Time Management Tips for the Busiest Time of Year

As we swing into the holiday season amidst an ongoing global pandemic, Cathy MacLean, MD, CCFP, FCFP, MBA shares tips and tricks for time management during the busiest part of the year.

One of my most embarrassing moments in a workshop about time management was to confess I owned the worthwhile book First Things First by Stephen Covey, even though I never had the time to read it. Here are some lessons learned throughout my career as a family physician:

1. Clinically, do today’s work today. Finish your tasks, consults, and notes as you go, avoiding a big pile-up later.

2. “Book it, or it won’t get done”. Avoid missed meetings and deadlines by booking everything in the calendar platform of your choice, including reading, writing, research, meetings, calls, travel, walking breaks, and even phone calls to mom.

3. Work when it calls to you. If it brings you joy, enjoy your work, and don’t beat yourself up for working when you want to work.

4. Create action-oriented meetings. By the end of every meeting, know who is going to do what and by when, and then schedule the time to get things done – see lesson #2.

5. Acknowledge that saying “yes” to something means “no” to something else. Move your life, job, and project in the direction you want it to go, by saying yes to the things that are important to you while managing your time effectively.

6. Take inventory of your responsibilities. Talk with others to ensure you have dedicated time to accomplish your responsibilities if your plate is becoming unmanageable.

7. Delegate, delegate, delegate. Do work geared toward your training and expertise, and let others work to the top of their scope. Whether it’s looping in a clinical pharmacist, allowing your administrative team to do the scheduling, or allowing your team of residents to take ownership of their work, share the load with your team.

8. Schedule “you” time. Whether catching up on sleep, working from home, taking a walk, collecting deliverables, or working on larger projects, “you time” is yours to do with what you wish.

9. Enroll in project management classes. Learn all kinds of efficient and effective ways to accomplish projects, allowing you to learn new ways to best utilize your time.

10. Lists are your friend. Create a visual reminder using lists until a project is complete. When finished remove the task from your list with a well-deserved sense of accomplishment.

11. Utilize the time you have efficiently. Work on your laptop or accomplish other tasks during a time you otherwise might not use to your benefit, such as when traveling.

12. Take full advantage of computer technology. Use your computer software to its fullest functionality. Outlook, Google Drive, and other cloud-based software help you manage emails, share documents, and work more efficiently.

13. Early mornings can be valuable. Start your day early to ensure the day runs smoothly, taking the time to have everything ready to go for patients in advance of their visit, allows you to focus on patient care.

14. Create clinical kits. Be prepared for clinic visits, contraceptive counselling, asthma care, COPD management and more with custom supply boxes filled with your favorite tools and tricks.

15. Hire contractors. Free up time otherwise spent with house-related chores by hiring students, residents, and other part-time workers for errands and house-related tasks.

16. Set realistic deadlines. Avoid disappointing yourself and others by measuring and managing your time proactively, so you can meet deadlines easily.

Feel free to share your own time management tools and tricks in the comments section below.

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