Charan Sarai - Practice Manager Adviser

It’s time to manage your time

Happy holidays! Where did 2014 go?

In the past year it has been a privilege to work with Practice Managers up and down the country, all of whom say to me “If only we had more time”. 

Sadly some of have had very stressful situations to deal with, and it’s hard to hear that the very people that keep general practice going are the ones that suffer the most.

They tell me that they feel like they are constantly putting out fires; while others say they are on a treadmill of crises to crises - zapped of energy with feelings of not accomplishing what they set out to do.

We all know that time management at work improves our productivity and reduces stress, but in reality is your to-do-list as long as your arm? Are you becoming a slave to deadlines?

Imagine how beneficial it will be to know that you are using your time as effectively as you can, allowing you to relax and live with less stress. Maybe the following thoughts may help with supporting you going forward next year:

  • Plan your work and then work your plan.
  • Decide what is important, and schedule the time to do it.
  • Remember that time management at work can be just as much about deciding what not to do, as what to do.

So how can you control time at work and reduce the feeling of stress and pressure?

  1. Do that time log you have been avoiding.
  2. Recognize your time wasters.

Why should you keep a time log?

If you were trying to save money you would draw up a budget and monitor your expenses- the same goes for time saving. A time log will show you where you spend your time and if you are spending it on important tasks or just jumping from crises to crises. Try to establish the following through a time log:

Are you getting distracted?

Distractions are costly to the organisation. Research has shown that for each distraction it takes several minutes to regain complete concentration again. Think about:

  1. How many emails or requests from your team you field each day.
  2. Repetitive tasks - can they be automated?
  3. Fun - does this get in the way of your important tasks?  Do you hang out around the kitchen area catching up when you have an important report due?

Is your time being taken up by the right activities?

It might be worth thinking about whether or not some activities can be streamlined, delegated to someone else or automated in some way. You must also make sure that the things you are doing most the time are things you are doing in accordance with your values.

What does your organisation look like?

A manager needs to– and should already – be organised, but in reality it isn’t so simple.

“Where's the post-it note with that important number?”

"I can't find anything in my files or on my desk!"

These are common complaints and can cause stress at work. According to research, an average of 6 weeks is spent on searching for information – so being organised is a big time saver.

A Practice Manager’s job is very varied, so you should think about organising your filing system and desk to reflect the various priorities and different roles you play in your day to day working life.

I personally find it useful to organise my files in order of the roles that I have. For example: a part of my job description is to deliver training and within this role there are subcategories based on the courses that I deliver, so I separate files in different categories from one another and organise accordingly. I also have a checklist so that nothing is forgotten. 

Again, you need to have a strong time focus to keep on track, and since the role of the practice manager is very diverse, the common phrase ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’ needs to be adhered to.

Is communication time effective?

Telephones and emails are a great time saver, but they can also be a huge timewaster.

Conversations on the phone can become a black hole in your time management - especially if the conversations are long and rambling. There are many ways to make sure telephone calls and emails aren’t draining your time:

  • Learn polite - but firm - ways to finish conversations.
  • Find a way to screen your calls.
  • Make batches of phone calls in one period.
  • Take the automatic notification off the email.
  • Check your email at certain scheduled times throughout the day.

Finally

If you have ‘too much to do and not enough time’ and you are looking for a way to learn to manage your stress, then a time management course may be beneficial for you. Let’s make 2015 a year about results without the stress.

All of these and many more tips and hints are covered in the Thornfields workshop Time Management for Practice Managers. If you, and your local groups of managers think you could benefit from a new approach to managing your workload, contact us for details of the programme.

I hope you have had a great year, and have an even better 2015.


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