One of my biggest struggles is the number of things I have to do in any given day, the fires I have to put out, and the projects that have to be completed on a timely basis– and how to juggle them all! One of my long term personal and professional goals is to get better at managing my time and trying to prioritize my “to-do’s”.
In this process, I’ve learned some pretty great tips for time management and I wanted to share my favorite with you! Here are my top 10 tips for time management and planning your day.
- Delegate to Elevate: learning the appropriate time to delegate tasks, and not rush to try and aid in every problem was a great lesson for me. This handy-dandy chart really was eye opening to me when I look at and prioritize my tasks.
This diagram is called an Eisenhower Matrix. All of your tasks can generally be placed into these four quadrants. Before I really started managing and prioritizing my time, most of my tasks lived in the Urgent and Important category, otherwise known as the “firefighting” and crisis mode. Although, important and urgent items are critical, it is important to plan and strategize them to move them into the Not Urgent and Important quadrant. To do this; think standard operating procedures, strategy sessions with your leadership team, etc. My best and most productive work happens when I live in the Non-Urgent and Important category; otherwise known as the prevention and growth category.
2. Schedule Your Day & Reflect: Every Sunday or Monday morning, I sit down and list out all of my necessary tasks to get done that week. I actually have a giant whiteboard in my office where I list:
- Action Items- things that need to get done
- In Progress- things that are pending, and if I am waiting on something it is listed there as well
- Discussion- things that are completed as much as I can, but they are waiting on discussion with either the leadership team or another party
- Completed- I list out all of my completed items so I know where I stand
I also color code the items based on which portion of my job they pertain to (ie. marketing, operations, etc.) I wasn’t lying when I said I’m a nerd! But, back on topic, at the beginning of the week I sort out my “to-do’s” and make a plan for the week. I sort everything in order of importance and urgency, and try to hit the ground running. One of my favorite parts of my day is morning reflection. I set aside a small amount of time to orient myself, and make a game plan. Of course, with all parts of Veterinary medicine, fires happen and plans fall apart, but with a task plan in place, the wheels don’t fall off the bus!
3. A Clean Desk! I do not function as well with a messy desk, although my desk is not “perfect”, it’s organized according to what needs to get done. For example, I’ll have a stack with invoices that needs to be received, then another stack of statements to reconcile, etc. Especially if I am feeling overwhelmed, I take a couple minutes to clean that sucker off and organize things into high priority piles. Hey, it may not be perfect, but it really lets me focus and prioritize my work.
4. Eat the Frog: Wait what? It’s a funny expression that I believe was started by Mark Twain, but the premise behind it, is do the thing you dread the most, first thing in the morning. If I dread a certain task, I tend to procrastinate and find a zillion other “more important” things to do instead. Remember in college when instead of studying for an exam, you would clean the kitchen, organize your closet, and alphabetize your DVD’s? Same concept here! By completing the task first thing in the morning, you accomplish two things; a) you feel like you rock the whole productivity game, and b) you feel super fired up to move on to the next task.
5. Batch Your Tasks- I feel like this is very important for me and other veterinary managers because we have so many irons in the fire. Basically to batch your tasks, means to group tasks and activities together that are similar. For example, I will receive invoices, reconcile statements, adjust hospital usage all within the same block of time. Then, I will switch to my marketing hat and plan a social media calendar, work on a block of scheduled posts, and respond to messages or comments. I try to group similar tasks together into one larger chunk of time to make sure it is as effective as possible.
6. Develop a Routine- I develop a weekly and monthly routine so that generally I am working at the same tasks at the same time of week or month. For example, I order diets on Monday, and a general order of hospital supplies and drugs on Tuesday and Friday. Monthly, I reconcile statements to first week of the month (also as needed), plan the next months social media and marketing plan on the third week of the month. A routine helps to improve my focus, expectations, and helps me plan my time easier.
7. Break Large Projects into Smaller Steps- This is where my color coded white board comes into play. If I have a large project I am working on, or a new technology I am implementing into the hospital; I break everything up into phases.
So for example, phase 1 will include planning, discussion of XYZ, and steps A, B, and C will need to happen. Then, I move into phase 2, and create a similar outline. I find this really helpful when I have a lot of really large, intermingled projects.
8. Remove Distractions- Although this has been said many times, just try and remove the distractions. Close your door, play some music, put your phone on silent, do what needs to be done to put forth 100% effort into your task at hand. I am so much more efficient and engaged if I have the world turned off, and I am just putting everything into my work. I know it’s hard when you are running a hospital full of people and animals, but empower your staff to be self sufficient in solving problems, and delegate what is below your pay grade so you can focus on your best work!
9. Take Care of Yourself- Throughout the day, I make sure and have little blocks of time (even just 5 minutes) to do nothing, decompress, have a hot cup of tea or snack, and just make sure I am taken care of. Learning this skill is hard for me, but I have realized how important it is to have my mind clear and centered to remain focused, energetic, and motivated for the remainder of the day. It’s hard to do your best work when you are overwhelmed and burnt out! Take care of yourself first!
10. You do You! It’s easy for me to say what works best for me, but everyone is different. We have different personalities, different goals, and different drives. It’s important to find what is best for YOU and stick to that. There are a gazillion organizational tools, planning apps, paper journals, planners, and calendars, so you can focus on your best work!
Remember: We DO our best, so you can BE your best!