A member asks one of the most common questions we get:
My most pressing question is how to manage tasks. I find myself putting out fires all day and getting behind on issues that are part of my role. I have been a Nurse Manager for a year now with training that can be labeled as a baptism by fire. I want to do a great job though. There was no one to show me the ropes. Actually I got the job due to being the go to person for the surgical area. So, when the management position was established, I was the unit expert and got the job. The previous manager also had the operating room and PACU, so when the surgical clinics and specialties were taken from her supervision, she never looked back.
Is there a way to manage the daily fire fighting and get required tasks accomplished? I supervise Surgical Clinics, Podiatry, ENT, Neurology, Rheumatology, Cardiology, Urology, and Ophthalmology.
Our brief answer (and of course we go into more details about Time Management in our program):
Time Management is a huge challenge for Nurse Managers and so we empathize with you. That’s because most Nurse Managers have more tasks than time available (unless they want no personal or family life). So you have to ask what the 20% of things are that get you 80% of your results in terms of quality and productivity, and make those always come first. The other 80% are where you have to make some decisions, delegate, set priorities, or just say no.
The following exercise might help you. For about a week, write down how you spend your time in 15 min increments.
Then analyze according to the following questions:
1. Did anyone have to do this task at all?
2. Did I have to do it or could someone else have done it? For instance, do I really need to go to all of those meetings or can someone else go and brief me later?
3. Did I have to do it now or could it have waited?
4. Are my standards too high? Can I do less and get an acceptable result? Can I make decisions more rapidly and with the information available?
5. Going forward, can I set aside specific time to group certain tasks and be more efficient (like setting aside an hour long block for people to ask questions, rather than tolerating constant interruptions — excepting TRUE emergencies of course)?
6. For which tasks do I need to set boundaries or negotiate with someone to let them know that I can either do those tasks or another set of tasks, but don’t have the time to do both?
7. On which tasks can I be more efficient, for instance by scanning journal articles rather than saving and trying to read the entire journal?
Based on your above answers, try to schedule your day more efficiently and proactively. For instance, set aside schedule blocks where you are walking around, where your office is open for questions, where you are delegating more tasks to others, and where you are in closed door work doing admin things.