Time management tips

Life as practice manager is tough, with a growing workload and competing priorities and pressures. As we enter 2019, chartered occupational psychologist Emma Donaldson-Feilder offers some useful advice on how more effectively managing your time can help you feel more relaxed, focused and in control

“Work out who you want to be, your priorities in life, and what you want to achieve in your career or personal life,” says Emma. “This is then the guiding principle for how you spend your time, and how you manage it.”

Once you have worked out the big picture, you can then identify some short-term and medium-term goals. “Knowing your goals will help you plan better and focus on the things that will help you achieve them,” Emma says.

Make a list

To-do lists are a good way to stay organised. “Try it and see what works best for you,” says Emma.

She prefers to keep a single to-do list, to avoid losing track of multiple lists. “Keeping a list will help you work out your priorities and timings. It can help you put off the non-urgent tasks.”

Make sure you keep your list somewhere accessible. If you always have your ‘phone, for example, keep it on your ‘phone.

Focus on results

Good time management at work means doing high-quality work – not high-quantity. Emma advises concentrating, not on how busy you are, but on results.

“Spending more time on something doesn’t necessarily achieve more,” she says. “Staying an extra hour at work at the end of the day may not be the most effective way to manage your time.”

Spending more time on something doesn’t necessarily achieve more…

Have a lunch break

Lots of people work through their lunch break, but Emma says this can be counter-productive. “As a general rule, taking at least 30 minutes away from your desk will help you to be more effective in the afternoon,” she says.

“Go for a walk outdoors or, better still, do some exercise,” says Emma. “You’ll come back to your desk re-energised, with a new set of eyes and renewed focus.”

Planning your day with a midday break will also help you to break up your work into more manageable chunks.

Prioritise important tasks

Tasks can be grouped into four categories:

  1. urgent and important
  2. not urgent but important
  3. urgent but not important
  4. neither urgent nor important

People who manage their time well concentrate on ‘not urgent but important’ activities; in this way, they lower the chances of activities ever becoming ‘urgent and important’.

“The aim is to learn how to become better at reducing the number of urgent and important tasks. Having to deal with too many urgent tasks can be stressful,” says Emma.

Practise the ‘4 Ds’

One study found that one-in-three office workers suffers from email stress. Making a decision the first time you open an email is crucial for good time management. Emma advises practising the ‘4 Ds’ as a way of dealing effectively with emails:

  1. Delete: you can probably delete half the emails you get immediately.
  2. Do: if the email is urgent or can be completed quickly.
  3. Delegate: if the email can be better dealt with by someone else.
  4. Defer: set aside time later to spend on emails that will take longer to deal with.

This article first appeared on the NHS Choices website. You can access it at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/time-management-tips/.

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