Manage Your Time

Chapter 2 Manage Your Time

As mentioned in the previous chapter, putting in long hours at work does not necessarily mean you are good at your job. Being busy does not equate with being efficient and effective. It suggests that you are not in control. In order to manage your time more effectively, you need to have control over choosing what you do and how to do it. You also need to be able to choose what not to do. Spend your time accomplishing things, not just being busy. Invest time in planning, organising, rearranging, sorting and, most important of all, thinking.

This chapter focuses on how to manage your time more effectively and how to achieve a healthy work/life balance in your role.

Define your workload

Most ward managers are employed to work 150 hours per month. It’s worth taking some time to write down all the commitments you currently have in terms of hours per month, as indicated in Table 2.1. If the total hours add up to more than 150, it means that you do not have enough time to complete what is required. This indicates that in order to fulfil your workload, you are working more than 150 hours or not fulfilling your commitments. You may be:

Table 2.1 Defining your workload in terms of hours per month

Description of task Total hours per month
List the meetings you attend, including all one-to-one meetings (if weekly, multiply hours by 4, if quarterly divide hours by 3)
  1. e.g. Monthly sisters’ meeting 2 h 2
  2. e.g. Weekly ward team meeting 1 h 4
E-mails, voice-mail and post
How many hours do you need per day for this? 30 mins – 1 hour am, 30 mins pm perhaps? (multiply this by 20 for the monthly figure)
Investigating and writing responses to complaints
(allow an average of 10 hours’ work per complaint)
Staffing issues
(include appraisals, recruitment, etc.)
Compiling the monthly roster  
Risk management and governance issues
(average time spent on serious incident investigations, audits, pressure sore forms, etc.)
(include preparation time)
Own study/course commitments  
Regular admin/secretarial work
(e.g. photocopying)
Corporate or university work
(e.g. ‘block’ recruitment, interviewing)
(time spent on ward as part of clinical shift)
(e.g. current project work)

Plan and prioritise

Start by removing or reducing tasks in order to bring the total down to 150 hours. The first place to start is with the meetings. Do you really need to attend all those meetings? Choose the ones that are essential for the welfare of your patients and staff.

Do the same with any project work. Only keep the tasks that are essential. Essential work includes:

Non-essential work includes:

Once you have worked out your commitments in terms of hours per month (using the prompts in Table 2.1), it is advisable to meet with your line manager to assist you in making the decisions required to reduce the non-clinical work if necessary.

The next step is to realistically identify how much time you have left to devote to clinical work. It may only be 70–80 hours per month. If that is the case, plan to split it into specific blocks of clinical time. This could be something like four half shifts per week. Devote that whole time to clinical work without going off to a meeting or into the office half way through. Let your staff see that you are in control of your work. If you need to keep interrupting your clinical shift to go off to meetings or into the office to catch up on paperwork, it shows that you are not in control of your workload. It is controlling you. Your staff will respect you far more if they see that you are in control of what you do.

Organise your office

Many ward managers have to share their office with others. Some offices double up as changing rooms, coffee rooms and in some cases they are the only place available to meet with relatives. If this is how it is with your office, try and designate at least one third of this room as your personal office space with your desk, computer and chair. Make sure all other chairs, coat hooks, beverages, etc. are kept on the other side of the room. You have the most important job on your ward and it is essential that you have some dedicated office space.

Keep everything you need to do on one list

Write everything down on your list such as phone calls you need to make, messages to get back to people, reports to be written, project work, etc. All papers associated with your list should be filed away on your computer or in the filing cabinet. The list can run into three or four sheets of A4 paper but it doesn’t matter, as long as everything is written down in one place. Keeping one list is simple but effective. It serves to greatly reduce your stress and worry by literally taking things off your mind and putting them down on paper. The basic concept is that you can stay on top and in control of all unfinished work, projects, reports and correspondence.

Get into the habit of noting down everything that requires an action and comes to you via post, e-mail, voice-mail, fax or phone on your central list of things to do. File e-mails and associated attachments on your computer if you need to keep them. Don’t print them out. It’s a waste of time and takes up unnecessary space on your desk or in your filing cabinet.

Control your diary

When you are working a clinical shift, you plan what you are going to do after handover but it often changes due to patient need. You expect that to be the case. As clinicians we are used to continually altering our plans because looking after patients is unpredictable work. However, this approach doesn’t work when dealing with the administrative side of your role. You cannot afford to spend your day reacting to events and constantly being interrupted. The time when you are not directly involved in patient care should be planned.

Jun 15, 2016 | Posted by in NURSING | Comments Off on Manage Your Time

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