Time-Saving Tips for Healthcare Professionals Drowning in Administrative Work

doctor pushing paperwork pile

Looking for time-saving tips to help you speed through your least favorite tasks? You’re not alone. Nearly everyone I speak to who works in the medical field has the same complaint. What initially interested them in their roles—whether that be spending face-to-face time with patients, conducting research, mentoring medical students, keeping up to date with the latest techniques, or training faculty—is increasingly being replaced by tedious administrative tasks and desk work.

This annoying trend isn’t unique to healthcare, so I did some research on out-of-industry best practices for job shaping and time management. Unfortunately I didn’t find ways to get out of doing boring administrative work altogether, but I did uncover several time-saving tips to help you speed (effectively!) through the parts of your job you hate and get back to doing what you love.

Do unpleasant work during your most productive times

Everyone has a few hours when they feel energetic are able to get the most done. You might be a morning person, a night owl, or someone who is most productive in the middle of the day. Our instinct is often to use these hours to work on the things we enjoy, but the work that you are most passionate about tends to give you energyand is naturally motivating. On the other hand, work that you dislike drains your energy, so if you’re working on it during your “off” hours it will take even longer and feel even more painful. Figure out what your best time is and use some of it to knock out your least favorite tasks.

Forget the to-do list

And basically any other old-school time management practices you might have learned. According to an article on time management from the Harvard Business Review, those practices were developed for a time before email or smartphones, when we weren’t constantly subjected to a barrage of interruptions. The problem is that once you’ve set your to-do list, it can be derailed at any moment by an urgent email or a colleague stopping by to ask for your input. If you’re taking the time to write out a to-do list every morning and carefully prioritizing all the tasks on it, you’re wasting valuable minutes you could be spending actually working.

Identify your real priorities

I know I just told you to stop wasting time prioritizing your to-do list every morning, but prioritizing is still valuable if you focus on prioritizing the right way. What you really need is a solid understanding of your institution’s overall priorities and how your skills and role align, not just an understanding of which of your daily tasks are most “urgent.” Determine the goals and initiatives that your hospital or medical school that are high-priority and that you are uniquely able to support. Then consider where to invest your energy and time through this lens. There will probably still be some desk work that you have to do, but there should be a few other tasks that you can delegate, spend less time on, or simply stop doing altogether.

Stop multitasking, really  

We all know that multitasking is ineffective, but chances are that even when you think you’re focused on one task, you aren’t really. When you’re working on something, especially something you don’t enjoy, it’s extremely easy to get distracted by your email, your phone, a leaf blowing past the window.

Even if you’re only checking your email or your phone once every ten minutes, you’re breaking your concentration on the work you’re doing, and it takes additional time to get it back. Add up all these little interruptions, and a task that could have taken a few hours takes far longer. Instead, try batching together a bunch of administrative tasks, then carve out some time to work on them when you commit to ignoring your email, phone, and any other distractions. Close your office door, or if you can’t or don’t have one, wear headphones to signal to others that you can’t talk to them right now. Then power through them and move on to something else.

 

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