Chances are, you have struggled with time management at one point or another in your life. We sure know we have. Because we all could learn how to manage our time a little better, we invited James Davidson, founder of Davidson Counseling Group, to share his experience with time management.
A guest post by James Davidson, Ph.D.
My adventures with time management began with my first job after leaving graduate school. The ink was still drying on my diploma and psychology license when I started my career evaluating the effectiveness of mental health and chemical dependency agencies. It was a challenging task, partly because program evaluation was a fairly new concept at the time, and partly because my clinical skills and knowledge were minimal. I was a newbie in the field, and I was supposed to inform my colleagues about the effectiveness of their treatment programs! Are you kidding me?
I embarked on the task with a deadly combination of enthusiasm and vigor. Meet and greet providers. Read books. Study the research. Construct surveys and implement ways to gather data. Work from sun up until sun down. Then repeat the next day.
My office looked like that of a deranged professor: books and papers everywhere. My calendar was filled with meetings and appointments. The harder I worked I realized how little I knew. Life was becoming increasingly miserable. It just wasn’t fun. And it didn’t seem very productive.
My Time Management ‘AHA’ Moment
And then I read an article in a newsletter entitled Boardroom Reports about time management. It recounted the struggles of an executive buried in mail, memos, reports and more – and how one day, fed up with the all the busywork, he dumped everything into the trash. He figured that if the problems were important, he would get a phone call.
So I dumped almost everything in my office into the dumpster, waited for the phone to ring (it didn’t), and decided to refocus on figuring out what was truly important to work on in my new job. The process led to an enduring battle to simplify complicated situations, work efficiently, and write clearly.
Time Management Principles That (I Found) Work
Several time management principles emerged over the years, many of which are based on Stephen Covey’s management books (7 Habits of Highly Effective People, First Things First, etc.). Here’s the short list:
- Always consider the final result when beginning a task. Have a clear target to hit.
- Keep the task simple. If a third-grader doesn’t understand what you’re doing, it’s likely too complicated.
- Focus on doing the most important things first.
- Handle and use information once (e.g. emails, phone calls, reports etc.).
- Resist distractions, including stuff that you like to do but isn’t important to the task.
- Delegate – either to people or technology.
A Time Management Must: Delegation
Delegation is an interesting area for effective time management. After leaving my first job, I’ve been in a group private practice for my entire career. My wife is a clinical psychologist as well, and we’ve practiced with multiple providers and support staff for most of our careers. I learned to delegate to people to have good communication and consistency in our practice.
But even more important, I learned to delegate to technology. Way back in the dark ages of clinical psychology in the 1970s, insurance forms were filled out by hand or using a typewriter. I began using computer based practice management systems in the 1990s with the advent of the PC. A website was established in 1997. The fax machine went out the back door with the development of web-based fax shortly thereafter. Thousands of patient records were scanned using a Fujitsu ScanSnap a decade ago and stored in the cloud, as well as backed up with physical media. Online appointment scheduling was added to the website in 2006. A system was then added to convert voicemail to text emails. The computer based practice management system was dumped in favor of web-based practice management in 2009. Online intake forms were added a few years ago to the website that “bounce back” to the practice. Our legacy “informational” website was converted to a marketing based website in 2014.
The result of delegating to technology? My office is paperless. Part-time help is occasionally employed. Clients schedule and complete forms online. Practice management tasks take a few hours a week. Records can be accessed anywhere.
Simplifying Life to Manage Our Time
It takes effort to simplify. But today, the practice structure is simple. The back office tasks are easy to manage and the goal of being in practice – to help people – is easy to keep in focus.
Famed management guru Peter Drucker noted, “Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.” Perhaps it’s time for you to clear everything out of your office like I did decades ago, and make the limited time you have work for you.
About the Author: James Davidson is a licensed psychologist practicing in Plano, Texas. In over 30 years of private practice, he has evaluated the effectiveness of mental health agencies, conducted numerous psychological and forensic evaluations, and served as an expert witness on various issues. He has special expertise in treating teen issues, sexual abuse victims and couples counseling.
You can learn more about James and his private practice at www.davidsoncounselinggroup.com