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Five Ways Physicians Can Better Manage Time


Physicians can often be pulled in too many directions. Developing strategies to better manage time is one solution.

It's a myth to believe technology saves time - it can actually compete for your time and sometimes even win out. Getting back to basics may be the best solution to managing your time better. These five steps can put you back in the driver's seat and help you gain control.

Looking for more ways to improve your career and your practice? Join us
May 2 & 3 in Newport Beach, Calif., for Practice Rx, a new conference for physicians and office administrators.

1. Manage interruptions better

Not all interruptions are urgent, but some actually make sense. For example, if you have been playing telephone tag for several days and finally there's a chance to connect, do so. However, get to the point. Don't spend a lot of time dancing around the topic or discussing a multitude of other issues. Let the caller know how much time you have to dedicate to the call. For example, say something like, "Jonathan, I am so glad we finally connected. I only have five minutes, but want to hear what you have to say." Now you've set the stage for a successful and expedient conversation.

2. Contain the mobile-phone monster

It is easy to be on the cell phone nonstop. Develop some basic phone etiquette, so that you are clear about when it makes sense to take a call. If you don't answer and it's important, the caller will leave a message. And use texting as an alternative - it saves time, is direct to the point, and provides an electronic record of the conversation, should you need to reference it at a later date.

As a side note, remember, texting and talking on the phone should not be happening when you are engaged in a conversation or meeting with other people. If you must take a call or respond to a text, excuse yourself, leave the area, and make a quick return with an apology.

3. Learn the art of saying "no"

You can't make the most of your time if you are having difficulty managing your work schedule - especially if you keep taking on more work. It's not about making an excuse when the boss or a colleague asks you to help out with a project. Rather, you are simply communicating the facts. If your boss asks for help, tell her that you are willing to help out, but your time is limited and something else will have to give. Realistically, you are letting her know that your time is finite: if the project can wait until you can take care of other urgent matters, or if your work can be reassigned to someone else, then you will help. Being honest can provide everyone on your team an accurate understanding of your work load.

4. Delegate

People often take on tasks that they can do quickly by themselves. However, that isn't always the most efficient use of your time. And if you take on too much, tasks will stack up until they become impossible to get to. Delegating tasks doesn't mean you will be delegating the responsibility - but it will free you up, improving efficiency and potentially providing someone else with growth and challenge.

Effective delegation requires that you:

• Identify who has the necessary skill and time to do the task;

• Obtain a verbal commitment to take on the task;

• Establish a time frame to get the task accomplished;

• Offer to provide support if the person stumbles along the way;

• Hold the person accountable to meet the deadline; and

• Say thank you for a job well done.

5. Know when to ask for help

If your workload seems unmanageable, then it's possible that unrealistic expectations are playing a role. It may be time to pull the plug. First do a self-analysis to be sure your difficulties are not due to your own poor work habits, procrastination, or not using available technology to accomplish more. Estimate how much time is needed to "catch up," and ask yourself whether the work can be accomplished in the time you have to give. If not, ask for a meeting with your immediate supervisor, and come to it armed with information that supports the rationale that some of your work needs to be reassigned or you need additional help to resolve the backlog.

Judy Capko is the founder of Capko & Morgan, a healthcare consulting firm. She is located in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Judy is the author of "Secrets of the Best-Run Practices," "Take Back Time," and coauthor of "The Patient-Centered Payoff." Capko is a national healthcare speaker may reached at judy@capko.com

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