How to optimise your productivity in practice

3 July 2023


Did you know that the human brain is incapable of focusing on more than one thing at a time? Day-to-day as a vet there are so many different tasks to do, meaning it can sometimes feel impossible to get everything done efficiently and effectively.

Speaking as part of the module on time management at BSAVA Congress 2023, Alan Robinson, Director of Vet Dynamics, said that the five killers of prime time were feeling overwhelmed, disorganised, distracted, demotivated, and isolated. If you’re not good with your time, it’s easy to slip into any one of these traits.

Getting in the ‘flow’

One of Alan’s key takeaways was that busyness does not always mean being profitable. If you’re busy, you’re most likely stressed, and completely out of ‘flow’. If you’ve not heard of the concept of ‘flow’ before, this is when you are completely involved in an activity, which comes from your natural path or energy. A flow state is when your sense of time goes, you’re unaware of everything else around you, your mind will be hyper-focused, and you’ll even forget hunger, thirst, and pain.

Speaking alongside Alan, Rebecca Robinson said, “People who are in flow everyday are six times more likely to be engaged at work, 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit their jobs”. Questions to ask your practice team might be:

  • What activities and tasks put me in flow?
  • How can you improve this/spend more time in flow?
  • What barriers are there to this?
  • How can you best use your time and skills to help the team?

If you’re making everyone aware of the ideal environment, your team is more likely to be able to experience flow more often. As Rebecca says, “When a team experiences flow collectively, they are a powerful force of nature”.

Improve your time management

If you want to get into ‘flow’ more throughout the day, how can you better your time management to do so? You can start by creating a daily planner, setting reminders for all your tasks, and giving each task a time limit. If you can, establish a routine and block out distractions as much as possible.

One of the things mentioned by Rebecca was ‘Getting off the hamster wheel’, where you’re stuck being busy but not actually getting anywhere. You will often find that the outcomes of this situation include being reactive and snappy, with low-quality decisions being made, and you might start procrastinating. Let’s look at the ways we can choose our priorities day to day:

  • Know the plan, so that we know what is important.
  • The rule of three – never have more than three things to prioritise, you’re a lot less likely to get things done if there’s more.
  • Two-minute rule – If a task is going to take two minutes or less, just do it. Don’t write it on your to-do list!
  • Planning and review time – Putting your brain in a space where it can think.

Your time outside of work counts too!

What you decide to do outside of work can help you to get off the ‘hamster wheel’. Take time out and see your friends; conversing about topics that don’t relate to your stress can help massively, as can any hobbies that keep you mentally and physically stimulated! Take proper breaks at work, don’t be tempted to eat lunch in front of a computer, and take your holidays – even if it’s a weekend away. Restricting your intake of caffeine and alcohol can also help, we all reach for that morning coffee, but it might be adding to your stress.

Remember, the aim of time management is to get in control, feel related to what you are doing, feel focused, inspired, and most importantly, get things done!