Looking to improve your time management skills in care? Here's four easy ways to do so:
  • be organised
  • learn to prioritise
  • organise your time
  • adapt quickly to change

Time management tips.

Whether you’re working as a Registered General Nurse or a social worker, a career in care can involve long hours and can take up a lot of energy so managing time efficiently is essential. People who succeed in doing so will find they experience greater job satisfaction as well as improving their performance.  Although every job is different, these tips should help those in support, social work and nurse roles.

Getting organised.

Jobs in social care often involve lots of separate tasks, while shifts have little structure apart from elements such as paperwork, ward rounds, handovers and dispensing meds. This makes it important for care workers to be highly organised. Nobody can keep track of everything mentally without making mistakes, so things need to be written down. A great way to keep track of everything going on in your day is to keep a to-do list, jot down everything that you need to complete and as each one is accomplished, tick it off your list.  Making short notes during the shift is also useful; for instance, social work jobs may involve seeing several clients per day and getting their issues confused can waste a lot of time even if other paperwork exists to clarify matters.

Prioritising tasks.

In any given shift there are always some tasks that are essential and others that can wait or are, at any rate, less urgent.  Organising tasks by priority makes sure that all the essential things get done even if time runs short.  It also tends to mean that more difficult tasks are done first when energy levels are at their highest, with a lot of routine work able to be completed later on.

A great technique to help manage and prioritise work is using the Eisenhower matrix, this breaks down work into 4 quadrants based on importance and urgency. This methodology works across any industry, the principles are as follows:

  • Important and urgent - This work must be done immediately and is top priority
  • Important but not urgent - This work can be planned in later, it must be completed but not immediately
  • Not important but urgent - If possible this work should be delegated to a team member with the necessary skills
  • Not Important and not urgent - This work should be completely de-prioritised and taken off your to-do list if possible

When organising, most care workers will need to consider other people in their unit as well as themselves.  In particular, people pursuing careers in support work need to consider how delaying some tasks could potentially impact clients or leave colleagues unable to get on with important tasks of their own.

Think about space and time.

A lot of time and trouble can be saved by organising tasks efficiently within space and time. This means thinking about where and when they need to be done.  For instance, nursing jobs that require going up and down a busy ward can be made more efficient if the order they are done in keeps travel from one end of the ward to the other to a minimum.  Social workers who have several home visits to make can save time on travel by keeping them in a sensible and efficient order.
 
Some tasks, like preparing meals or processing paperwork that has come from somebody else, can only be done at or after specific times.  A good schedule takes this into account and structures other tasks so that they fit in with those time commitments.

Adapting to change.

Even the best of schedules has to be adaptable, especially in the care sector, where urgent situations often crop up at the last minute.  Where possible, setting aside half an hour at the end of the day means it’s possible to catch up when a schedule has been set back by an unexpected event.  If everything is running to plan, this time can be used for those tasks that are not actually essential but which make the job easier or improve things for clients.  It’s important to try and avoid situations where catch-up can only be done by working after hours. Looking after your own health is also a vital component of doing a good job.

Hopefully, this has helped you to improve your time management at work, freeing up your time and allowing you to work more efficiently. If you’d like more information on time management, career advice or interview techniques, click here.