Physicians Practice Pearls: Manage to Make Time

June 1, 2008
Judy Capko

Is your practice operating like Camp Run-a-Muck, where everyone is busy but little gets done? Maybe it’s time for some time management skills.


Managers and doctors alike are plagued with the frustration of never having enough time. But time is indeed money, and when you use it poorly it costs you plenty! So how do you make the most of your time?

  • Get organized. Do you have procedures and policies in place to help you stay on top of the daily goings-on? A streamlined office is a productive - and calm - office.

  • Be realistic. Perhaps you are expecting too much from too few resources. If you are double-booking, or your staff is working overtime, you simply aren’t factoring in what can realistically be accomplished in a single day. This leads to always being “under the gun” with a stack of incomplete work left on your desk at the end of every day.

  • Conduct a simple time study to see where you really spend your time, and find out what derails you from meeting your objectives. Intervene to remove (or at a minimum, reduce) the top items that sabotage your day.

  • Work in real time. In other words, get today’s work done today. By adding a reasonable dose of discipline to help you manage the time you do have, you can build a more realistic schedule.

Note that being more disciplined about time requires you to take control. Eliminate unnecessary interruptions that steal your time. Provide staff with formal training to do their job right. Then they will learn to solve their own problems because they have the skills to do so, and they’ll only turn to you when they need further instruction, support, or approval.

  • Delegate tasks. If you are doing work that doesn’t require your expertise, stop! Delegate these time-drains, but do it right. This means identifying who is the best person to do the job. Then be specific about what you want her to accomplish, spelling out the task’s objective and the desired outcome.

  • Establish a deadline and get feedback to ensure that your staffer understands what needs to be done, when it needs to be completed, and if she is committed to meeting your deadline. Hold the staffer accountable for the deadline, concurrently providing support as well as reminding her of your expectations as the deadline approaches.

  • Focus on quality. Errors are costly, and correcting them eats into valuable time. When an error occurs, make sure your staffer understands how it happened, and help her build in procedural fail-safes to avoid repeating the same mistake.

  • Eliminate redundancies, that is, steps in a process that are repetitive or not applicable and that can safely be eliminated. Too often we get stuck doing things the same way, every time. Consider taking a step back to see which tasks can be done more efficiently, with less time, less money, and a wiser use of your resources. This means drawing on the talents of your staff and using both your facility and its equipment effectively. Explore ways to automate processes to reduce variations and provide consistent, reliable outcomes that both improve efficiency and save time.

Judy Capko is a healthcare consultant, speaker, and author of the popular books “Secrets of the Best Run Practice” (2006) and “Take Back Time” (2008). Judy is the owner of Capko & Company,www.capko.com, and she can be reached at 805 499 9203 or judy@capko.com.

This article originally appeared in the June 2008 issue of Physicians Practice.