Improve Your Time Management as a Nurse Practitioner
Can you really manage time? If you think about it, time will pass through the same continuum regardless of what we do with it, right? According to Albert Einstein, the rate at which time passes is relative to your frame of reference.
So, while we refer to time management strategies, principles, or hacks, what we’re really talking about is how to manage our priorities, systems, and processes to make better use of our time. That’s exactly what we’ll be reviewing in this article and we’ll be referring to time management and priority management interchangeably.
As a nurse practitioner, there are many people, factors, and tasks, vying for your time. Allocating your time appropriately is a key factor to thriving personally and professionally.
The first step to managing your time and priorities is to take inventory of how you spend your time as a nurse practitioner. Here’s a list of what may go on during a typical work week:
lab review/call backs
charting at home and in office
interpersonal time/breaks/chit chat
With this in mind, write out how much time you spend completing these tasks or specify the times during the day. It’s quite an eye-opening exercise. You realize the actual time involved in certain tasks, where you tend to procrastinate, and where those time-suck traps really are.
To know where you’re going, you must first figure out where you are.
Next, you need to determine the important versus the urgent. Important tasks are activities that, when completed, move you toward meeting your goals. What are your daily and weekly goals?
For example, leave work on time to pick up the kids and eat a home-cooked meal. Or catch that cycling or barre class to take steps to better your health. Maybe you want to close out charts before leaving work, so you can be fully focused on time with loved ones.
There is an emotional connection to how we spend time.
Urgent tasks are those activities needing immediate attention. These are usually directed toward someone else's goals.
To determine how to prioritize all the to-dos in your clinical day that you listed above, ask yourself these 4 questions.
What do I have to do right now?
These are both important and urgent. They should have the highest priority as leaving these tasks undone or delaying will have negative consequences. Typically, these tasks can be done quickly or are part of larger goal.
What can I put off and do later?
These are important but not urgent. Tasks that can be deferred and often times are for the sheer fact that these tasks that take the most time. As precaution, procrastinating leads to overwhelm from an unbalanced workload. To prevent overwhelm and chaos, schedule a date and time for these tasks to be completed.
What can I delegate?
These are tasks are urgent but not important. These are responsibilities that need to be carried out but don’t need your presence or involvement for results. Assign these tasks to a team member has the access and skills necessary to complete the work.
What can you ditch?
These tasks are neither urgent nor important. You no longer need to do or should be doing these tasks anymore. Engaging in these tasks offer little value for the work involved and should be remove from your to do list.
Now, divide and conquer.
Tips for the important but not urgent.
If you find this section is heavier than other categories, you're not alone. The key is to rank the tasks by priority, 1-10, 1 being the most important.
Ask yourself is there a deadline or is it blocking other work. If so, these tasks should move to top of the list.
Focus on the top 3 tasks and do them early in your day. Or another strategy is to do the most unwanted task first and give yourself 15 minutes to work on it then take a break.
If you want a deeper dive on having better time management in your work day, download my free Essentials to Efficiency Guide. You can take actionable steps to doing your work well at work and then working on you and whatever you like outside of work.