“Practice management” encompasses a variety of organizational skills that help to, well… manage your practice. That includes managing your finances, employees, standards of operations, and time. Regarding time, if I had a nickel for every instance someone said to me, “There are just not enough hours in my day,” I’d be uber rich on nickels. That said, I believe introducing my five proven time management methods (below) will help open some eyes in the office on how to be more time-conscious. Then, if one or two (or all) of them could become routine, who knows? They just might, in time, even eliminate some unwanted headaches and, crazy talk here… make your practice work for you. In fact, I KNOW they will!
- Plan and prioritize. It helps to have effective tools to help keep you (and your day) on task. In other words, plan your work and work your plan. Start by keeping a neat work area. You can work a lot faster when everything is in its proper place. Second, create a list of “things to do” and put it on paper so you can visualize it. Any of these simple approaches will work: a) Jot down random tasks as you think of them and in no particular order; b) Organize your task list according to categories, i.e., outgoing phone calls, errands, correspondence, projects, misc., etc. Then, tackle by group; c) Differentiate urgent tasks from non-urgent and important from not important, focusing on the urgent and important ones first; and finally, d) Partition your work day into hourly slots and fill each time frame with tasks you want to accomplish. Of course, checking off tasks on ANY “to do” list means you have, in fact, “done” them. Revel in your productivity! *See endnote
- Structure your day for best achievements. Don’t ignore your internal clock. That means working in coordination with your own energy levels by scheduling more activities and work during your energized time and less during those lazy times. It is proven that during your prime, energized time, your batteries are charged, your brain is ON and your focus is good. But when you are in slow mode and dragging, so too does your brain. By the way, doctors should also consider taking this approach when creating their patient schedule. Late riser? Start late. work late. Early riser? Start early, end early. The start of your day, whenever that is, is your most productive. And be sure to start on time! Not doing so is the #1 reason we fall behind schedule. Don’t forget to use automation when available; it’s there to make your life easier. Take advantage of it.
- Do not procrastinate. Nike had the right idea, “Just do it!” However, for 20% of our population who are chronic procrastinators, that is easier said than done. Something or someone holds them back from starting and/or completing what they set out to do. If you don’t know what or who is holding you back, maybe it’s because you never really made an effort to find out. Try a little introspection. Ask yourself why, by finishing this statement:“I’m avoiding this task because…” Your response might provide all the insight you need to forge on. If certain projects feel overwhelming, start small. Small action is still action. You’re on your way.
- Don’t multitask; Do delegate. There is a part of us that thinks we can effectively multitask – and for some things we actually can because we’ve developed a “we can do this in our sleep” mentality that enables us to accomplish menial, routine, mindless tasks, like walking and talking at the same time. But the term “multitasking” was actually created for computers, not humans. Our brains are not wired to multi-task. In fact, our IQ is lowered by as much as 10 points and we are said to be 50% LESS effective and accurate when we try to juggle two (or more) things at the same time. When we do, we spend more time correcting errors, redoing work and overlooking important steps. It leads to less focus, less productivity, wasted time and far more stress. Experts agree. In order to do a job well, we must concentrate on one thing at a time. Start it. Finish it. Begin the next task. Now, if you find you have too much on your plate, rather than trying to take it all on yourself, ask for help. Remember, though, you do not delegate a task because it is too difficult or boring; you do so because someone else (a staffer or co-worker) possesses the proper skills and is perfectly capable to pitch in. Another reason is to help them learn and expand their responsibilities. That’s the essence of teamwork.
- Eliminate distractions and time wasters. Determine where you are wasting your minutes that lead to wasted hours. Is it the phones, emails, unlimited social time with patients or co-workers, unnecessary paperwork, or not being able to make prompt decisions? Identify them; then slowly weed them out and voila! Suddenly, there will be more room for productive ones.
Maybe it’s because I’m entering the “Autumn” of my life (Medicare enrollment will do that to you!) but I don’t have to tell you that each minute we are given is a valuable commodity. Until we value our time, we fail to care how we spend it. Isn’t it about time we started caring?
*Endnote… anyone wishing to receive a copy of any of these “to do” lists, email email@example.com. They are complimentary for the asking.
Ms. Homisak, President of SOS Healthcare & Management Solutions, has a Certificate in Human Resource Studies from Cornell University School of Industry and Labor Relations. She is the 2010 recipient of Podiatry Management’s Lifetime Achievement Award and recently inducted into the PM Hall of Fame. Lynn is also an Editorial Advisor for Podiatry Management Magazine and recognized nationwide as a speaker, writer and expert in staff and human resource management.