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How to Plan Every Day for Success


One of the hardest things about time management and productivity is keeping track of everything that needs to be done in a day. As a physician, there are always circumstances that pop up that can throw off what you plan to accomplish in a day.

Practice Management, Columns, Checklist, To-Do List, Success, Planning

One of the hardest things about time management and productivity is keeping track of everything that needs to be done in a day. As a physician, there are always circumstances that pop up that can throw off what you plan to accomplish in a day, and sometimes, this very unpredictability can cause you to throw planning out the window. You may be thinking to yourself why try when your plans don’t pan out, but you’ll find that you get more done in a day when you’ve taken the time for a little advance planning. I’ll share with you some common time management models used by the experts.

ABC Technique

The ABC technique of time management is a tool based on priorities. You label each of your tasks based on how urgent they are to do during the upcoming day. Everything that is a highly urgent or important should be labeled as an A, and anything less important can be given a B or C. Then, each task that is an A can be prioritized further by labeling associated tasks as A1, A2, and so on. This is a good method of daily planning if you like making lists.

Time Management Model

In the time management model, you’ll need to log your time for about a week. This will help you to get an idea of your typical routine, and what tasks are taking up the majority of your day. This information will help you to pinpoint inefficiencies in how you handle your day. You may not even realize that some insignificant tasks are taking up the majority of your time during the day, but this will help to clarify the best way to use your daily tasks. Then when you go about planning your day in advance, you can find ways to minimize those insignificant tasks by either cutting them out of your day or delegating them to others. I use this method when coaching physicians to reach their career and life goals. Knowing what you are doing will help us figure out the changes that need to be made for successfully achieve your desired outcome.

Time Management Matrix

A time management matrix is another technique that allows you to sort the tasks that you get done in a day to help you prioritize them. This method has different forms, but I was introduced to it through Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Start by creating a chart with four squares.

The top left corner is important and urgent, the top right corner is important and not urgent, the bottom left corner is not important and urgent, while the bottom right corner is not important and not urgent. The top left corner will include those things that are emergencies. The top right corner will have those activities that are tasks like building relationships, planning, preventing, creativity, and finding ways to maintain an increased productivity. The bottom left corner are those tasks that needed to be done, but can be seen as interruptions in your schedule. This may be a mandatory meeting at work, or even your personal interests. The bottom right corner are those things in your schedule that are not helpful toward achieving your goals and should be minimized or avoided all together.

Advance Planning Tips

  • Create a list of everything that you want to complete in a day based on your priorities. You’ll want to list the must get done and what can be put off until tomorrow items, in case of any schedule disruptions.
  • Block out your time in increments that make sense for you.
  • Be sure to fit time into your schedule for those emergencies that inevitably pop up. It can be frustrating to not get everything done on your schedule if you pack everything in too tightly.

Taking some time at the end of your day to do a bit of advance planning may make a change in your life that you’ll have to see to believe. Once you are able to tackle time management by doing some advanced planning, you will find that your stress levels may decrease, your work/life balance gets into better sync, and your day goes more your way. Your patients may even start to notice a difference. Give one of these methods a try to see what works best for you!

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice