The interwebs are constantly teeming with productivity tips and life hacks guaranteed to maximize day-to-day efficiency, regardless of your occupation. Rather than echo the oft-repeated suggestions of making lists and setting reminders, we have compiled 7 tips tailored specifically for physicians to improve your practice and boost your productivity within the exceptionally demanding practice of medicine.
1. Organize and prioritize
Staying organized is a pretty standard tip but it is the most basic way to maximize your productivity. De-clutter your inbox and respond immediately to any messages that you can answer write away. Flag any messages you need to return to. Avoid checking your email throughout the day and set up a schedule to check your inbox and reply to messages in the morning, at midday, and before you leave work. Organize your desk or workspace, making sure to remove any unnecessary distractions. Prioritize your time by writing down 3 M.I.T.s (Most Important Tasks) at the start of each day. Write down any action items associated with each task and tackle them one by one. Group similar tasks together to maximize efficiency.
2. Stick to your specialty
Except in emergencies and specific situations, refuse to do tasks that do not require a physician. In many private practices every staff member does a bit of everything, but this is a huge productivity drain. Doctors can maximize time by delegating whatever you can to your staff. Consider the volume of patients you see each day when making decisions about which duties can be delegated to your assistants. Be careful about your phrasing and communication when delegating tasks so as to create a harmonious work environment: for example, saying "My time is limited but this needs to be done - can you please take care of this?" comes off a lot better than "My time is too important for this task, so I'm assigning it to you."
3. Minimize variability
Avoid disruptions to your work flow by minimizing variability in appointment schedules and exam rooms. There are many different types of appointments in a given day, but limiting the types of appointments for any given clinic session reduces how often you have to change your mindset to switch from task to task. Organize your exam rooms in an identical fashion so that storage of supplies is identical from room to room. Knowing what is in the room and where they are located minimizes the amount of time spent hunting for supplies and equipment. Keeping the location of these supplies uniform eliminates the guesswork for doctors to locate a specific medical instrument or piece of equipment.
4. Plan ahead
Familiarize yourself with each patients information the day before their appointment and review it immediately prior to their appointment in order to streamline your schedule and avoid bottlenecks. Being prepared for each patient before they arrive helps to reduce wait times and increase patient satisfaction.
5. Utilize technology
Take advantage of technology to simplify and organize your day. There are a number of smartphone apps for doctors to maximize their productivity and educate patients. There are also apps that help doctors and patients communicate in a HIPAA-compliant manner, and apps that allow patients to send real-time health data to their physicians. Queue apps help with scheduling appointments and reducing patient wait time. When adopting new technologies in your practice, be aware that there might be an initial loss in productivity as your staff adapts to the new systems, but technologies that are properly implemented will ultimately save you and your staff a lot of time.
6. Limit interruptions
Whenever you switch to a new task, you have to switch to a new mindset. Switching between mindsets actually accounts for a sizable portion of lost time and productivity because it requires both time and mental energy to disengage from one task and re-engage with another. Try to limit how often your focus has to be redirected by instructing your staff to batch questions and documents for the physician to review and/or sign and present them to the physician all together at one time, rather than through constant interruptions that disrupt you and your staff's workflow.
7. Put yourself first
If you are under the impression that leisure and recreation are a waste of time, think again. With physician burnout on the rise, it is exceedingly important for your mental health to maintain a healthy work-life balance.If you are tired and out of shape, you are less likely to effectively process information than a physically fit, well-rested doctor. It might seem counterintuitive to boost your workplace efficiency by limiting your hours at work, but taking the time to catch up on sleep, engage in recreational activities, and socialize with others is actually a wise investment for your mental health and it ultimately creates a net gain in productivity.