Your handy Internet dictionary defines time management as “the ability to use one’s time effectively or productively, especially at work.” Seems pretty straightforward, right? Just schedule some time, prioritize your tasks, and be on your merry way. But as therapists—and leaders—how much of our time is truly ours to manage? We constantly feel the need to divide our attention between patients, employees, and our families. However, if we aren’t able to effectively manage this time, we could face some serious burnout. Don’t let it get to that point. Here are some ways to manage time and get your life back:
Do you constantly feel busy? And in the midst of all of this chaos, are you actually marking your to-dos off the neverending list? Maybe it feels like the harder you work on tasks, the less headway you make—and that’s for a scientific reason. Multitasking might seem like a force for getting sh** done, but as this Stanford study shows, “people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time.” That to-do list just got a lot longer.
That being said, electronics aren’t the only culprit to blame for attention loss. Multitasking—in any form—isn’t the ability to work on multiple tasks at once, but rather your brain’s process of switching between tasks at lightning-quick speeds. This NPR article explains that “researchers say they can actually see the brain struggling.” And a struggling brain is certainly less efficient. The moral of the story? Multitasking is hurting you, not helping you.
How do you stop multitasking in its tracks? Organize not only your tasks, but your days in which you complete them. Each work day should have a specific focus—including free time. For example, you can focus on treating your patients only certain days per week (like Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). That might make for a few packed days, but it’s more valuable to both you and the patient to have your attention focused solely on treatment. The other days should focus only on administrative work (or administrative and marketing). That way you don’t have to worry about caring for patients while doing something administrative, like balancing the books. When you eliminate the distractions, you’re more productive in completing the task at hand.
Declutter the Tasks
Stop taking on too much
This Harvard Business Review article explains why you shouldn’t take on too much work: “Delegation benefits managers, direct reports, and organizations. Yet it remains one of the most underutilized and underdeveloped management capabilities.” Ouch. I understand wanting to have your hands in all aspects of your practice—I’m often guilty of this time management sin—but I’ve learned that taking on too much diminishes productivity all around. It’s time to stop hoarding your work; trust me, it will only cause more stress. Plus, if you don’t delegate work to your team, they’ll feel like you don’t trust them to get the job done. The less work you delegate, the less your team will feel trusted. And pretty soon those feelings will snowball into a drop in employee satisfaction. Talk about lost productivity.
Furthermore, if you can’t delegate and—declutter—your own task list, the items might not even get done, or they’ll get done at a much slower pace than they would have if you had assigned them to someone else on your team in the first place. Don’t be afraid to reassign work to the appropriately trained employee, there will always be plenty of tasks for you as a leader to accomplish.
How do you start to declutter that task list? Nail down what activities you aren’t great at. That might take some time, and that’s okay. With training, your staff should be able to take on whatever you delegate. Another way to determine what tasks to reassign is by looking at what tasks you truly enjoy completing and the ones you’re especially good at. You might even find you’re passionate about a few things. Those are the good ones—the tasks you should take on. The others you can reassign. My four-year-old daughter will tell you that Frozen got it right: “Let it go.”
Once you’ve let go of all of the “extras,” you’ll have more time to explore new business opportunities. Your employees will feel valued and trusted, and they’ll be able to accomplish more themselves with the right guidance. If you find the decluttering process overwhelming, you simply need to find somewhere to start. Identify one task you’d like to declutter. Then, create one actionable step, and act on it. You’ll be clutter-free in no time; you just need to start the process.
Build a Plan
Stop ignoring structure
Who you hire and how you structure your team affect more than your bottom line. Without a proper staff structure in place, you could face astounding turnover, decreased patient satisfaction, noncompliance, and even potential legal ramifications. You have to be able to follow a process when it comes to building—and retaining—your staff. Curious about how much that hasty hire might cost you? A CareerBuilder survey revealed that, “27 percent of U.S. employers reported a single bad hire cost more than $50,000.” Ouch. That doesn’t even quantify the lost productivity, lost time spent recruiting, training, and the negative effects on employee morale.
Part of establishing a productive staff structure—other than hiring—includes appropriately assigning tasks. Each job role should have clear guidelines and allow for each employee to do his or her job without too many extraneous tasks that aren’t part of their role (e.g., PTs getting bogged down with administrative work when you have a full-time front office staff).
Start a system
How do you structure a team? When it comes to hiring, it’s crucial to have a process. Hiring willy-nilly will land you with lost productivity in no time. Start by hiring A players through your hiring process. Furthermore, be clear and descriptive about your expectations for the person who will fill the role. And don’t forget to nail down exactly what you’re looking for in a candidate before you even start the search.
I mentioned hiring A players for a successful structure. However, hiring is only half of the battle. Great employees love expectations, transparency, and knowing what’s expected of them. They want to know the practice’s future and what systems are in place to achieve company goals. To help your staff succeed, map out the job roles, goals, and supervisors. Clarity is key. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure you involve your awesome employees during the hiring process for new staff members. Their opinions matters, and it’s likely they know the team’s needs well enough to help you form an educated opinion.
Another way to waste time? Hope that your new employees will be quick enough to start the job without a formal training period. Hope is not a strategy. This mentality is sure to be a timesuck. No matter how bright the employee, you need to have established training to get things moving efficiently from day one. Once your staff is trained, so much pressure is lifted from your shoulders, allowing you even more time to do what you do best—lead the team.
Stop checking out
According to this Inc. article, “Amazing Bosses know how to instill a deep sense of personal satisfaction and accomplishment in individual team members.” An amazing boss is not a boss that takes laissez faire to the next level. A hands-off management approach is one thing, but checking out of your role as leader will cost you time and money. The small things that are swept under the rug will spiral into larger issues, and you could be left without a team to help you pick up the pieces. A boss that appears to be “checked out” might actually be suffering from overwork, failing to meet his or her own goals, or even struggling with being liked by his or her team. Don’t let this happen to you. Go back to decluttering your tasks, and help your staff take on some of your burdens so you have the time to focus on being an amazing boss.
Start getting involved
So how do you check back in? Set goals for yourself and your employees. Take charge of defining responsibilities, set clear expectations, and communicate business goals. In order to track team progress, put metrics in place and have employees follow a structure. That way you can better evaluate performance and hold people accountable. In short, empower your team: Allow them to make mistakes and embrace learning opportunities.
When you’re present in your role, you have the ability to be proactive. You don’t have to be reactive to every shift, causing a panic amongst your staff. This kind of stress will only hinder your time management attempts. When you declutter and allow your employees opportunities, you’re proactively creating your own dream team. The more you mentor, coach, and build relationships with your team, the more your staff will want to do the same. And your goal as a leader is the success of your team, and that requires time and intention.
As it turns out, time management isn’t only about schedules and “using your time wisely.” It’s how you do business, how you organize yourself, and how intentional you are with leading your team. To get back time, sometimes you have to give it. I hope these tips will help you stay refreshed and find time to beat the burnout.