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How well do you manage your time?

Figuring out what kind of time waster you are can help you think about ways to improve in the vet practice

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According to a recent worldwide study of 1,500 executives by the consulting firm McKinsey and Co., less than 10 percent of respondents were “very satisfied” with their allocation of time.

In other words, over 90 percent of the executives were unhappy with how they spent their time. Many admitted to chronic procrastination and time wasting.

Aaron De Smet, MBA, Ph.D., an executive at McKinsey’s Houston office, explained that the executives are pretty evenly distributed among four types of time management and leadership styles: the Online Junkie, the Schmoozer, the Cheerleader and the Firefighter.

Which type are you?

The Online Junkie

As the name implies, online junkies spend the majority of their time chatting electronically. About 40 percent of their time is spent communicating via email, phone and voice mail. Interactions are delayed, which is called asynchronous communication.

They may think they have many connections with people. Yet they do not spend enough time managing and motivating their team. The quality of such interactions is not as good as walking around, meeting people and actually talking to them. Online junkies need more personal contact, more face-to-face communication.

Another way online junkies waste time is by doing “research” online. Checking a protocol for a CRI on VIN.com  or VASG.org should take less than five minutes. But somehow, this seems to magically lead to a visit to a heated debate on the best way to treat pancreatitis. From there, our online junkie friend checks in to see if her question on resistance to flea medication received an answer.

What started out as a five-minute verification surreptitiously snowballed into a 30-minute ordeal.

The Schmoozer

Schmoozers are like politicians: They enjoy meeting new people, talking to them, engaging them. They are energized by such interactions. Since they are prototypical extraverts, most of their time is spent with clients and in meetings.

Because of these interactions, they feel “plugged in,” yet their colleagues and reports have a hard time getting in touch with them.

What schmoozers lack is “me” time to set a direction and strategize, and they are short on face time with direct reports.

Those two concepts are not mutually exclusive.

It’s not OK to talk about who should have won last night’s episode of “Dancing With the Stars” to a technician who is trying to place an IV catheter in a 14-year-old freakazoid intact tomcat who is 20 percent dehydrated.

However, it’s OK to spend a short amount of time talking to coworkers as long as it doesn’t interfere with their workload.

The rest of the time should be spent in an office or quiet area, brainstorming alone, or during quality, productive, face-to-face interactions.

The Cheerleader

Cheerleaders are good with employees since they spend over half of their time in meetings and face to face. They derive energy from leading, motivating and inspiring the team. They regularly gather the team for pep talks, alignment and working through issues.

They are good at getting through challenges, achieving their goals and aspirations by rallying the troops, getting the right team together, and motivating people to achieve a common objective.

Not only do they enjoy it, they are very good at it.

The problem is, when they spend so much time working directly with their people, they don’t have enough time to work with clients, communicate with business partners or set the broad strategic direction.

Again, this is a balancing act. Less time should be dedicated to pep talks and more time should be spent dealing with business matters.

The Firefighter

Firefighters constantly deal with emergencies. They spend most of their time dealing with the latest, unexpected issue that demands their immediate attention. Therefore, their schedules are a mess because they constantly have to cancel meetings to make room for the last crisis.

They tend to micromanage and deal with problems themselves. They communicate asynchronously via email and voice mail.

About 40 percent of their time is spent alone, which gives them little time to set directions, plan long term, strategize and communicate face to face with the team.

They want more time to work on big strategic issues.

This has less to do with their role or whether there is a crisis—we all face crises—and more to do with how they trained their teams.

This sounds all-too familiar in the veterinary world. Crises and emergencies are unavoidable. Nobody can plan for a broken X-ray machine, computer crash or clogged toilet. But when all decisions escalate to the top, head honchos, managers and supervisors spend most of their time on short-term tactical issues.

Conclusion

Across these four styles of unsatisfied people are two issues that often work in tandem:

  • People’s personal preferences and the habits they have learned by spending too much time on some activities and not enough on others.
  • How organizations are set up. Most companies create job descriptions in terms of goals and responsibilities but give virtually no guidance on what effective time management actually means.

These two issues apply to veterinary medicine just as well.

The issue is not just better time management for individuals. The solution also requires more clarity within organizations to explain who should be spending how much time on what activities.

This would be a great topic to discuss at your next management meeting.


Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and author. You may visit his website at www.DrPhilZeltzman.com or follow him at www.facebook.com/DrZeltzman. Columnists’ opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Veterinary Practice News.

Nikki Schneck, a veterinary technician near Pottsville, Pa., contributed to this article.

Originally published in the July 2016 issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today! 

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