How to Improve Time Management: 6 Tips For Veterinarians
As a practicing veterinarian, you're probably busier than ever serving clients and struggling to keep up with demand—all while keeping your business fully staffed and your team free of burnout. Amid this pressure, your personal goals may have been pushed off the to-do list.
But, there may be more time available in your day than you might think.
6 Ways to Improve Time Management
Here are some tips on how to better manage your time, plan your day, and prioritize tasks as a busy veterinarian.
1. Delegate Duties to Veterinary Team Members
Many veterinarians feel they need to control every aspect of patient care, from placing catheters to drawing blood and beyond. Instead, follow the advice I received as a young veterinarian: "Only do the things that no one else can do." This includes diagnosing patients, performing surgery, and prescribing medication. Everything else—discharges, preliminary record writing, lab testing, medication administration, drug calculations—can and should be done by competent team members. If you do not have the support you need, then make it a goal to develop and train your veterinary team. Or, you can seek out a supportive work environment that already has this culture.
2. Set Realistic Veterinary Patient Appointment Goals
Ever had a routine wellness appointment that turns out to be a major medical workup? In this situation, it's important to set realistic expectations with the veterinary client from the start. For example: If the client has 10 concerns, but you only have time for half, tell the client, "We have a 30-minute appointment slot today. Please let me know your main concerns. We will try to address them today, but if we can't get to them all, then we'll need to schedule a follow-up appointment." The client might not like that, but it's important to proactively manage appointments if you don't want to work through lunch or stay late on every shift.
3. Schedule Veterinary Exams Strategically
There's nothing more stressful than an end-of-day emergency case. When this happens, you may feel compelled to stay late and handle the issue—but your team is likely tired from the day, and you need to set boundaries for healthy well-being. To best support your veterinary team members and the patient in need, it's better for such cases to go to an emergency clinic for overnight care. You can better manage this by setting your practice software to instruct team members to only schedule routine visits or simple medical cases for the last appointment of the day. If any other kind of case needs to come in at that time, your team can ask you first to confirm before scheduling the appointment.
4. Find Balance
When I teach, I often hear veterinary professionals say they don't even know where to start when it comes to dividing their time. Unfortunately, it seems they can't even take a breath to determine what their priorities are—or what they should be, instead. This is important to note because you can't effectively manage your time in a meaningful way if you don't know what's meaningful to you.
One way to address this issue is to take a step back and look at the big picture. List all the things that you do in a day—spending time with family and friends, eating, sleeping, exercising, running errands, watching TV, and more—and the amount of time you spend doing them. Then, compare the list with your personal priorities. Now, you have a baseline to work with that you can tweak over time to achieve a sustainable work-life balance.
5. Hire Outside Help
If you're a full-time veterinary professional, you probably don't have adequate time to take care of everything in both your professional and personal lives, especially if you have children. If you have a significant other, they can take on some of the work, but they may be under just as much pressure as you are. If this is the case, give yourself permission to potentially hire what help you can, be it house cleaning, babysitting, grocery delivery, or a virtual assistant that can shoulder at least some of your tasks. Even a free hour now and then can add up quickly.
6. Adopt the Rule of Six
If you're feeling overwhelmed with tasks or don't know where to start, consider adopting the Ivy Lee Method, otherwise known as "the rule of six." It doesn't take long, and you can reduce fatigue, maximize productivity, and improve focus in less than 15 minutes a day.
Start by writing down all the personal and professional tasks you want to complete in a day. Then, at the end of each day, choose six of these tasks and put them in order of priority. Large tasks may be broken down into action steps that are achievable in a day or less. The next day, work your way through the list in order; don't bounce around. When you complete one task, move to the next. You may be surprised at how fast you can move through tasks once you prioritize and focus.
Manage Time and Meet Success
Although time management as a busy veterinarian can seem daunting, it's closer at hand than you may expect once you adopt a new approach—and consider these six tips. One of the best things about success is that it tends to breed more. As you learn to use time wisely, you can retake control of your life and find new ways to succeed.