Don’t just manage your time, make your time more effective.
With the hustle of the holidays behind us and the beginnings of a new year ahead, I have begun to take a deep look inside and reflect on how I can make 2020 a better year. What I have learned about myself, and many of you other nurses can surely relate, is that I try to do too much and do it too fast. I think I can do it all…work, home, kids, etc., however, I feel like I am not doing any of it GREAT – I am simply just “getting by.” So, after some overthinking, lots of coffee, research and good talks with my bestie, I have set a personal and professional goal for 2020 to be managing time better and making time effective.
A quick google search of time management will flood your screen with self-help sites, blogs, personal retreat information and all kinds of definitions. My already overwhelmed mental status quickly became overloaded with the abundance of information; however, something caught my attention and really seemed to resonate with my mind and heart. We all know we must be better at managing our time, but a major missing piece in that is the struggle with making the best of that time.
Time management can be defined as the process of exercising conscious control of time spent on specific activities. It involves juggling various demands related to work, family, social life, hobbies, commitments, etc. With a lot of these activities, we actually do not have direct control, limiting our time management choices. If I am scheduled for a shift at work, I simply cannot choose to manage my time better by doing the overflowing laundry at home. What I do have control over is how effective I use my time. It is in time effectiveness that we have a choice in making better use of our time!
Working in healthcare, nurses are the first ones to know and understand that the day can change in a heartbeat! This ever-changing schedule can be a big stressor in managing our time during the workday. Nurses are unique in that we have to remain calm and levelheaded during hectic and even frightening moments yet have to be flexible and quickly able to return our focus to the priority tasks. Learning how to set clinical priorities is a tough skill to develop and clearly does not happen overnight (this is why it is a major NCLEX topic). It is one of the biggest challenges a new (and even experienced) nurse can face. It takes time and metacognition (awareness and understanding one’s thought processes).
There is no universal style of time management that fits everyone, but here are some strategies that nurses in particular can utilize to help manage their time and help make their time more effective:
- Awareness – arrive to work early, settle in.
- Organize –so simple, yet so hard; plan out your day.
- Prioritize – make lists!
- Communicate effectively – to colleagues, patients, and families.
- Delegate – teamwork is essential; you do not have to do it all.
- Technology – take advantage of electronic medical records (EMRs).
- Multitask – know when to and when not to.
- Anticipate – and plan ahead.
- Minimize time wasting – don’t get sidetracked; don’t procrastinate.
- Educate – forever a student, keep learning.
- Take breaks – clear your mind, take care of yourself, find your stress reliever.
- See the good – focus on the positive.
Time management is a skill that every new nurse must learn, and every seasoned nurse must refresh! The benefits will increase productivity, improve efficiency, reduce stress and burnout and even help with your work/life balance.
A new year has begun, a time for new beginnings. I hope 2020 will be the year I finally become better at managing my time at work and at home and I encourage you to try some of these strategies in your lives. Time is free and priceless; let’s make the best of it!
Nayak, S. (2018). Time Management in Nursing – Hour of need. International Journal of Caring Sciences. Volume 11(3), 1997-2000.