8 ways to lasso your workday


Show those other cowpokes you're the most on-time doctor in these parts.

Howdy, guys and gals! You say your little dogs are plum wore out when there's still a lot of day left? You never see your little ones 'fore they're tucked in at night 'cause you're still at work finishing all that dang chartin'? Your dinner's as cold as a bald pig in a winter ice storm by the time you git 'round to eatin' it?

Craig Woloshyn, dvm

Don't fret! You too can wrangle time. Throw a rope around the old hourglass and wrassle it down. Tie those minutes up with a pig string in a half hitch, and git on home 'fore the sun sets in them western hills. Let's ride!

1. Make a promise

Before you get all fired up to change your work habits and make those hours dance to your fiddle, you need to make a commitment. Seems obvious, but ask yourself if this is a horse you really want to ride. Some of us like being behind the clock, turnin' that eight-second ride into an hour-and-a-half journey. These folks wear tardiness like a sheriff's badge and believe that working long hours for little return is a mark of their mettle. If this is you, mosey on over to another article. For the rest of you, let's get this gravy train a-movin'.

2. Put pen to paper

The next step in tamin' your workday is writing down your goal. It only takes a minute, and the act of writing makes your commitment more concrete. Any scrap of paper will do, and you don't need to show it to anyone except maybe your favorite trail pony. Make your goals simple and brief:"Go home before dark," "Visit children daily," or "Kiss my pony goodnight twice a week."

3. Check the time

Get yourself some digital timekeepers, pocket watches, or big ol' grandfather clocks. A wise cowpoke once said, "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it." That's never been truer than in time wrangling, so round up some time measurement devices and stick 'em in every room. You should be seeing the time from anywhere in the clinic, including the exam rooms.

Some folks say there shouldn't be clocks in exam rooms so that clients won't know how hopelessly late you are. But don't they already have wristwatches and cell phones? Yessiree, they certainly do. But soon that pesky clock will be on your side, and your clients will be scooting out of your hospital on time and thanking you for it.

4 . Pick 'n' choose

This one's about ranking tasks. When you're presented with a job to do, you should always ask yourself these three questions:

  • Should it be done? Just because a client wants you to make an after-hours house call to brand and deworm her herd of 17 monitor lizards in the middle of a spring blizzard doesn't mean you should. Learn to say no. Ask yourself what the negative consequences will be if you don't do it. More often than not, "nothing" will be the answer.

  • How important is it? Do you really need to return that salesperson's phone call? Leave it long enough and it might fall off the bottom of your to-do list. Good riddance.

  • How urgent is it? Many trivial tasks are more urgent than important ones. Repairing a fractured femur is more important than authorizing a refill, but that refill may be more urgent. If a trivial but urgent task will take a minute or two, git-'er-done! If it'll take longer, push it down the list or let someone else ride these trivial ponies for you.

5. I reckon it'll take me ...

You make fee estimates, so learn to make time estimates of common procedures. Post a list of them on the wall. Your team will know how to schedule your day, and you can arrange tasks more easily. Get in the habit of giving estimates to your team.

Next, post your time-wranglin' goals: workday start and finish times (not the same as clinic opening and closing times), length of lunch and when you'll take it, and surgery start and finish times. Your staff will run the daily rodeo more efficiently, and they'll be ecstatic about it. They want to go home on time and stop working during lunch, too.

6. Quit puttin' it off

Procrastination is your enemy. As the old saying goes, "The longest journey starts with a stop at the watering hole"—but the old saying doesn't help the little dogies git along. Two techniques can help you stop lollygagging. First, set goals that don't scare you. If a goal is too big or difficult, you won't tackle it. Second, handle each task once. Get rid of that late- afternoon callback list; handle calls as they come in. If you don't have time to talk, dictate answers to the staff. Finish charting after each patient. Remember: "Do it once, do it now."

7. Do that dirty work first

The most unpleasant, noxious, ugly jobs gotta be done first—like right now. If you sit on them, they'll fester like a foot caught in a bear trap, until the very thought of them ruins your day. Examples include talking to an angry client, counseling an employee, or calling your spouse to say you'll be home late—again. Well, we're fixin' that last one for you.

8. Hand over the reins

Right about now, you're thinking there's a lot that's not getting done at the clinic. Easy fix! Give those jobs to someone else. A talented technician returns phone calls, an able assistant restrains pets, and a ready receptionist handles scheduling. Spread the work around and you'll find more time for treating animals—along with a spike in everyone's job satisfaction.

Time wrangling is the way to make sure every day finds you riding off into a beautiful sunset. Things will get done, and you can get back to wrangling angry felines and biting dogs. Now jump in the saddle, and hit the trail!

When he's not touring on the time-wrangling rodeo circuit, Dr. Craig Woloshyn, a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member, shares his doin'-it-right advice through Sun Dog Veterinary Consulting. Please send questions or comments to ve@advanstar.com

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