Imagine someone deposited $1,440 into your bank account every day. Your job is to spend that $1,440 daily. Whatever you don’t spend, you lose at the end of the day. How would handle this predicament? Would you work to ensure you spent all the money, or would you let somebody take some or all of the money at the end of the day? If you’re like most people, you’d make sure you had spent all the money by the end of each day.
Now transfer that amount to minutes. (If you multiple 24 hours a day by 60 minutes, you have 1,440 minutes in every day.) If you had to spend each minute of a day wisely and not waste it, would you go about your day differently?
Of course, some of those minutes are spent sleeping and refreshing our bodies, but what about all the others?
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t make every minute of every working day more productive. You just can’t go 90 mph every minute, and you have to step back and take a breather. But there are ways to be productive and make the most out of each day as an EMS manager. The following are some tips, from me and others, to make your day much more productive.
First, organize your day. If you’re an EMS manager who has to have your hands in everything, including stocking and cleaning ambulances, entering billing information into your agency’s database, running every hot call that comes in and sticking your nose into almost every task that pops up in your organization, then you aren’t organized and are probably a micromanager. You probably also find yourself wondering what you got done at the end of the day, which may be nothing as a leader and manager.
Organizing your day means learning to delegate—not micromanaging—and staying on task with your short-, medium- and long-range plans.
One of my tricks is to return phone calls while driving from one place to another. Of course, I use an ear piece so I can have both hands on the steering wheel, and when I dial numbers, I do so in a stopped position. I find this practice highly productive and see it as an opportunity to fill idle time.
Another deputy chief I work with likes to write all his tasks down in a day planner. No matter what the task is, he writes it down so he won’t forget it. He then prioritizes his list each day, and even when it’s something he doesn’t cherish doing, he still gives it proper priority and doesn’t procrastinate. Any task that he can delegate to a staff member, he does.
When he finishes his day, he transfers any remaining tasks to the next day’s list and prioritizes them. As you might have guessed, he’s an extremely organized individual.
I know another person who limits his to-do list to whatever he can fit on a Post-it note. So instead of trying to do too much, he concentrates on the vital tasks that he wants to accomplish that day.
Another way to be productive is to say “no.” As an EMS manager, you have a lot of people who are asking you for something. Often, their requests are reasonable, but they still take time out of your day to complete the task. An employee may need a letter of reference, have an issue with their paycheck or have an important question. You need to evaluate whether it’s something only you can do or if it can be delegated to someone else. Or maybe you need to just say “no.”
Over the years, I’ve had employees ask me to devote hours to helping them study for a test or other task. But as much as I’d love to help them, I don’t have a lot of excess time in each day to help an employee study for a test in school. If I did, I wouldn’t be able to complete other tasks, and I’d have a very unproductive day.
The other important thing to consider when employees ask you to do something is that these “sudden requests” can interrupt your work day and keep you from completing other necessary tasks. So unless it’s something that needs to be addressed right away, you should probably put most of these requests on your to-do list.
Finally, an EMS manager I know looks at his e-mail only once a day. He doesn’t carry a Blackberry, iPhone or any other device that continually sends him his e-mails. Thus, he doesn’t find himself distracted and answering e-mail at inappropriate times, such as when he’s sitting in meeting.
Pay attention to these tips and ideas so you can become more productive. And remember that each minute in the day is just like a dollar. Spend each dollar wisely, and don’t waste it. JEMS
This article originally appeared in May 2011 JEMS as “A Dollar a Minute: Wasting time is expensive.”