstand any sudden or urgent interruptions. And on the other side, how do you find time to create a plan like this when you’re run off your feet at work, and you just want to put your feet up when you get home?
In this piece, you’ll be walked through the definition of time management, the actual importance of it, and some of the ways you can easily create a time management plan without overworking yourself for weeks on end.
What is time management?
Time management is the habit of organising your day based upon tasks. This is no easy task when working in the reactionary and often-hectic healthcare industry: you need to be flexible within your schedule so you can attend to unexpected issues without losing structure for the rest of the day.
With this in mind, you need to find a time management strategy that works for you. For example, Elon Musk uses the ‘timeboxing' technique for general scheduling, while Tony Hsieh uses his own ‘Yesterbox’ strategy for managing time spent focused on his emails. Essentially, time management takes many forms and what works for you will depend upon the structure of your workday, the heft of your workload and the goals you have for your work.
Why is time management in the healthcare industry so important?
Time management not only gives you structure within your hectic workday, it also gives you the ability to block out periods of time to do work-related tasks that are not necessarily time-sensitive (such as professional development or mental health downtime). Within healthcare, if you wait for downtime to present itself, you may get lucky once a fortnight – there is always something more important to be done. However, if you’re purposeful, realistic and innovative about how you want to manage your time, even your hectic healthcare schedule will accommodate your needs and goals.
What are some time management techniques?
There are a few things you can do to optimise your time management skills, and to help you build yourself a time management plan. As these skills don’t just pop up out of nowhere, a few of these techniques also double up as habits to commit to and work into your weekly calendar.
Time budgeting (healthcare style…)
In general, ‘time budgeting’ refers to figuring out how much of your daily pay is allocated to certain tasks. A better way to think about this in the context of healthcare is to consider how much time you are allocating to three different tiers of priority: high, mid and low.
High priority tasks should have the most time allocated to them each day, while you need to find a productive middle ground where you can complete mid and low priority tasks on a rolling basis. In the long run, this will save you many last-minute rushes. This plan is probably more ideal for office-based healthcare workers: you’ll have to be very well-acquainted with your diary and to-do list at all times.
Sprints are a way of isolating tasks into a certain period; ie. if a sprint lasts one week, you have any time in that week to complete that task. This is a great way to stay flexible, and is a core component of many agile workplaces. While most healthcare workplaces will not have the luxury of being able to work agile (that is: remote), elements of the weekly layout – and psychological segmentation of work – might be a good fit for you and your workload.
Sprints rely upon realistic expectations: don’t be put off if you include 30 tasks in a sprint and only complete 15. You’ll have to spend a few sprints figuring out how long you want them to be – a week, two weeks, a month, six weeks, etc. – as well as how many individual tasks you can realistically complete.
Additionally, sprints rely upon specific goals. If it’s the first week of the year, maybe you want to focus on chasing up loose ends or interactions from the final (and probably sluggish) weeks of the previous year. Or if it’s a month out from a big presentation for your department, maybe you should set the sprint goal as ‘Jump at opportunities for clarification: this sprint, I won’t sit on questions'.
To fully utilise the efficacy of sprints, we recommend downloading an app or creating a spreadsheet that will help you visualise what you want to achieve. Some apps and software, such as Atlassian, double up sprints with time-budgeting for bigger businesses: as impressive as this software may be, make sure you’re not paying for a program that’s irrelevant to you as an individual who just wants to track tasks.
Unfortunately, the human race is yet to invent an industry and position that does not require any meetings. You may be holding out hope, but until then: a great way to exercise time management is to get your team onto meeting agendas. Ever since the story broke about Jeff Bezos and his rules regarding meeting preparedness, the concept for distributing effective meeting notes prior to meetings and launching directly into discussion swept the world.
This is great for 2 reasons:
It saves time. The leader isn’t going to be over-contextualising and the attendees will already have an idea of any concerns/questions they want to ask.
It cuts out the middle man. Sending out a meeting agenda beforehand will give attendees the opportunity to recommend the invitation of other colleagues with relevant projects at hand. This way, you won’t be running the same meeting in a week’s time when someone says, ‘Oh, this sounds like something Sonja would know a lot about!’
Though a meeting agenda should be stuck to religiously, there should be room for constructive discussion. After all: if you’re not aiming to discuss the main points with other people, why are you holding a meeting? Why not just send out a memo?
So, how do you actually create a plan like this?
The best thing you can do is segment the creation of your management plan. After reading this piece, you should have more of an idea about what kind of time management will work for you.
First, figure out what type of plan you’re hoping to create. For example, if you’re wanting to do short bursts of concentrated work, maybe a time budget would work best for you.
Second, identify what currently isn’t working. Are you becoming distracted by your emails? Are you doing whole tasks in lumps instead of taking breaks to stay fresh? Turning off your email notifications for an hour and setting rest breaks will help you craft a space in which you can focus and complete your allotted tasks in the allotted time.
Last, make sure you stay flexible. Chances are, during these allotted periods you will be pulled in more than one direction. While this is unavoidable, don’t let it stress you too much! Come back to your tasks when you’re able to, and still make sure you finish at the original set time. This goes for all time management strategies and plans: your focused time doesn’t exist in a vacuum, so make sure you’re taking into account how often you’re ducking out to attend to other issues as this makes your planning more accurate.
In healthcare, every second counts. By controlling and regulating your own use of time, you’ll see an improvement in task completion and a growth in confidence regarding your own ability to perform in your position. Now go forth and conquer your day!
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