Time Management: Top 10 Strategies and Tips

Hey Friends, welcome back to today’s blog post where I talk about time management.

Time management is a core skill of any nurse at any level, from students, to assistants to experienced registered nurses. Nurses work shift work, on different wards and deal with different loads of stress. Juggling the workload and managing the stress is required by any nurse during their shift.

To master the stressful and busy environments, a nurse needs to promptly organise information, prioritise and learn to roll with the inevitable interruptions, to ensure care continues safely and appropriately.

Facilitating and providing safe and appropriate care can be made easier with the below time management tips. In this blog post I first discuss the main areas to focus on to improve your time management. Secondly, I outline my top 10 tips to supercharge your time management.

Time management in nursing looks at how we can safely and efficiently provide care through the prioritisation of tasks. These tasks are impacted by our time, our colleagues, other healthcare teams, the amount of patients we are attempting to provide care for and so on. I have broken down the areas that have worked for me and other students I have mentored. Let’s have a look…

Tasks and Priorities

At handover, vital information will be relayed about specific patients such as urgent lab work, strict timing of medications or increased frequency to vital sign monitoring, all of which will require you to prioritise their execution.

On the commencement of a new shift, following handover you will have a set of tasks to be completed. These tasks will vary between different patients and require completion by certain times. Therefore they will require a priority to ensure they are completed in a timely and appropriate manner.

This may seem obvious or common sense, however when you are caring for 4-8 patients, it can become challenging to deliver care to all without prioritisation and organisation.

The following strategies and tools will assist with prioritising your task during your shift.

Time Management Strategies and Tools

For years, one of the standards for managing your time is to work to a schedule. Many nurses achieve this by using a worksheet, notepad and/or pen. Nurses utilise this method by writing down important and vital information about their patient from handover and during their shift. This would then be used again throughout the shift. A notepad or basic worksheet is good, however, it is much easier to use a template.

The template for your time management sheet often begins with a simple one provided by work or your training institution. A good time management sheet has spaces for handover notes, patient details and demographics, lab work, new orders, medication times and specific other care information for that patient. Having a tool to manage your time throughout a shift is key to a smooth shift.

I have created a shift planner for you all – CLICK HERE – Shift Planner

10 Strategies & Tips to Supercharge your Time Management

1. Arrive early

That extra 5-10 minutes will give you the chance to settle in and get the vibe for the shift ahead. With this time you are able to get changed (if you need to), place your lunch in the fridge, check out your allocations and begin planning your day, all prior to handover.

2. Use a shift planner

Write things down so you can remember, organise and prioritise your work. As I mentioned above, using a shift planner is ideal to capture your shift ahead, plan and monitor the execution of your cares and to use when writing progress notes. Check out my Shift Planner – Here.

3. Prioritise

Use your own method. It is great to utilise a system which works with your shift planner. whether you tick or allocate tasks to certain times or asterisk or highlight those activities that must be completed during the shift or at specific times, ie. a wound dressing, IV antibiotics etc.

Ask yourself:

  • What am I going to do first and why?
  • Which is more important to do and why?
  • What will happen if this task is not done now or during this shift?
  • What is most important to the patient?

4. Limit distractions and factor in the interruptions

As a nurse, it’s important to avoid being distracted as this could affect your concentration and focus. Distractions cause a decrease in productivity which may cause extra stress with the workload to complete. Clinical situations occurring with other patients who you are not caring for, others staff asking for assistance, mobile phones, doctors visiting wards, all provide distractions.

You have to figure out strategies to stop these impeding your ability to do your job:

  • Do whatever it takes to put yourself “in the zone”
  • Prioritise your tasks
  • Use short breaks as outlets (if possible)

In between the distractions, you will encounter interruptions. Being adaptable and flexible while on shift is a key skill to regulate stress and the workflow. Sudden deteriorations, codes, admissions, post operative patients, doctors making rounds, relatives visiting, staff sick leave all require continuous flexibility and sometimes replanning.

5. Be organised

Having a clean, tidy and organised work area facilitates the progression of work. Have a system for your work progression and stick to it. This will facilitate flow as well as enable you to develop skills along the way.

6. Be efficient and get things right

Don’t take shortcuts and don’t guess. Be thorough with your patient care.

If you need to take an extra couple of minutes to double-check patient notes, or something you are unsure of, do it.

The consequences of an adverse event may be more than extra time.

Likewise when writing notes or handing over be concise and detailed but avoid babbling and waffling on or gossiping. Knowing what to include and what can be left out takes practice.

7. Learn how to delegate to get more done

If you’re working in pairs or a team with healthcare workers or students, allocate tasks appropriate to skill level that will allow you to complete what you need to whilst also supervising.

Make sure you delegate the right task to the right person. Be aware of others scope of practice including students. Are they student RN’s, if so, what year of study are they? They usually carry a scope of practice document with them. Check it out.

Keep communication channels open, for example clinical observations are performed so that any irregularities are reported back to you.

8. Learn to say ‘no’ and set the boundaries

This is a key skill to learn and use. You will have many competing tasks during your shift and basically one of them will be of priority and get done and the others will not. Learning when to say no ties in with prioritising your tasks.

9. Take a breath or two and a break!

Taking a few minutes out to reassess where you are at and to prioritise what needs to be done next is the best thing you can do. You cannot think clearly when in the middle of the situation. Step into the treatment or medication room and collect your thoughts and focus on what needs to be done next and for the rest of the shift.

No matter how busy the shift is, go to the toilet and take your meal breaks. You need fuel to recharge and complete your shift effectively and safely.

10. Be easy on yourself

No one likes handing over work they could have done. There will always be work left unfinished in nursing – and whether you’ve prioritised as best you can often be subjective. The emotional support you provided to a patient may have been more important than the daily wound dressing you didn’t get to. Tasks are important but remember your patient’s needs and being an advocate for yourself as well as your patients sometimes is priority.

Time management takes practice. Reflect on what worked well and what didn’t at the end of your shift and why. Sometimes things are beyond your control, however you might identify areas for improvement.

If you missed the opportunity above, Here is my Shift Planner which will help you all with developing your time management skills caring for patients on the ward.

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