“But I need more time!”

“But I Need More Time”: Effective Time Management for Pharmacists

Flu season is well and truly underway but let’s be real, the phrase “But I need more time” is a perennial statement amongst pharmacists. Whether it’s due to the ever-increasing workload, complex patient needs, governance or administrative duties, time often feels like a scarce resource. However, the root cause of this time scarcity often lies in poor prioritisation and delegation. Let’s explore how pharmacists can better manage their time, prioritise tasks effectively, and delegate responsibilities to improve efficiency and reduce stress.

The Consequences of Poor Time Management

Poor time management in a pharmacy setting can lead to several negative outcomes:

  1. Increased Stress: Constantly feeling behind can cause significant stress and burnout.
  2. Decreased Productivity: Without proper prioritisation, important tasks can be overlooked, leading to inefficiencies.
  3. Compromised Patient Care: Inadequate time management can result in errors or delays in patient care.
  4. Professional Dissatisfaction: Feeling overwhelmed and unable to complete tasks can lead to job dissatisfaction and a lack of fulfillment.

Prioritisation: The Key to Effective Time Management

Prioritization is about identifying which tasks are most important and ensuring they are completed first. Here are some strategies to help pharmacists prioritize effectively:

1. The Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix, also known as the Urgent-Important Matrix, is a powerful tool for prioritization. It divides tasks into four categories:

  • Urgent and Important: Tasks that need immediate attention.
  • Important but Not Urgent: Tasks that are important but can be scheduled for later.
  • Urgent but Not Important: Tasks that require immediate attention but are not critical.
  • Neither Urgent Nor Important: Tasks that can be delegated or eliminated.

By categorizing tasks using this matrix, pharmacists can focus on what truly matters.

I actually wrote a whole blog on it here.

2. ABC Analysis

ABC Analysis is a method where tasks are divided into three categories:

  • A: Very important tasks that must be done immediately.
  • B: Important tasks that can wait until A tasks are completed.
  • C: Low-priority tasks that can be done if time allows.

This method helps in ensuring that critical tasks are not overshadowed by less important ones.

Personally, I like to use this on my daily lists to ensure I and my team don’t just pick the easy things first.

3. Circle of Concern

The circle of concern is a simple three-ring circle, what you can control, what you can influence and what you have no control over. In the middle circle, write everything that you can do on your own with no help. The next ring accounts for things you can influence or may be able to complete with the assistance of others. The outer ring is what’s on your mind but you are unable to do anything about. Scrap anything that’s in that ring! It’s wasted space when it comes to prioritisation.

Now, you are a pharmacist so you probably have a rather large circle of control. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

Delegation

Delegation is the process of assigning tasks to others. In a pharmacy setting, delegation can involve assigning tasks to pharmacy technicians, interns, or other support staff. Effective delegation can free up valuable time for pharmacists to focus on more critical tasks. It’s something we should do more of but tend to do poorly.

Think about what on your list you can delegate, who is the best person to delegate to and how you can communicate and support them to achieve the best outcome.

Practical Tips for Better Time Management

If the above wasn’t enough, here are five extra tips to help you manage your time more effectively:

  1. Set Realistic Goals: Set achievable daily and weekly goals. Break larger tasks into smaller, manageable steps. (Be realistic, something WILL have to give!)
  2. Eliminate Distractions: Minimise interruptions by setting specific times for checking emails or taking calls. (Yes… I know we are interruption central but there are still things you can do to eliminate some of them.)
  3. Use Technology: Utilize pharmacy management software and other technologies to streamline workflows. Platforms like Quda are brilliant!!!
  4. Take Breaks: Short breaks can boost productivity and reduce stress. Schedule regular breaks to recharge. While this seems counterintuitive when you have so much to do, a five-minute break can improve efficiency as opposed to working at half-pace for hours.
  5. Continuous Improvement: Regularly review and adjust your time management strategies. Seek feedback from colleagues and look for ways to improve. Don’t beat yourself up when you fall off the bandwagon, we all do! Reflect, and start your strategy again.

Effective time management is crucial for pharmacists to handle their workload efficiently and provide high-quality patient care. By prioritising tasks, delegating responsibilities, and adopting practical time management techniques, pharmacists can overcome the constant refrain of “But I need more time” and achieve a more balanced and productive professional life. Remember, it’s not about having more time; it’s about making better use of the time you have.

Combine planning strategies with improved communication and emotional intelligence to optimise your ability to achieve results.

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