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Six Ways to Get Back Your Time

Apr 08, 2024

There is not enough time. The more you think about it, the more things there are to do. It seems endless. A study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine in 2022 found that primary care physicians needed 26.7 hours a day to provide the guideline-based care to patients. Many physicians also spend hours after work to make phone calls, fill out forms and finish their patient documentation.

While the system is overdue for a major overhaul, as individuals, we can change how we work to get some time back. It is always important to keep an open mind, to stay curious and to explore different possibilities.

The first thing is to prioritize. The more you think about what you need to do, the more there is to do. You can get more and more on your to-do list. Write down in advance, at least the day before, what you need to do. Set priorities – the most important and absolutely necessary things, the important things, the not-so-important things, so on and so forth. Do the most important things first. Give yourself a schedule. Preferably, use an hourly calendar to plan your day. If you give yourself a deadline, you are more likely to complete that task within the set time frame. A set deadline gives your brain a direction to go. Do the important and complicated things first. You are the most awake and alert in the beginning of the day, so that is the best time to make important or complicated decisions. Batch your work if possible. For example, if you are ordering lab tests for a patient, it is more efficient to order all the blood tests before signing the order, rather than ordering individual blood test and signing each order separately.

The second thing is to focus. When you are at work, make sure you are 100% dedicated to work. Minimize small talks which are not related to your job. Focus on doing one thing at a time. It is best to take care of one patient, one at a time. This means that when you see that patient, you order the tests, the medications and complete the patient documentation – all before seeing the next patient. That way, you get to focus on that one patient at a time, as opposed to you thinking about forgetting to do something for a patient you saw an hour ago. When you are focused on one thing, you are more efficient.

The third thing is to explore the best work flow for you. Seeing one patient and doing the chart right away may not be the best solution if you are seeing patients in the hospital. For example, there may not be a computer station available right where you see the patient. Inpatient care may be better executed with seeing several patients in the same geographic location then sitting down in a charting room to complete your orders and documentation. It is helpful to know your programs well – if you use three different electronic health systems, know all of them well, so that you can optimize their functions and utilize any shortcut applications.

The fourth thing is to minimize distractions. When you are distracted, it takes you longer to complete a task, not to mention that the quality of your work is likely compromised. Turn off the notification for emails or messages. While you are busy typing up your notes, you brain will be easily tempted to check your email once there is that sound for a new message. It takes time to make the decision to check your message right away or not, and it also takes time to go back to your original task with either decision. It is also important for your staff to know when to interrupt you when it is absolutely necessary. The less interruptions there are, the less distractions you have, and the more you can focus on the task at hand.

The fifth thing is to delegate. It is always better to have team work. It is helpful to utilize your team to maximize efficiency. For example, instead of calling your patient, ask your nurse to call your patient about a blood test results which requires a simple recommendation, which is made by you. Delegation for billing, for obtaining insurance authorizations, for refilling prescriptions, etc. are helpful to save some time from your day.

The sixth thing is getting adequate and good quality sleep. When you are well-rested, you have better physical and mental energy. You also get to have better focus and concentration. You think and process things with a clearer mind. All these add to your efficiency and getting time back in your day.

Your day starts with a good night’s sleep. You prioritize what to do – that will also decrease decision fatigue. Do the important and difficult things first. Batch things if possible. Always focus and concentrate on the task at hand. Always be curious and explore different ways to be more efficient and to have better work flow. It is important to minimize distractions. Delegate work whenever possible. The minutes you save by doing all of the above add up. You may get 2 hours of your day back. Give it a try. What is there to lose – time?

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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