Everyone in veterinary practice should be using this time management tactic


Everyone is busy these days, but what happens when it becomes the norm for you? You just can't be as effective as a veterinarian, a technician or a receptionist when you're moving too fast and don't have a clear direction. Here's one way I learned to handle it.

Why I learned to STOP

When I first started in the veterinary profession, I was cleaning kennels until I slowly transitioned into answering phones and working the front desk. During that time with a smaller organization, I learned to wear many hats and do a variety of jobs. As we grew, so did my understanding of human resources and leadership.

As our new emergency hospital was built, I found myself hiring, training, installing computers, ordering supplies and making sure we were fully stocked and had all the essential people and supplies to open. I needed the STOP method I learned in graduate school to gain control of my day, stay on schedule and meet deadlines.

Clint Longenecker, PhD, introduced STOP in his book Getting Results: Five Absolutes for High Performance. The method stands for Sit, Think, Organize and Perform. This technique changed the way I organize my time and accomplish goals.

How to STOP

The first thing you need is a legal pad in a portfolio. This helped me to keep all of my notes in one convenient place. I carried my portfolio with me everywhere I went and into every meeting to make sure I didn't miss any important information from the emergency practice owners. During this hectic time of opening a hospital, we would often speak in between appointments and randomly when we remembered something, and my legal pad would have scribbles all over it as the day progressed. This made for a messy and unorganized thought process until I learned to STOP. Here's how it's done:

Sit. Find a quiet time during your day. I usually start Monday morning or even Sunday night looking through notes on my legal pad. During this time, I'll review all of the things I wrote down throughout the week. Next I'll tear off the old sheet and start writing on a fresh new page. In my job, I need a page for out each hospital I'm responsible for. I then transfer my scribbled notes under the corresponding hospital.

I'm sure to scratch items off as I complete them. If my lists start to look cluttered during the week with items being crossed off and added, I'll rewrite my lists again.

Think. This is the process of clearing your mind and devoting some intense thought on your most important tasks. As I rewrite my list, I make sure the most important tasks come first. Start with the ones you transferred from last week, then add any new ones.

Creating these lists at the start of the week in my office helps remind me what supplies I'll need to take with me before I leave for other locations and what I need to accomplish when I arrive. This helps me to be prepared and saves travel time. For leaders, this is also the time to think about which employees you want to help you with your projects.

Organize. I mentioned above that my list helps me remember what I need to take from my main location to other locations. Do you ever worry about forgetting something? Organizing your thoughts and tasks can take the worry out of your day and help you rest. This was an issue I confronted when I first entered a leadership position. I would leave a notepad next to my bed to write things down that I forgot during the day.

Perform. Implement what you planned to do that day. Make a list and get things checked off! Bosses, coworkers and even clients may notice you're able to get results, accomplish tasks and achieve desired outcomes.

I could have never helped manage four hospitals and organize training programs and more without the preplanning that comes with the STOP method. Whatever method you settle on to organize your day, I hope it frees up to be the best you can at your veterinary hospital.

Candiss Schneider, MBA, is the human resources and operations director for Foresight Veterinary Management in Toledo, Ohio.

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