Every new year brings a wave of self-help tips, fad diets, and lifestyle trends. But when you work 12+ hour shifts, it may seem impossible to make any lifestyle changes with an already packed schedule.
Since you can’t add more hours to the day and you probably don’t have much control over the hours you work and travel, we suggest you focus your efforts on being productive in those parts of your professional and personal life that you can directly influence.
A proven way to increase your productivity is batching similar tasks together. You probably already practice time-batching throughout your day without even realizing it. Whether it’s doing your rounds at set times every day or filling out paperwork at the end of each day, you save time by batching similar tasks together.
For example, you could start checking your email at 1 or 2 pre-set times daily. Not only will you spend less time checking your email, but you’ll also decrease the number of times email pulls your focus from planning treatment for your patients or necessary paperwork. You become more effective when you stay focused and resist jumping back and forth between tasks.
It might sound monotonous to some, but having a system or routine ensures you get through everything that you need to do (like cleaning, cooking, or going to the gym) and frees up your mind to accomplish more.
For example, you could make it a nightly routine to pull your wardrobe, pack your gym bag, and prepare your lunch for the next day. Just the habit of packing your gym bag or lunch sets you on the path to actually going to the gym or eating a healthy lunch.
After you do the same routine every night for a few weeks, you won’t even need to think about it. You'll move more quickly and avoid decision fatigue. By minimizing the mental energy spent making these everyday decisions, you open up space for your brain to focus on your practice and patient care.
Use “If This, Then That” Systems
You can further help yourself avoid decision fatigue and more efficiently manage your time by using “If This, Then That” systems. At work, you can create standing orders for your nurses and office staff to follow in specific situations. It will take some time and thought to set these up, but you will gain room in your schedule by minimizing back-and-forth communication.
The DO.org blog gives a great example of how you can start: “If you’ve asked your nurse or office staff to call a patient with lab results, then have your staff schedule a follow-up appointment immediately if the patient has questions.” Take some time to think about all the tasks that your team regularly completes and see where you can save time with standing orders.
If clutter is getting in the way of your productivity, better organization is the answer. Over time offices tend to accumulate files and paperwork. Start decluttering your office by getting rid of or filing away anything you haven’t used in the past few months whether it’s on your desk, in your drawers, or in common workspaces.
Don’t forget about digital clutter. Old files, emails, and folders are taking up space on your computer and wasting your time if you’re having trouble finding what you need. Delete everything on your computer that you don’t need anymore and keep a limited number of programs or files on your taskbar or desktop.
Have a Plan...and Stick to It
Planning ahead is the key to accomplishing your everyday goals. One of the best illustrations of this strategy in action is meal planning.
If you don’t have a set plan going into the week, you can find yourself mindlessly making unhealthy eating choices by the time Wednesday rolls around. This happens because you’re stressed out, don’t have groceries, don’t have time, or maybe all three!
If you plan (and even prep) your week’s meals ahead of time, you don’t have to figure them out at the last minute—making it easier to stick with healthy eating goals.
Pro tip: Save even more time by using a grocery delivery service or meal kit delivery service.
Follow our tips to take control of your productivity, boost your energy, and keep your focus on the things you want to accomplish. Follow us @MedStudyStrong for more tips on how to review effectively and study strong!