“But at my back I always hear, Time’s winged chariot hurrying near” a haunting line from an old poem. But one that sums up one of the biggest problems we face in veterinary practice today. The management of our time.
So how can you tell if the time monsters are gobbling up your life? Here are my top ten ways to find out if time is kicking your butt.
1. You own an Apple Watch
Seriously, who actually believes that having email and instant messenger on your wrist is going to help improve productivity? I dropped into the Apple Store to sneak a peek at these gadgets. What I discovered was that the device though wonderfully well designed, is crammed full of distraction based time-traps. Short of having a newborn litter of puppies to feed I cannot think of a more effective way to suck up your time. 10/10 for ingenious design. 0/10 for productivity assistance.*
2. You say things like ‘I don’t have time’ several times each day.
If you are guilty of uttering these words then time absolutely has you beaten at the mindset level. Feeling like time is your enemy is a sure sign that you are not managing things well. Once you have this mindset your reflex to opportunities is to say no and ignore things that might be great fun or work out to be huge opportunities.
I’m not saying that you should suddenly say yes to everything, that’s not a good solution if you’re struggling to manage your workload. What I am saying is that if you don’t feel like you have the choice, then you need to rework your day so you can make decisions without feeling like there’s a stopwatch ticking in your ear.
3. You say yes to everyone and everything.
The exact opposite of what good time managers do. The objective is to delegate tasks away from you, not be such a control freak that you have to do everything yourself.
4. You tell people to “do this, not that”.
The catchphrase of the micro-manager, a siren call for vets and managers across the globe. In our over-worked, under-resourced practices it isn’t hard to see how this occurs. It seems far easier to ‘just do it myself’ than stand by and watch someone else goof it up. I call this behaviour the time bandit because it robs you twice.
The first way this behaviour robs you is by chewing up your time doing silly tasks that someone else could easily learn themselves. The second (and far worse way) is that it robs your team of the chance to grow and develop their own skill level. All of which means you are more likely to be a stressed boss and your team gradually lose their motivation to work because they don’t feel valued.
5. You instinctively put the kettle on to make a cup of tea when faced with an important task.
I suffer with this particular time affliction terribly. In fact, the way I know I’m working on a task of huge importance is by noticing just how loudly my procrastination demons are screaming.
6. You get to the end of the day having achieved no output of your own, but have helped everyone else with their day.
I think back to my first job in management and this was almost everyday some weeks. I had strategic stuff I should have been working on, but there was always someone else who seemingly needed my help. Tactical work is important, but once you reach a certain job level, strategic work is what you should spend most of your time on.
It took me a while to work this one out, and it feels very gratifying to get to the end of your day having helped a lot of people out. But being the grease in someone else’s wheels will only get your business so far. What it needs more than anything else is an adept leader.
7. You have thousands of unread messages in your inbox (seriously) and you leave facebook open on your browser bar.
A no brainer to avoid this right? But email and facebook are the two biggest productivity killers I’ve seen. Yes they are necessary, but if your habit is to get to work, open up email and check out the practice facebook page then someone else is setting your agenda each day.
My strongest advice is that you isolate your email and social media use to a couple of smaller 30 minute windows each day.
8. You do small things on your to do list first
Have you ever gotten into work, looked at your to do list and thought, ‘I’ll just quickly knock off these small items so I have some runs on the board’? Of course you have. We all have. Just remember, if you focus on small tasks, you’ll only ever get small results.
9. You don’t have a to do list
Need I expand? I suspect not.
10. You think being busy equates to being effective.
Ever see those people who have two phones, are bombarded by texts and can’t hold a conversation for more than two minutes without interruption. Time. Management. Trainwrecks.
For some people being busy is an end in itself, but if you want to be successful then focussing your energy on being effective is a far better objective. Focus on results out, not time put in.
So did you recognise any of your own behaviours in that list? If so, then make sure you’re signed up to my newsletter and next week we’ll talk about how to stop time kicking your butt and reclaim your life.
Until then – be safe, be well and be happy.