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Going Home On Time by Eliminating Distractions

Feb 15, 2024

A day in the clinic for me can be unpredictable. Unexpected things always happen. In the not too distant past, there were days when I was in the exam room with a patient, the office line would ring for me to answer a doctor’s call, my cell phone would ring by another doctor looking for me, and a nurse would call me to evaluate a patient in the treatment room – all at the same time.

It was easy for me to feel overwhelmed and flustered. There were times that I would rather check email than to make a patient phone call. I was not really into checking social media. Imagine if I was, that would add another layer of distraction to the midst of a hectic day.

All these unplanned events and interruptions add minutes to your day. The end result is that you are going home later than expected. If you want to go home on time with your work done, one important thing is to eliminate distractions.

Before we discuss the strategies to get rid of distractions, it is important to prime yourself to be at the optimal condition to face distractions.

Having a good night sleep helps you to be more awake and alert. It is also easier to stay focused. Prioritize sleep is important for your well-being.

Plan for distractions to come knock at your door unexpectedly at any time, and do not yield to them. You get to decide what to do. When you expect that distractions are going to happen, you eliminate the surprise component, which itself is a distraction.

If you are a physician working in the outpatient setting, your office likely has at least some of these staff members: front desk staff, medical assistants, nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Device a protocol or a standard to let all your staff know when it is appropriate to interrupt you while you are seeing a patient, and when to take a message or send a phone call to the nurse. This will decrease the number of times you are being interrupted in the day.

Assign times in the day to check secure messages and emails. Do them in blocks instead of checking one message at a time. This will decrease your switching from one task to another multiple times. Each time you switch tasks, you are adding seconds to your work day. Imagine if you switch tasks 50 times, how many minutes are wasted? Batching similar things to do in time blocks is more efficient.

Minimize your own distractions. This is helpful when you have increased awareness of your thoughts. When you notice that your mind is wandering off, bring it back to your task at hand. Keep your focus on doing one thing at a time.

When you have people interrupting you at the same time from different directions, take a deep breath. It is easy to get overwhelmed, and it is a choice not to choose overwhelm. Believe that you can handle things and that you are in control. Tackle one thing at a time.

Prioritize. When you are bombarded with five different things at the same time, analyze and determine which task to do first. As multitasking is not possible in reality, tackle one thing at a time.

Set goals. Determine the immediate or short-term goals. It may be to take care of that seriously ill patient by counseling the family and putting in chemotherapy orders. The next most important goal may be to keep your patient encounters timely and meaningful.

Delegate whenever you can. Delegation minimizes distractions and you are optimizing team work. It also eases your burden of doing it all.

A typical clinical day for physicians may be very unpredictable. There are always going to be surprises. There are always going to be interruptions to distract you externally. You may create your own distractions by letting your mind wander if you are not intentional to stay focused. A good night’s sleep helps you to stay focused and to concentrate better. You can choose not to be overwhelmed when things are coming at you all at once. Tackle one thing at a time. Delegate. Pause to refocus. You will be surprised how many minutes you get to save in a day.

Are you ready to stop feeling stressed and overwhelmed? Are you ready to have more time to do what you want?


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