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How to achieve more without doing more
  1. Kirsty Sturman

Abstract

Feeling as though each day is a roller coaster with barely enough time to catch your breath? Kirsty Sturman, training adviser at VDS Training, says there are simple ways you can feel more in control.

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Kirsty Sturman is a training adviser at VDS Training

Practice life can leave us feeling pulled in several directions and making little progress on reducing the endless ‘to do’ list. It is easy to be distracted by others’ priorities and apparently quick jobs. The result can be working overtime or feeling in a permanent rush.

So how can you work smarter? Here are some top tips. While simple and seemingly obvious, executing them and making a real change will require discipline and focus.

1. Plan your activities

Planning gets us on the front foot, putting us in control rather than starting off in the reactive state. This works for both individuals and teams or families. Set time aside for routine administration, including time to plan your diary and your day. Enabling your colleagues to see that diary can help manage expectations and allow them to better support you in using your time effectively. Review which tasks you might be able to delegate, postpone or seek help with.

2. Maintain your energy, enthusiasm and engagement by taking regular breaks

The US physiologist Nathaniel Kleitman posited that the human brain operates in 90-minute intervals, both when asleep and when awake. He argued that it is not possible to maintain high levels of focus for longer than 90 minutes at a time.

Pay particular attention to ‘topping up’ energy levels after difficult or challenging tasks. Taking a couple of minutes to reboot will allow you to perform the next task more effectively and efficiently and you will feel less drained at the end of the working day.

Think too about the times of the day when you find yourself most productive: are you a morning person or an afternoon/evening person? Tackle the tricky tasks at the time when you know you’re most likely to be at the top of your game.

3. Manage distractions

Every time you lose focus it takes several minutes to get back to where you were. Recognise what causes those distractions – are they self-inflicted or external? You could try putting your smartphones and tablets onto do not disturb, and using signs on your door to tell colleagues when you really should not be interrupted unless it’s a critical situation.

When you are on your computer, tablet or phone consider having only one tab open at a time and turning off email notifications. If you don’t have the luxury of a room where you can work alone, use headphones to block out background noise and avoid interruptions – even if they are not on, they can help deter others from disrupting you.

4. Review your ways of working

Make sure you’re not embracing something simply because it’s a habit rather than something useful

What worked, what didn’t; when were you ‘on it’ and when were you distracted or feeling out of control? Is there a quicker, better way to do things? Make sure you’re not embracing something simply because it’s a habit rather than something useful. Taking time out to review, plan and change will give you a bigger return of time and efficiency than the time it takes.

What’s your best escape?

The theme of our August Balance section will be ‘My best escape’ – and we want to hear about yours.

Send your stories, photos and recommendations to vet.editorial{at}bmj.com or reach us on Twitter at @Vet_Record or using the hashtag #VetRecordBalance

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