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Learning To Guard Your Time

If you don't, who will?

When I first wrote Secrets From The World’s Most Productive Nurse Practitioner, all I knew was that I had some skills in managing my time that I thought could help other Nurse Practitioners. I started writing them down – thinking I would have enough for maybe an article somewhere – and next thing you know, BAM! A book. I had more to say than I thought I would, and I have been so thrilled to be able to share it with you and others.

I am excited to start sharing my secrets with non-clinicians, too – this week, I wrote a piece for one of my favorite blogs, Apartment Therapy, sharing my top five tips that anyone can use to get a better handle on their time. It was hard to pick just five. The one that has resonated with readers right off the bat is the one that might be my favorite: Guard Your Time.

No one will place as much importance on your time as you do. You have to protect it. But how? It’s a process, for sure, but I advise you to start by thinking about where your boundaries are when it comes to time. Ask yourself questions…

  • are you okay with interruptions?

  • do you prefer to break larger tasks into smaller, more digestible pieces?

  • do you prefer to do different tasks at different times of day?

If you don’t know yet, that’s okay – you’re on the road to finding out

Managing your time is not as simple as saying no to things – it’s about understanding why you are saying no (we talked about this!). Well managed time is the outcome of a series of decisions, which you will make most effectively when you understand yourself, your needs, and how demands placed on you impact those needs.

If what you desire is control over your time, you need to understand yourself first. To regain control over your time, you will first need to devote some time outside of your regular demands – work demands, home demands, personal demands – to think about what you need.

Once you identify and understand your needs, you can draw boundaries around those needs and create a system to enforce the boundaries. At the end of the process, you will be guarding your time – and you will be much more likely to do so effectively because you understand why you are doing (or not doing) what you are doing (or not doing).

It’s kind of like understanding why you are prescribing a specific medication. When a patient has a UTI, they need an antibiotic – that level of understanding is basic. But you don’t use just any antibiotic; only certain antibiotics will work to treat a UTI. And if you live in my neck of the woods, you should know that cefalexin (Keflex) is not worth your time, because there is local resistance to that antibiotic when used to treat a UTI; go with nitrofurantoin (Macrobid) or trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim) instead.

When you know why you are making the choice that you make, you are better equipped to place (and enforce) boundaries around that choice. I never even consider cefalexin for a patient with UTI for this reason (until I move or the local antibiogram is updated, anyway – things change!).

Preparing to guard your time requires an upfront investment of time. The payoff is worth it, though; deepened understanding of yourself, your needs, and a plan to meet them that can be adapted as circumstances change. Who doesn’t want that?

Take care,

originally published on January 27, 2023

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