Take Time to Make Time

February 14, 2008
Judy Capko

Managers and doctors alike are plagued with the frustration of never having enough time.

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. Is your practice running like Camp Run-a-Muck, where everyone is busy but no one seems to accomplish what needs to be done? If so, put structures in place to help you become organized.

  • 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 dysfunction and always being “under the gun” with a stack of incomplete work left on your desk at the end of every day. Very stressful!

  • 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.

  • Learn to 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! It’s time to offload these time-drains, but the trick is to 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. If you are too much in the background, your staff may not take you seriously when you are assigning responsibilities to them.

  • 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.

Her focus is practice operations and strategic planning with emphasis on patient-centered strategies and valuing staff’s contributions. She is a popular speaker at both national and regional conferences. Judy is the owner of Capko & Company, www.capko.com, based in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and she can be reached at 805 499 9203 or judy@capko.com.