5 Time Management Tips I Use to Stay on Track Every Day as a Nurse Practitioner
Knowing how to time management can quickly lead to burnout for nurses.
I started sharing my time management tips with fellow nurses, and found that a lot of these skills translate to non-nursing situations, too. If you are the one holding the bag for your household, the person who always ends up taking on all the responsibilities and struggling to say no — or just struggling — I’ve got you. Here are my top time management tips.
Nurses triage, figuring out the most important thing to tackle in a given moment. You need to do this, too. Everyone’s to-do list is long, but not everything is equally important. When you prioritize, you get more done; getting more done increases your momentum and your productivity.
Know How Long Things Take
Knowing how long things take is the key to prioritizing. If you were planning to make some toast, you wouldn’t assemble all of your ingredients before starting; you’d get the bread in the toaster and then gather the butter, knife, plate (if you’re fancy), because you know you’ve got a couple of minutes while the bread is toasting.
You can approach most things on your to-do list in the same way. Pay attention to the things you do all the time (write it down — really), and then use that information to benefit you. Learn the difference between quick tasks (putting the bread into the toaster — 10 seconds?), and more involved ones (gathering butter, knife, plate — probably 30-45 seconds), and even more involved ones (the actual toasting of the bread — a minute or two?). Get this knowledge for all of your routine tasks and use it to prioritize.
Prepare, But Don’t Overprepare
I know nurse practitioners that start charting on their patients before the visit. If the patient ends up missing their appointment, these colleagues spent all that time preparing for nothing. Learn from their lesson: Be ready when the time comes, but don’t waste time on an optional task. You don’t need to lay out the materials for making toast the night before. You can do that when you get hungry.
Watch Your Schedule (And Edit)
My clinic schedule would usually be completely full with booked appointments and others added on each day. Some of these “added on” patients maybe shouldn’t wait hours to be seen (like a patient with chest pain — yes, it happened more than once).
What is your version of this? What should you take off your schedule or task list and give to someone else who can either do it better, faster, or sooner? Find it, move it, and put something better in its place. You are in control, but the way you do that is to use your voice. When you have something that shouldn’t be yours, give it to the person that it belongs to.
Guard Your Time
Protect your time; no one else will. Getting your time back in your control, and keeping it that way, can feel impossible. The truth is that reaching any goal will happen as a result of a lot of small steps. Start with one of these tips, give it a few days or a week, and review your results. If you want more improvement, add another tip to keep building on your progress. No matter the approach you take, understand that time is the one resource you can never get back once it is gone — and make your moves with that in mind.