Ten Steps to Better Time Management

Rebecca Thimm

Your days are busy - that's why time management skills are crucial.

A health care professional's day is a busy one. Sometimes, it may seem that there are not enough hours - or minutes - to accomplish everything that you need to do. That's why time management skills are crucial.

"Wasting just 1 hour a day means in 10 years you will have lost 3,650 hours or 152 days of your life. Every hour is important," according to Christopher S. Frings, PhD, CSP, a health care consultant and speaker from Birmingham, AL.

Time management as a survival skill. "To be able to survive and thrive, you have to be able to manage your time effectively," he said. "You cannot manage time -- you can only manage events. Time management is making good choices and using the time you have effectively. It's a learned and acquired skill and something that has to be practiced every day. "When you ask health care professionals what the most important thing they wish they had control over, they'd say time management."

Frings, author of the AACC Press book, The Hitchhikers Guide to Effective Time Management, said that to practice good time management, you have to make it a habit. "It takes 21 days to develop a new habit. I give people a 30-day plan to free up 2 hours a day," he said. "You have to do it a little bit every day, and it's primarily identifying your top five time wasters and getting control of them."

Here are 10 ways he suggests to better use your time to help you get on the road to managing it wisely.

STEP 1: SET GOALS

First, set goals and have a plan to reach those goals. Goals are the building blocks of time management. Without time management, you can't achieve your goals. Without goals, you cannot practice time management. Goals are vehicles to make our dreams come true.

Write your goals down. Writing a goal clarifies it. If you cannot write the goals, you probably achieve them. Ask yourself if what you are about to do will help you accomplish one of your goals or objectives in life.

STEP 2: PRIORITISE

If you fail to plan, you are, in effect, planning to fail.

Each hour you spend in effective planning can save you 3 to 4 hours in execution and achieve better results.

Prioritize your work by creating a "To Do" list at the end of each day. Assign the letters A, B, C and D to the items on the list, with A's being most important and D's being least important. Review the list in the morning and spend more time on the more important projects.

The key to prioritizing is to isolate and identify that valuable 20 percent. If you have a list of 10 things to do and you do the right two, you get 80 percent of your work completed.

STEP 3: INCREASE EFFECTIVENESS, REDUCE URGENCY

Efficiency means doing the job right, but effectiveness means doing the right job efficiently. Frings explained that important tasks are usually non-urgent, long-term tasks. To better manage your time, spend more on the important tasks and less on so-called "urgent" tasks. Work toward reducing the urgent things you must do so you'll have time for your priorities.

One way to increase effectiveness it to start meetings on time. After a while, people realize that they need to show up for the meetings on time. However, you have to respect their schedules, too. Have an agenda and set a time limit for each topic. Make sure the follow-up is easy so everyone in the group knows who has the responsibility to complete different tasks.

STEP 4: DELEGATE EFFECTIVELY

To be a good leader, you need to become an effective delegator. A catalyst causes things to happen without it being used up, he explained. If you don't delegate, you'll soon be 'used up.' If you don't delegate well, you will attempt too much and will be involved in crisis management.

Determine what you can delegate - some tasks might be more important to complete but maybe you're not the one to do them.

STEP 5: MANAGE YOUR DETAILS

Stay away from routine details, but pay attention to important ones. Minimise, consolidate, delegate or just eliminate them if possible.

Organize your day - normally, a day's going to traditionally fit into a normal pattern. Use the first half hour of your day to take care of little things like checking messages and returning phone calls so that they are out of the way as soon as possible.

Tidy up before you leave to make it easier for you when you return to the office in the morning.

STEP 6: JUST SAY NO

No is the most powerful time-saving word in the English dictionary.

It's a hard word to say for many people, so it is important that you learn how to decline tactfully, yet firmly when a task doesn't help you achieve your goals. Point out that your motivation is not to get out of work but to save time to do a better job on your goals and your plan to reach your goals. When you are convinced of the importance of saying 'no' to the unimportant things, life gets easier.

STEP 7: CONTROL INTERRUPTIONS

Establish times during the day when you will not be interrupted. You should plan for interruptions so that your day is not ruined if you are disturbed a couple times. When you plan to be interrupted, schedule routine tasks.

STEP 8: USE NEW TECHNOLOGY

Take advantage of as much technology as possible as you go about your daily routine. There are a wealth of instructional and motivational podcasts, webinars and other online resources available while travelling and waiting.

STEP 9: STRIVE FOR EXCELLENCE, NOT PERFECTION

Excellence is attainable, gratifying and healthy. Perfection is often unattainable and causes frustration. Striving for perfection frequently costs more time than the increased benefits justify. It's a waste of time to try to do things perfectly every time -- you are striving for something that you cannot necessarily achieve, and, therefore, causing yourself and others added stress.

STEP 10: CONTROL PROCRASTINATION

Procrastination is the habit of indecision. To conquer procrastination, visualize the end result of the task you need to complete instead of the task itself. Ways to accomplish this are to use "To Do" lists effectively and reward yourself when you complete a job.

Worthwhile efforts

Time management is an ongoing process. Time management reduces stress, increases productivity and helps you reach your goals. It helps you in your personal, mental and spiritual life -- it's a lifestyle to live every day. If time management was easy to do, everyone would be doing it. However, the challenge of practicing good time management is worth the end result -- more time.


Rebecca Thimm is a former staff member of ADVANCE Healthcare Network for Nurses. To view the article and find out more about ADVANCE, click here: http://nursing.advanceweb.com/Article/Ten-Steps-to-Better-Time-Management-3.aspx