- Posted Wednesday February 13, 2013
As the role of the practice manager grows and resources become more scarce, now is the time for everyone to focus on being as efficient and as effective as they can with the time they have available.
A Personal Approach
People are different – the ways in which they think, respond, work and plan are all unique and with that should go a unique way of time and workload management. There is not one set of rules but many different things that you can pick and choose from. This article will focus on some suggestions that may work for you but is by no means an exhaustive list of all the techniques available.
Where do I start with time and workload management?
You can’t begin to start managing anything any better until you know what is happening now. Every attempt to manage time more effectively needs to start with some baseline analysis:
- How much time do you have available
- What do you spend it on now
- Your work priorities – today and in the future
Start with carrying out a time log to see what you are doing now looking at issues such as how much time you spend on planned activities, your patterns of interruptions and, most crucially, how much of your time are you in control of. There is no point in trying to control the uncontrollable!
Use your diary
A diary can be much more than a mere record of meetings and places to be. A diary, whether paper or electronic, can help you keep control of your day to day workload and help you plan for unexpected and unplanned events by being a constant record of what you have to achieve. Always remember – every task you choose to do takes time, and time can only be used once. Making a phone call can be scheduled into your diary as once that time has been used, it’s gone.
Key tips for diary management:
- Start by establishing your start and desired finish time for each working day
- Use colour coding for different types of activity
- Schedule in regular events and activities
- Don’t forget planning and travelling time
- Group activities together where you can
- Consider the best times for doing things
How many times do we think that everything would be marvellous without other people?
- No interruptions
- No short deadlines
- Perfect consistency
- And so on...
The role of the practice manager incorporates responding to crises and unexpected events. The key lies in remaining in control where possible – especially of other people.
Don’t allow yourself to be interrupted when it is not necessary. A jammed printer is not a crisis that the manager should be resolving! Be wary of people sneaking interruptions upon you – avoid being stopped at the kettle, in the corridor or coming out of the loo. Make an excuse to talk on your terms:
- Avoid eye contact
- “I’m just on my way to ....”
- “I’m in the middle of ......”
- "I’ll get back to you in 10 minutes"
- "I’ll ring you after 12.00"
Have you got a minute? This rarely, if ever, means 60 seconds.
To get more control over your own time consider some of the following points:
- You can, when necessary, close or lock your door and be unavailable to concentrate on important things. Plan this in your diary with clear rules for the rest of the team
- If you have a spare chair next to your desk – remove it. Once people have come in and sat down, it is difficult to get control over getting them to leave. Keep the chair outside the door and bring it in when necessary.
- If people keep asking you to do the same things over and over again – change the way you instruct and communicate with them.
- Consider what and how you delegate – do you really delegate responsibility and control when you delegate a task or are you still trying to keep control?
- Don’t allow your desk to interrupt you when you don’t want to be – switch off email notification sounds, unplug your phone and clear other work out of the line of sight.
One of the biggest time stealers in modern working life is also one of the most vital things available to us. THE INTERNET – available right in front of you, 24 hours a day with more sources of information than you could read in a lifetime. Think carefully about how productively you use it.
All of these and many more tips and hints are covered in the Thornfields@fpm 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.