Time management masterclass: Keeping on track
In her final article, NHS performance coach Sarah Christie gives her tips on ensuring you sustain your new-found organisation skills
The challenge of effective time management is maintaining the discipline after the initial euphoria of becoming organised passes. I thought it would be a useful way of ending this series if I summarise the key points of keeping yourself organised, so that if you wander off track, which will happen from time to time, you can rectify the situation quickly.
First things first
If you become overwhelmed again by too many commitments or a burgeoning workload, remember to go back to basics.
Make sure your long term goals are visible, either on your desk, on the wall (as mine are) or in your wallet. If you have lost the habit of setting monthly and weekly goals, do that first. You have to re-discover your motivation and writing down what needs to be achieved in the short and longer term will achieve this. Then return to the positive weekly habit of planning your week. Sit down on a Sunday evening or Monday morning and note all your regular meetings and commitments in your diary.
Next use the priorities matrix and schedule all urgent and important tasks, taking care to ensure that important means the task can only be done by you and that by urgent, it really has to be done today or at the very latest, tomorrow.
Remember that tasks which are urgent but not important are those which are urgent for other people and high on their agenda, but are not important in relation to your goals. Do not make these your top priority or even your second priority! If possible, delegate these tasks to someone else or put them to the bottom of your list.
If a task is important for you but not urgent, it means it can be planned for later in the week or month and immediately you move effortlessly away from crisis management.
When you are scheduling tasks into your week, leave gaps of time within each day for the unexpected crisis or interruption. Do not cram your day with activities or you will overwhelm yourself and set yourself up for failure. When you are new to time management techniques you will probably under estimate the time it takes for you to achieve a task. So until you have a better gauge, double the time you think it will take you.
Eliminate crisis management
Remember that your ongoing ideal is to have important but not urgent activities. You want to plan ahead as much as possible in order to manage your workload effectively and still be productive. You will also be less stressed and perceived by your colleagues and patients alike, as organised and calm. Strangely, being organised is often linked to a perception of being competent in other people's eyes, so it is essential to get this right.
Ensure that your priority tasks are the ones that help you move you closer to your goals.
Click here to find out more!The power of assertiveness.
In an ideal world, you want to focus only on the tasks which are important to you and may or may not be urgent. If you are doing well, the urgent tasks will have been reduced to a minimum, leaving the way clear for you to plan your priorities each week, without anxiety.
To maintain this optimum state you must delegate all other tasks and learn to say no when people ask you for favours. Only say yes if you really do have time in your day and can help them. Do not say yes because you feel cornered.
Be truthful in your statements and explain politely why you cannot help someone. Offer to do so on another occasion, if that is appropriate and you have room in your diary. Show someone your schedule if they persist in trying to persuade you. Maintain good eye contact and use open body language and smile while making your refusal.
If you need to delegate to colleagues, think of it in terms of asking for support, but we wary of making requests such as, ‘Can you do me a favour?'
If you struggle to trust someone, consider that they may do it better than you or you may be developing new skills in a junior.
If you think it takes too long to delegate a task, it will only take longer the first time. So set up a proper meeting where you can explain the end result, give a deadline and discuss the steps involved or show them what to do.
If you need to be more assertive with talkative patients, remember to manage their expectations by controlling the appointment. Hone your listening skills so that you understand the key problem and deal with it. Maintain good eye contact, smile and nod, so that while your patient is with you, they feel care for and valued. Then when the appointment is over, stand up and show them the door, smiling warmly as they leave your consulting room. If necessary, explain to them that it is possible to book double appointments if they need more of your time. Do not feel guilty. You can be very effective in 10 minutes provided you listen attentively and ask good questions.
As you get more done, your stress levels will reduce; you will spend more time at home with the family or friends; you will have more time for hobbies and best of all your mind will be at peace and not constantly nagging you about unachieved tasks.
You can organise yourself to make the most of the time available in your working day and the benefits far outweigh the effort. Good luck!
Sarah Christie is an author and performance coach who leads management and leadership programmes for clinicians and non-medical managers. Her website is www.thenhscoach.co.uk