Wasting Time

I'm speaking to a group of medical practice managers (Greater Atlanta Medical Management Association) tomorrow on Time Management and Productivity Improvement. They had asked that I contribute an article to their professional association's newsletter, and I thought it might be helpful to republish it here for those of you who are trying to get a handle on your time. Here it is:

"Time is probably our most precious resource, yet many of us squander it away each day. In this fast-paced world, we are inundated with information, emails, meetings, and a multitude of distractions. How is it possible to fit it all into a 24-hour day? The answer is that you simply can't. Instead, you have to sort through your activity clutter, get rid of the "junk", and choose to spend your time on those things that are MOST IMPORTANT, those activities that will move you closer toward achieving your goals.

That begs another question: Are you clear about what your goals are? Before you can manage your time most effectively, you must be crystal clear about your goals. Otherwise, like a gerbil running furiously on an exercise wheel, you may be spending your time staying very busy without ever really moving forward. Your first challenge, therefore, is defining your personal and professional goals. Literally, write them down.

Next, capture all of the tasks demanding your attention in one spot so that they can be properly prioritized. Most people do this with a To-Do list or Action file. Depending on your preference, you may want to keep your list in a notebook, in your paper calendar, on a PDA, or on a computer-based system. It really doesn't matter which system you choose because each offers its own inherent benefits. What does matter is that you pick a system, stick with it, and use it regularly.

Now comes the real secret to successful time management and improved productivity: check your to-do list or action file everyday. The best times to do this are first thing in the morning and at the end of the day. As you review the list, ask yourself, "What tasks on this list do I need to accomplish in order to get closer to achieving my most important goals?" You should also determine how much flexible, non-meeting time you have each day so that you can plug your tasks into the most appropriate time slot.

Remember, most any goal is reachable if you just break it down into manageable steps and consistently cross off those to-do items necessary to get you to your final destination."