Time Management Secrets
You can't manage time, but you can manage yourself.
Veterinarians live crazy lives. Between running a clinic, spending time with family, working out, and trying to get a little bit of sleep, it’s no wonder so many of us feel it’s near impossible to catch up. Rather than succumbing to always being a few steps behind, consider implementing these tips to become more organized and “find” time to work on projects that are most vital to your success.
Accountability is an extremely powerful tool. Shane Fielder, founder of Samurai Innovation, wanted to wake up earlier. Rather than just wishing it or adding it to a to-do list, he designed a creative plan. Every morning, he committed to posting a picture of the sunrise to prove to his followers that he was awake. You can use the same idea to reach your own goals—whatever they may be. Post a picture of yourself at the gym, reading a book, or finishing a run.
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Identify Your Stressors
A friend of mine felt so overwhelmed by her daily tasks that she decided to create a list of her top stressors. Then she did everything she could to eliminate or reduce each source of pain. Several months later, she was more balanced and immensely happier.
As a veterinarian, your own list of stressors might include school loans, personal debt, tension among colleagues, or family quarrels. Put pen to paper. Create a list of 12 stressors and then focus on reducing the anxiety related to 1 of them each month. You will be a completely new person in a year.
Create a Not-to-Do List
You are no doubt familiar with to-do lists, but have you ever considered creating a not-to-do list, one that encompasses all
the things that hinder your productivity or don’t add value to your day? A not-to-do list should include tasks from your professional and personal lives, such as:
- Stop focusing on virtual friends, and vow to be more present
- Stop procrastinating
- Stop micromanaging
- Stop complaining
- Stop gossiping
Schedule Time for Yourself
Commit to carving out at least 1 uninterrupted hour each day to focus on a passion project or upcoming deadline. Use these 3 tips to ensure that your “me” time really happens.
You can schedule the hour anytime, but data show that many people are most productive first thing in the morning.
As marketing guru Dan Kennedy explained, “If they can’t find you, they can’t interrupt you.” If you’re interrupted repeatedly, hide. Go to a coffee shop, the library, or your car if you have to. The most important thing is to make sure you are unreachable unless there is a legitimate emergency. Instead of an open-door policy—which is an invitation for constant interruptions—make it known that you are not to be interrupted during that hour.
Unless you need them for whatever you’re trying to accomplish, disconnect from the internet, silence your phone, disable notifications, and ignore your email. If you can’t resist the temptation, leave your phone elsewhere or give it to someone else.
Learning to delegate effectively goes beyond assigning a task to an employee and hoping it gets done. To be successful:
- Identify the best person to accomplish the task.
- Explain exactly what needs to be done.
- Empower the employee.
- Free up resources as needed.
- Ask your employee to rephrase your expectations.
- Don’t micromanage.
- Review the project once it's completed.
Embrace That Less Is More
Sizing up your to-do list can be discouraging, especially if you have 100 things to do. Human nature may lead you to want to tackle the quickest and easiest tasks first, but it may be wiser to focus on a maximum of 3 larger tasks first.
You can take it a step further by organizing tasks into 4 categories:
- Urgent and not important
- Urgent and important
- Not urgent and important
- Not urgent and not important
The first step to becoming more efficient is to eliminate all tasks, urgent or not, that you’ve deemed not important. From there, minimize the tasks that are important and urgent, such as demands, deadlines, and “emergencies,” real or not. Many so-called emergencies could be avoided by planning more strategically and not procrastinating. In a perfect world, we would work only on tasks that are important and not urgent. These include business strategy, finances, planning, self-development, exercising, thinking, family time, and friends.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, the concept of time management is a lie. No matter how hard you try, you cannot manage time. But you can manage yourself. Use the suggestions here, and you just may find yourself with more time—and less stress—on your hands.
Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and serial entrepreneur. His traveling surgery practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his websites at DrPhilZeltzman.comand VeterinariansInParadise.com.