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Have you ever felt simply overwhelmed with tasks? Like even when you finish one task, another one is just around the corner? It’s like you don’t get a break. Every time you turn around, there’s another task and another deadline. Time is not on your side, no matter what you do.  

As someone who juggles many tasks in the office, I understand what it is to receive one task after another and watch as they pile up. This can lead to an incredible amount of stress and eventual burnout. It’s like trying to keep a dozen balls in the air and worried that one by one they will just start dropping. 

The more we stress the worse it becomes. Work starts to feel impossible, and you suddenly find yourself not wanting to go because even the thought causes you to panic.   

The best way to manage your time is to first, understand where exactly all your time is going, second, document for yourself a time budget, and finally to remember that stress does not help time management and that you need to take care of what’s most important – you.  

Procrastination and Stress 

It’s important to admit that some of us have a problem with procrastinating. The pressure of a deadline can cause people to put off a task as long as possible, thinking that this will relieve the pressure when, in fact, it only makes it worse. It is a way to cope with negative emotions around a certain task, whether we find it boring, or too complicated. When we put off the task, we think that will help with the negative emotion, but what it really does is force us to confront it later on.  

To come back around to time management, with procrastination in the mix, tasks being put off suddenly add to the already large pile formed. Procrastination relates to stress – the building pressure and negative emotions around a task or tasks causes stress and anxiety that, in the end, just make things worse.  

Managing Time with a Time Budget 

Whether you are a dental clinician or front staff, if you feel that you are juggling so many tasks in the office that you are unaware when one of those tasks gets lost, it’s time to consider the question: where is your time going? 

When it comes to a financial budget, the first thing you have to identify is where all your money is going. What bills do you pay every month? How many credit cards do you have? Do you have any loans? Etc. Knowing what you’re paying and using every month allows you to create a budget. So, why don’t we do the same for our available time?    

Eight hours seems like a lot of time in the day, but when you break it down, where are all those minutes and hours going? How much time is spent on small tasks versus big projects? How much time is spent on the phone? Or doing menial tasks? Or talking to a patient or a staff member in person? How much time is going to interruptions? (you’d be surprised how much time interruptions can take) 

Similar to the case with money, with time, you need to be aware of where every minute is going in order to budget your time properly.  

Consider creating a time budget to document your day, and add to your budget tasks and projects you’re working on. As you work, record the interruptions (phone calls, in-person discussions with staff and patients, emails, online messages from staff and patients).  

An article written for Harvard Business Review Online suggests also adding the following to your time budget document: 

  • Break your typical day into three to four time slots and, over the course of a week, rank-order these slots from your most to least productive. 
  • Categorize time into fixed time (“must do’s”) and discretionary time (“want to do’s”) 
  • Record how long you’ve spent on tasks with very clear deadlines, rather than how much time you have left. 
  • After finishing a project, evaluate how long you thought it would take and how long it actually took. 
  • Think about how the tasks you are doing right now will help or hurt you in the future. 
  • When you think you might be spending too much time on an activity, step back and evaluate its importance. 

If you would like to read the whole article, simply click the link: https://hbr.org/2020/01/time-management-is-about-more-than-life-hacks 

Managing your Priorities 

In addition to understanding where your time goes and how to better keep an eye on it, managing your priorities is just as important. Make each task either high or low priority, depending on deadlines and importance.  

Just like with time, make a list of all your tasks (big, small, menial) and the deadlines associated with them in order to properly prioritize and organize them. Find out if your dental software has the ability to automate some of those smaller and menial tasks, so that you can remove them from your budget and move certain priorties up on your list.  

Work time versus your personal time 

Have you taken holidays yet this year? Do you miss lunches or breaks? Do you work overtime? It may seem that by adding more time to your work time budget, you’re able to catch up to all your awaiting tasks, but the truth is that adding time to your work time budget means subtracting time from your personal time budget. All this does is cause an unhealthy amount of stress.  

I always hear people say that they don’t have time for a break or holidays, but by sacrificing your personal time, you are actually falling into a vicious cycle of stress because of too many tasks and needing to sacrifice more personal time to get them done. 

Let’s be honest. Stress is not a helpful tool for effective time management. Stress slows us down, causes fatigue and illness and can eventually lead to burnout. 

It’s been a stressful nineteen months, with the pandemic closing down businesses and causing constant flareups of fear and anxiety. This is the perfect time for a break, to de-stress, to spend time with family, to be grateful for everything we still have and the normal we’re still fighting for. Don’t sacrifice your personal time in favour of work time because that personal time allows you to recharge and come back to your tasks renewed and refreshed.  

You need to take time for you, to take care of you because you are so very important.  

Resources 

https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_94.htm 

https://hbr.org/2020/01/time-management-is-about-more-than-life-hacks 

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/25/smarter-living/why-you-procrastinate-it-has-nothing-to-do-with-self-control.html