Medicine has a unique and random rhythm. The unpredictability of patient needs makes it challenging to maintain a regular schedule, primarily because so many timelines must intersect simultaneously in order to provide necessary care in a timely fashion. Your agenda must be firm enough to function effectively while being flexible enough to jibe with the schedules of so many other stakeholders, including patients, staff, hospitals, and ancillary care providers. This is no easy feat.
Inefficiency creates both financial and emotional repercussions for you, the people you work with, and the patients you serve. Being late, disorganized, and frenzied means you're always behind the eight ball, constantly feeling the need to apologize or make up for lost time. This kind of response trickles down in the form of stress, which ultimately has a negative impact on everyone. And knowing that you're lagging behind fiscally only adds to the sense of anxiety.
Here are six actions to help you stay one step ahead of the time thieves in your practice:
1. Track your exasperation level.
Start taking note of when you feel the most overwhelmed. Are Fridays more stressful than Mondays? Does your frustration peak midday when you realize there's no hope of catching up? Is there a particular week every month that's more demanding? Paying attention to these cycles can be the first step in adjusting your habits. Once you have a clear idea of what triggers your tardiness you can take an intellectual approach to exploring remedies. If you find that you're increasingly running behind as the day progresses, for example, you may need to recalibrate your calendar by starting earlier in the day or seeing fewer patients.
2. Prepare for productivity.
Change takes time and effort, which is why it's advisable to be patient with yourself and others when exploring efficiency options. It's important to be able to correct course along the way, so if one strategy doesn't work you can institute others. By setting goals and establishing landmarks you'll be better able to assess your progress. If you implement a small change, like adding a time buffer of 3 to5 minutes between appointments, take note of how it enhances or detracts from your daily productivity. That way you can objectively measure your success and prepare for additional amendments.