Time Management for Physicians

I was recently reading an article on time management published by the BBC. The headline was “Top Bosses Reveal Their Secrets for Getting Things Done.” Such a great headline lured me in, of course — especially as time management is always a major challenge for me. I can get immersed in writing a campaign and before I know it three hours have disappeared! At the recent ABAM conference held by Dr. Renato Saltz in Park City, Utah, lack of time to get to the important things was frequently cited as a headache for physicians, also. And that’s why I thought sharing some time management wisdom from some of the world’s top business leaders might be helpful.

Here are the cliff’s notes:

  1. To drive your organization to success you need to be crystal clear about your goals. What is your revenue goal? What is your profit goal? What is your exit strategy? What’s your vision for your practice that gives your staff a reason for being there (other than collecting a paycheck?)
  2. When carrying out your goals, you have to avoid getting distracted. Everyone wants to change your agenda and to get a piece of your time — to try to persuade you that what they are working on is more important than what you were working on. Don’t have an “open-door policy”. It’s amazing how capable your own staff can suddenly become when the onus to make decisions is on them instead of you. However, to make this strategy work you do need to have an effective office manager in place, who has a clear mandate about the kinds of decisions the team have authority to make and those they don’t.
  3. Don’t get bogged down in the details. As a physician, this is particularly challenging. Surround yourself with the best “success team” you can find, and let them get on with what they do best. This will free up more of your time to practice medicine, instead of drowning in paperwork or “fighting fires”.
  4. Keep meetings short. Work in short, concentrated bursts.

According to John MacKey, CEO of Whole Foods, we can only function at an optimum level for 90 minutes before our minds wander and reach the point of diminishing returns. After completing a complex surgery, don’t go and do paperwork. Go and renew yourself. When you do return to the paperwork, you’ll get it done in half the time.

Don’t forget the balance.

Being a physician and the CEO of your practice, you’re constantly under pressure, working and driving yourself. If you don’t take time off for yourself on a regular basis, you’ll burn out and be no good to anyone. The phrase “work hard, play hard” really does have merit, and is essential for your long-term success. Life is a marathon, not a sprint!