Fight the time bandit: How medics can better manage schedules

You will become more focused, productive and less stressed after developing time management skills

Being in a 24/7/365 business such as EMS, you would think we had all the time in the world to get our leadership responsibilities completed. From payroll, to budgets, and meeting with employees, it seems we never get completed and always fall behind. If you’re like me, not knowing how we never have enough time, it was important to figure out how to get more of that precious resource back.

We have a time bandit in our midst, and we have to him from stealing our time. Going through the steps of problem solving allowed me to come up with some common pitfalls to my time management breakdown.

You hear it all the time: people professing their ability to multi-task. To be as productive as we can, we often use our "multitasking abilities" to get as much done as possible. So, we talk on the phone while responding to emails, or we talk to employees and work at our computer.

One of the things that surprised me in my research of multitasking was we can actually kill 20-40% of our productive time when we do more than one task at a time. It is in reality best to work on one task at a time, and focus all your attention on completing the task before moving on to the next.  

Below are a few suggestions to help maximize your productivity:

  • Plan your day in blocks of time. Set specific times for things like returning calls and answering emails.
  • Develop ways to improve your concentration. Focus on one thing at a time.
  • Turn off alerts when emails, texts and calls come in.

Filling the Plate
We have all had too much on our plates from time to time. As leaders, not saying no to others can actually hurt us more in the long run. In the rush to complete all our projects, tasks and commitments, something has to give — and it’s usually productivity. We lose time, we cut corners, and our projects are not completed to the best of our ability.

As we try to take on as much as we can, we now develop a reputation of someone who takes on too much and does not produce great outcomes.

What’s the best way to deal with not developing a full plate?

  • Learn your capabilities of handling multiple projects.
  • Understand the difference in saying yes to the person and saying no to the task.
  • Offer assistance once your plate is more manageable. Saying that you can’t help right now, but maybe in a few days is not a bad compromise.

Keep a To-Do List
If you are like me, sometimes it feels like you're always forgetting something. One of the tools to assist me in keeping things in the forefront is utilizing a to-do list. With the use of smart phones, there are so many great apps to assist us in keeping our tasks inline.

Here are a couple ideas on using to-do lists:

  • Keep a list of all task to complete.
  • If they are large tasks, break them down into stages.
  • Develop a system of prioritizing.

Failing to Prioritize
This is one of the more essential skills a leader must develop to make the best use of time. When you prioritize your tasks, it truly expands your understanding of what needs to be completed. This really comes in handy when time is limited.  As you develop in your time management skills, take a look at the different prioritization tools out there and choose the best one to fit your style. A few prioritization tools include:

  • The Urgent/Important Matrix
  • Pareto Analysis
  • Grid Analysis
  • The Boston Matrix

I’ve said for years that procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday. Basically procrastination is putting off tasks for later what we should be doing right now. If you ever find the secret potion to stop procrastination, please share it with the rest of us!

In the meantime, four ways to help manage procrastination are:

  • Determine why you are avoiding
  • Set goals
  • Get rid of distractions
  • Make time for breaks

We have identified a few ways to better manage precious time. This is a tough skill to develop and utilize. Once you recognize how time management affects your productivity, you will see yourself becoming more focused, productive, and less stressed. 

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