Department: Leadership Q&A
Senior Vice President of Nursing, Lutheran Medical Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
QI was recently asked to manage a second medical-surgical unit. Do you have any suggestions on how to manage my time?
You're correct that time management is a critical element for you now—it's about working smarter, not harder.
I would concentrate on the typical time management strategies we hear and read about but don't often do well. Good organization sounds basic, but it's key. Use a file folder system for both e-mail and regular mail. Delete or throw away unneeded mail immediately. Keep e-mail responses short and concise; if you're cc'd, you don't even have to respond at all. Use a flag system for when items are due. Sometimes I flag e-mail for the next day when it requires time to prepare a response and I don't have time to do so when I open it. Maximize technology to improve your productivity using all the tools that programs and devices have to offer.
Leadership skills to focus on include prioritization, delegation, and limit-setting. Avoid meetings that are time wasters if you can. If you're running the meeting, make sure there's an agenda, as well as objectives, and that you lead the group to conclusions in a timely way. Sometimes your open-door policy may require a period of a closed door if you need uninterrupted time to get something done. To maximize communication with staff, use message boards, mailboxes, e-mail lists, and face time with intentional rounding and staff meetings on all shifts.
Utilize whatever supports you have: clerical help, instructors, clinical nurse specialists, clinical nurse leaders, assistant managers, even your boss. If you need more support, advocate for it. Neither you nor the organization can afford for you to be ineffective; the potential patient and staff adverse effects of failed leadership are too grave.
Focus on your patients and staff. Keep your eye on your quality goals. Nurture relationships with key stakeholders. Be clear on what you expect. And, most important, be good to yourself and don't sacrifice your physical or psychological health to the job. Enjoy it and share the joy—positivism is contagious!