I’m going to be honest. I didn’t really want to do a blog post on time management! It’s just that it was one of the challenges to address in our 5 part series on issues for healthcare leaders.
The reason for my reluctance is that time management is a tricky one – I really don’t think there is a miracle cure. The pace of the world today, the change that is a constant in healthcare, the seemingly reducing resources…all of these things are challenges. Real challenges.
What does ‘time management’ even mean?
And, can we REALLY manage time? What does that even mean? We can’t stop the clock, gain more minutes in a day or turn back time! The time we have in a day is finite. We can’t add to it.
So what hope do I have to provide tips or suggestions? Hasn’t this topic been done over thousands of times? And still people struggle.
It’s time to stop worrying about time management!
It might be somewhat controversial, yet I think that we should stop worrying about time management.
Rather than trying to manage time, how about we look at being PRODUCTIVE with the time we have?
I really do think that people spend more time worrying about time and being ‘busy’ than they worry about being productive and getting things done. Worrying about time is a waste of time.
Better that we worry about how we allocate our efforts to the time and tasks we have.
There is no miracle cure to managing time. Thousands of people have become rich talking about it.
Let’s talk instead about being productive.
5 tips for greater productivity are:
1. Deal differently with your ‘to-dos’
2. Have a one thing focus
3. Stop procrastinating
4. Refresh regularly
5. Celebrate action
1. Deal differently with ‘to-dos’.
I actually think to-do lists are good. To a point. I’ve seen people use them though to waste time. The prettiest and most organised to-do list won’t make you feel better about time. It won’t get tasks done. But it sure will waste some time and give you more to worry about!
So certainly have a to-do list, just do it differently to the time wasters. Here are the recommended steps:
- Allow 5 minutes at the start of the day.
- Write down 3 things you want to achieve that day.
- Put a star next to the most important.
That’s it. Surprised?
Look, I know that no matter what I say, you will likely have a running to-do list. You will likely schedule time for some tasks in your calendar, then change it when someone wants a meeting, or something seemingly more important comes up. Or the boss wants something done.
A running to-do is fine. I often suggest spending 15 mins max at the start of the week writing down what you’d like to achieve, or the main priorities grouped under headings e.g. Projects, staff, admin. This is good too.
The reason my advice is so simple goes back to my thoughts on time management – that we spend too much time worrying about it. We are all adults, so we can all find a way to capture our to-dos. It’s how you manage that and take action that’s important.
We are often so unrealistic about what we want to achieve each day that we wind up feeling deflated at the end of the day when we don’t achieve.
We need to be realistic – we will likely always feel that life is busy.
It’s a given that life is busy. So perhaps we need to get over complaining about it? You can only do what you can do. Get organised, get focused and get working!
The 3 things each day is more realistic. Even then we may not get it all done. It helps us focus and prioritise. No wasting time rewriting our list every day.
This brings us to the second tip.
2. Have a one thing focus.
The one thing focus is to help out our brains and to encourage productivity.
You might have seen news articles recently on multitasking. There is growing evidence of the negative impacts of trying to multi task. Think of those days when you’ve switched from one thing to the next to the next. Did you actually get ANYTHING done? Did you make mistakes?
Yes, healthcare can require you to switch quickly from task to task. So where we need to do that, take a breath in between and concentrate fully on each task as you do so. More importantly, try to find time in your day where you can just focus on one thing, otherwise your stress will rise and your effectiveness fall.
Coming back specifically to time. Remember that list of 3 things at the start of each day?
I’m suggesting that you choose one that you must start with. Allocate time and focus on that. Be disciplined, schedule time in your diary, find an office and close the door, ask the team not to put through calls, turn off your emails. Or at the very least, focus just in the moment. If you are talking with a patient, then talk with a patient. Don’t think about the next task on your to-dos. It will still be there whether you worry about it or not.
Because the nature of the healthcare day can be complex, I’ll recommend to some clients to only write down one thing on their to do list for the day. That’s because that one thing may need to be squeezed in between patients, staff meetings, and the inevitable crisis. So one thing is often more realistic than 3.
Don’t set yourself up for failure. One thing at a time.
It takes practice, and the breaking of habits in many cases. Yet if your mantra is ‘one thing at a time’, you will see results if you are disciplined.
Now it doesn’t mean that you won’t do other things. Just focus on getting one thing done, then if you do, celebrate, take a quick break and move on to the next.
3. Stop procrastinating!
Do you procrastinate? What do you do? Do you write to do lists and worry about them?
Do you make 20 cups of coffee? Do you offer to help other people? Do you complain about how busy you are? Do you check emails, instagram or facebook?
Do you tidy your desk, your office? Other people’s offices?
Be honest with yourself. You know what you do. It’s those little things in the day that you are doing to avoid doing something else.
From observations made over years of coaching, I do think that procrastination is probably the biggest time challenge. Bigger than lack of resources and too many tasks. You can use a lot of time procrastinating. A lot. Trust me, I’ve done it!
Procrastination can become a habit. An excuse.
Recognise what you do, when you do it. Find a way to hold yourself to account. It’s not hard, it just takes discipline – like most of these time tips!
4. Refresh regularly.
Now it might seem like I am contradicting what I just said about procrastination. I’m not.
Through the day it s important to take breaks, recharge, get the blood flowing and refresh. This gives our brains a break and prevents fatigue – physical and mental.
The difference from regular breaks and procrastination is intent. If you are doing it pretending to refresh, yet are really trying to avoid something else, then it’s procrastination.
If you are taking a refresh because you’ve achieved something, are having a mental block with a problem, or feeling a bit drained or stressed, then it’s a helpful break.
With a refresh, you might find doing it on the hour helpful, or 3 times a day, or even once a day. Find what works for you.
Good breaks involve fresh air if possible, natural light, deep breaths, and clearing of the mind. If you are energised by people, a chat over coffee might do it. If you are energised by alone time, then a quiet walk might be preferred.
Give yourself a break, you deserve it! 5 minutes might be all you need. With a quick rest your brain will be recharged. And interestingly, if we relax a little on a break, it can stimulate certain brain waves that are better for creativity and problem solving. Your best ideas might just lie in a 5 minute break.
5. Celebrate action.
In our busy lives it can feel like we never get anything done, never make headway with our tasks. A big project might feel like it’s ages from finishing.
Most people like to feel like they are making progress in their work. It’s one of the prime motivator in our workforce. yet some of our tasks and to dos take time. If we like results, we might not notice what we’ve achieved in a day because we are focused on the end result.
I recommend celebrating action taken each day. Give yourself a lift by noticing progress made, even if you are working on something longer term. Rather than feel like you are not getting anywhere, take 5 minutes at the end of the day, and ask yourself – “What did I achieve?” Don’t then list all the things you didn’t get to. Identify what you have done.
Celebrate action. It will release some feel-good chemicals, and focus your brain on positivity. This is so important to being productive. Celebrate, be positive. Be productive.
So my tips for time management were not really that, were they? Time to stop worrying about time management. Get productive. You can’t change the time that you have in a day. Working longer won’t help you be balanced or focused. Use the time you have well.
If you would like more help with being productive, developing your team, or growing your leadership you’ll love our Course and Community membership! With loads of training videos, downloadable resources, and discussion forums you have all you need to Engage Your Healthcare Leadership! Click here to learn more.