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Why Time Management Is Your Career Lifeline

A woman holding a clock over her face representing time management.

One of the factors that contributes to stress and ultimately burnout, is having too much to do in too little time. However, many young vets are complicit in their own downfall by having little or no time management strategies in place to help them succeed. In this post, I explore some strategies to help create time and reduce stress. Making a day, week, and month in practice much more bearable. One of the best things about being a master of time management is just how much extra time it is possible to create in your day. I’m breaking this post into two clear sections.

In the first section, I want to focus on developing the quality of the time you spend on this planet. And then I’ll move on to section two, where we will cover the specific in-practice strategies to help you succeed.

When it comes to time – quality counts as much as quantity

Let’s begin by identifying the time bandits that rob you of time and positivity. There are four riders of the apocalypse as far as time and positive energy go:

  1. Television – it's called the “idiot box” with good reason. In the US the average person spends almost 300 minutes glued to the box in some way or other. When I switched off my TV back in 2009, I gained an extra month every year to be able to work on fun and creative stuff rather than dance to someone else tune.

  2. The News – is a particularly destructive way of ruining any positive vibe or energy you might have. The daily parade of humans behaving at their worst is nothing short of a full-scale assault on your belief in humankind. Moreover, it’s entirely purposefully done. Nothing sells like bad news after all. Don’t be a pawn in this game. The world is a fantastic place full of many, many incredible people and things. It’s your call what you want to be influenced by, but my advice is to stop watching it altogether. If you must, glance at the headlines and move on if no meteors are heading for your home!

  3. Your Email Inbox – email is a beastly time bandit and not only destroys time by adding other people’s work to your to-do list. But, it frequently hijacks your emotions too. Limit your exposure to a couple of sessions at set times per day.

  4. Social Media – so let me ask you a question. How often do you feel awesome after scrolling through someone else’s Facebook or Instagram feed? If you’re like me, then the answer is almost never. We are all just looking at someone’s filtered life. It’s a personal propaganda war we fight against each other, and it’s just not healthy. Limit your time to groups and people who make you feel good. (Like So You’re A Vet…Now What? & The VetX Graduate Community!) And limit your time altogether. There is just no doubt that we are harming our minds by spending endless hours randomly chasing around Mark Zuckerberg’s digital crackden – aka Facebook.

By minimizing these four life-sucking activities, you will create masses more time and help eliminate some of the significant causes of anxiety in your life. By taking the steps above – I was able to reclaim as many as two hours per day and help create a better headspace to do good creative work.

How to maximize your productivity in practice

Ok, so having created a huge amount of time in your life generally, and improved your happiness, how can you maximize your productivity in practice? Today we’re going to talk about how to improve our efficiency. Here are some techniques I use each day.

  1. Make a To-Do List The Previous Day – preferably with something in the number one position linked to a long-term objective. Doing this will avoid the “headless chickens” experience and help to reduce the feeling of not being in control.

  2. Play Tetris – no not the 80s smash game, but think about the smartest way to get your day done effectively. If you have three cases, say a skin workup, a set of X-rays under sedation, plus a surgical or dental case, then why not give the surgical case a sub-cut premed and get on with the skin workup and/or the X-rays while the meds take effect on the first case?

  3. Get Focused – when you have an overarching medium-term goal then make some time each day to work on it. If your plan is to be a dentist, then make sure you are doing a dental each day – many of your colleagues will happily swap a dental for something that is not on your skills list.

  4. Build ‘Fire Breaks‘ – If I’m working a morning shift then I like to set aside my last hour for paperwork like billing or client callbacks. If I’m on a late shift where I’m doing evening consults, then I’ll be setting aside the last hour before these start for the same stuff. This helps to avoid your having to go home late every night.

  5. Learn To Say No With Grace - Linked to the above is the ability to say no when you simply don’t have the bandwidth. But how do you do this without been seen as a slacker or an ass? The answer is to have some “nice nos” in your back pocket. a) The first “nice no” is to say, ”I can’t do that, but I can do this instead does that work?” In effect, you are trading down from the full task to a smaller version. I use this to good effect all the time, and it rarely annoys. It just gets you into a win-win negotiation. b) The second “nice no” is to say “ I can’t do that today, but I can do it at another time.” This is delaying until you can schedule it in at a more suitable time. It can be a great technique to use with clients when they have non-urgent issues to deal with.

c) The final “nice no”, is to say “I can’t do it, but have you considered Mary as another option?” This technique is appropriate to use when you either can’t do the thing asked of you because you do not have the skills. Or you are overloaded and a colleague is not; then it may be appropriate to hand the work elsewhere. But do always check this is OK with your colleague before pulling this card. Or you might cause problems.

So there you have it, five ways to use time more effectively and get those lunch breaks and home times happening more often than not.

Do you have some tips to share? We’d all love to read more in the comments below. Or feel free to submit your own article to us and we’ll review it for publication!

If you're a vet struggling with time management, or any other element of your career, and want to build a happier, healthier career in veterinary medicine, check out our 12-module 'So You're a Vet, Now What?' course:


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