Time Management for the 100mph Veterinary Leader

Understandably, many in veterinary leadership positions  are rushed off their feet. You race through the day at what feels like 100mph – there’s hardly time for lunch – whilst spinning 100 plates and juggling 100 balls. You name it, as a veterinary leader you’ve become every cliche in the book of busy.

Although the job can be fast-paced, many leaders do not stop to think about how they should manage their time. Rather than questioning an existing system that is outdated and wastes time (teaching vets to ‘learn on the job – sink or swim style’ instead of providing sufficient training, for example), you go along with it.

But what if you put the brakes on, just for a little while, to consider how you can manage your time more effectively as a veterinary leader?

Read on to discover key time management tips for the 100mph leader…

Review your systems

Set aside some time to review your existing systems. It’s even better if you can do this with the rest of your management team. If there is a procedure that comes to mind, such as completing equipment approval forms, or answering email that takes away too much time from high-value tasks, see if you can change it. Is there someone who you can delegate the task to, such as a head nurse or team leader? Can you produce a more streamlined application and approval system online? Can you limit the amount of attention you dedicate to email by only checking twice a day at set times?

The low-value tasks that you do as part of your job – answering emails, having endless meetings and administration – how can spend less time or at least only do these when higher value things have been completed? How can you shift your focus onto the higher-value aspects of leadership such as creating team culture, recruitment and onboarding, innovating and marketing? This is all about creating systems that work for (not against) you and making effective use of everyone on your team.

The importance of onboarding

The importance of onboarding should never be underestimated! A thorough onboarding process will not only save time in the long run, but will give the new team member confidence and skills needed to do their job well. Every practice is different. For example, you will have a specific pricing structure and method of constructing invoices. Make sure you spend time teaching your processes right from the start. Otherwise, mistakes will be made and you will be faced with the triple problem of redoing work, dealing with complaints, and answering a barrage of endless repeated questions every day.

It sounds simple, but this is often overlooked because”we are too busy” for proper onboarding. If this is you, hopefully you catch the irony of the statement when you investigate the underlying causes of being too busy. 

Plan for success, anticipate crisis

When you are creating plans or setting goals – financial goals for the next quarter, for example – give yourself some leeway for the unexpected. As a leader in the veterinary profession, you will know that vets encounter the unexpected almost every day! Therefore, in the longer term, this is likely to happen too. Perhaps your head nurse unexpectedly leaves, you have trouble recruiting, and you are hit by a global pandemic(!). These unforeseeable events should be part of your plan, or at least in the back of your mind.

If you prepare for the unexpected (for example, building a succession plan, making sure you have a cash reserve, training all vets in case of unexpected leave) you will spend less time in damage limitation mode and more time on positive, high-value tasks.

Look after yourself

Too many leaders run themselves ragged and end up burning out. You are doing one of the most valuable jobs on the planet, yet it’s also one of the busiest. As a veterinary leader, you have to deal with the managerial aspects (payroll, insurance, setting the schedule, etc), the clinical (the nitty-gritty vet stuff) and the actual leadership of your people (creating a practice culture, team-building). But who looks after you?!

By taking some time to focus on your wellbeing, you will actually end up being more productive. If you feel yourself getting stressed at work, take a 10 minute walk if you can. If not, a 5 minute meditation break could be all you need as a midday boost. Breathing techniques are not to be sniffed at, and are proven to drastically reduce stress levels during a busy day.

When you do have free time, make sure you spend it in valuable ways – doing the things you love with your family, exploring new places, socialising, writing, being creative. Do whatever brings you joy. This will leave you rejuvenated and ready to tackle another day as a successful and happy veterinary leader.

These ideas are not necessarily about slowing down; your job is fast-paced by nature. However, implementing them will help you distribute your attention and use your time more wisely. If you found this post useful, or would like to offer your own time management tips, join the conversation! Our Facebook page is dedicated to veterinary leaders like you and is a hub of networking and support.

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