An eight-hour work day is 480 minutes long. That sounds like a lot, but how often have you looked up from your desk or workstation, feeling as though you’ve accomplished about 10% of what you set out to do in a morning, only to find that it’s nearly time to break for lunch. When you’re busy (and who isn’t?), time does indeed seem to fly by. If you’d like to accomplish more each week, try to think in terms of what you can accomplish right now – today, in the next hour, over the next 15 minutes, or even in tiny 3-5 minute blocks. Here are five ideas to help you make the most of each day by making every minute count.
1. Use lists.
This tried and true time management technique really does work. Each Monday, make a list of all the important tasks and goals you intend to accomplish during the week. First thing each morning, make a separate list (using your weekly list as a guide) that includes what you will do that day. Prioritize the list by giving each item a 1-2-3 or A-B-C ranking, and consider the value of doing the most challenging or least pleasant item on the list first. A daily list is a wonderful tool to reference when you slip into “overwhelm mode” (you know . . . that feeling of “I have so much to do, I don’t even know what to tackle next”).
2. Keep a “quickie” basket.
This is where you toss anything that needs to be done that can be taken care of in less than five minutes – phone calls to return, something to look up online, an order to place, a brochure to skim, or a few pieces of mail to sort through. Grab something from the quickie basket any time you have a couple of spare minutes. Over the course of the day, you’ll be happily surprised to discover how many little things you can get out of the way between larger tasks.
3. Maintain a tidy work area.
Take five minutes each morning to organize your workspace, and repeat the process around mid-day. This simple act will help you avoid wasting valuable minutes looking for your daily list, charts, forms, and supplies needed to do your job.
4. Bounce back from interruptions.
Being pulled away from what you’re focused on to answer questions, take phone calls, and assist colleagues is all part of a normal work day. The goal is not to avoid interruptions, but to bounce back and regain focus quickly when the intervening task is complete. No magic bullet here – just observe yourself and practice mastering the quick transition until it becomes a habit.
5. Socialize strategically.
A medical practice is a professional environment where a great deal is accomplished each day. And, like any workplace, it’s also a social environment. If you couldn’t enjoy a little friendly banter with co-workers off and on throughout the day, going to the office would be drudgery. That said, too much socializing can become a time drain. Make a pact with everyone in the office that it’s okay to say (and not hurtful to hear), “I’d love to visit, but I have to get this done right now.”