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Get into the habit of arriving early. This will give you the chance to read through your reports and handover sheets, settle your mind and organise your tasks before the hustle and bustle of the shift ahead.
Make a note. If it is just for your personal use only, it could be in any form you fancy, whether it’s a tick box on your handover notes, a to-do list in your notebook or a grid of patient names with associated tasks, writing down your activities for the day will allow you to clearly see what jobs you need to accomplish.
Estimate how long it will take. Add time estimates next to each task so that you can see how much time you’re likely to spend on each. This will prevent you from spending too much time on one task and neglecting another.
Prioritise. Now that you have your list of tasks for the day, it’s a good idea to prioritise them. What needs to be done first? Which tasks are urgent? Which tasks need to be undertaken before you can carry out others? What would happen if a task wasn’t carried out immediately? Give each task on your list a number according to how urgent it is, 1 being the most urgent and 10 being the least.
Avoid tasks that aren’t on your list. If they’re not on your list, then they’re probably not the best use of your time. Avoiding activities such as watching television, taking long chats, sending emails or getting involved in long conversations with your colleagues will mean that you’ll fit more things into your shift and feel less stressed too.
Learn to say “No”. You can’t be everywhere at the same time, so some things will have to wait. Check in with a patient, saying something like ‘I’m sorry I have to deal with this right now but I will be back to help you in a few minutes.’
Listen to your patient. Your patient’s priorities may be different to yours, so try not to assume what they would like first, ask.
Take a breather. You’re bound to get more done when you’re feeling in control. The stress of the ward may make it feel like you can’t take a break, but using a few minutes to collect your thoughts can help you relax and focus on what needs to be done.
Be flexible. Working on a ward can be unpredictable and your priorities can change very quickly, so learn to be flexible and respond to what’s going on around you. It may be useful to regularly reassess and refresh your to-do list as your shift continues.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. With practice, you will get better at time management. Berating yourself for things that you didn’t manage to do during your shift isn’t helpful. There will always be something that you wanted to get done but didn’t have time. Experiment with different styles of time management
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