Prioritise Your Pharmacy’s Big Rocks

While we can say that community pharmacy is a more reactive environment than most (a statement which I do not disagree with) our mindset and approach to what matters most is important to exercising discretion, delegating and taking back control of our path forward.

As John C Maxwell said…

“Time management is an oxymoron. Time is beyond our control, and the clock keeps ticking regardless of how we lead our lives. Priority management is the answer to maximising the time we have.”

So how do you manage your priorities?

The age-old tale of the wise professor

Once, a philosophy professor devised a lesson for his students. Placing a large glass jar before them, he filled it with fist-sized rocks.

He questioned the class, “Is the jar full?” In unison, they nodded in agreement. However, the professor wasn’t done. He then revealed a bowl of pebbles, pouring them into the jar, filling the gaps between the rocks. Once more, he posed the same question.

This time, the students hesitated and were less quick to agree. The professor continued his demonstration by adding sand, which trickled into every remaining space among the rocks and pebbles.

In the end, the professor unveiled the metaphor behind his experiment. The jar, he explained, symbolized the finite time each of us possesses in a day. The big rocks represented life’s paramount aspects—family, health, and relationships. The pebbles denoted significant yet less impactful facets such as work and school. Lastly, the sand embodied the myriad of trivial distractions that vie for our attention.

The profound lesson was clear: if we prioritize the inconsequential sand and pebbles, they will consume the jar’s space, leaving little room for the essential, life-enriching rocks. However, if we intelligently place the vital rocks first, everything else, no matter how significant or trivial, can settle around them, ensuring that there is always room, and time, for all that truly matters.

Applying this metaphor to the Pharmacy

1. Identify your big rocks

Just like in life, if we really want to shift the needle on the stuff that is going to make the most difference in reaching our goals, improving outcomes, implementing new services or freeing up pharmacists from the dispensing grind, we need to identify these things and put them in our jar first.  These are our big rocks.

2. Plan ahead

Once you have identified your big rocks, plan your day or week ahead. Allocate time to them and be smart about it. When are the quiet times in the Pharmacy? When do you have the most staff? When do you have a cover? Could you work on it from home or in the staff room and come out an hour later?

3. Communicate it

We work in teams so effective prioritisation involves everyone. To help increase engagement, ownership and accountability, in the planning process encourage team members to share their insights on how to approach these tasks efficiently. In doing so you can also identify what can be delegated, who else can be involved and what success factors you will monitor.

4. Be flexible

Let’s be honest, urgent items, absent staff and busy periods will still arise. While it’s important to be flexible and adapt to unexpected events, it’s equally crucial to stay focused on your big rocks. Don’t let the urgency of the pebbles and sand tasks divert your attention entirely. Assess their importance and urgency; if they can wait without causing significant issues, continue working on your big rocks.

5. Reflect and Adjust

At the end of the day or week, reflect and provide feedback on how the plan has gone. Celebrate the achievements related to your big rocks and assess the challenges faced in managing sand and water tasks. This way you can collaboratively identify areas for improvement, reinforcing a culture of continuous learning and growth within your team.

Having a leader to guide the team towards achieving long-term goals is crucial to success. Expecting managers to be able to do this without the necessary training, support and smart skills can lead not only to less optimal outcomes but also decreased job satisfaction and increased staff turnover for everyone.

If your managers don’t have the capacity to organise and positively influence your team (yet), TURN Pharmacy Leadership is here to support them in gaining the emotionally intelligent, smart skills required to take your pharmacy to the next level.

Upskill your leaders. Give them the tools to help them and your pharmacy thrive, innovate and grow.

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