The Value of Time
Let technology help you save this most precious commodity.
By Eric Cardin, PT, MS
Time. Time is money. Time seems infinite yet it is a finite resource. You’ve already given up some by the end of this sentence. Every moment is sacred yet we waste it every day. Technology offers the promise of efficiency and organization, but too often we find ourselves awash in options and lacking solutions.
Much like exercise, you have to find what works for you to be successful. Sometimes finding your “system” is a series of failures, and only trial and error can result in the perfect (or near-perfect) method for staying on top of things. But what are the “things”? Treating patients is straightforward: We define our schedule, the patients (hopefully) keep to it, and all is well. Keeping track of the rest of it—the emails, the voicemails, texts, invoices, payments, regulations—slowly chips away at our time. While we oftentimes worry that the erosion of our time is detrimental to our bottom line, the real effect is much more costly. Lack of organization and efficiency takes away from our time.
Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, president, and avid golfer was legendary for his efficiency. Whether Ike was born to it or developed it after years in the military, he was known for getting things done. After all, you can’t lead the largest secret military invasion in history without having your ducks in a row. One trick he developed was the “Eisenhower Box.” A simple but powerful tool for organizing and prioritizing tasks by dividing them into four categories across two simple principles. Is it urgent? Is it important? If it’s urgent, should you do it now or have someone else do it very soon? If it is not important or not urgent, do you really need to be doing it?
So much of what bogs us down is training ourselves to understand what needs our attention. Urgency and importance can be quite subjective, but over time, patterns develop and tasks drive themselves into the appropriate box. Turning a legal pad into a Eisenhower Box can sharpen focus and reduce the overwhelmed feeling that can torpedo efficiency. Several free and paid apps exist to use your smartphone to harness the power of the Eisenhower Box. Some offer calendar integration to allow the user to swipe a “plan it” task right to the calendar, and many offer “task timer” to put yourself on the clock to “do it now.” Setting up your email application with folders for the four boxes can be a powerful tool for taming your inbox. Most email apps have effective tools for learning your preferences and over time can help filter your email to the appropriate folder and further enhance your efficiency in managing email.
Sometimes we can get lost in too many projects going on at once. Scraps of paper, notebooks, iPhone Notes, and a wall of Post-its leaves you with a mess and not much else. Several online tools/apps have emerged that use cloud technology and smartphones to help with collaboration and organization. Over the past three years apps such as Trello, Asana, Teamwork, Boomerang, Slack, Basecamp, Wrike, and many others have emerged to streamline the ability for individuals and teams to collaborate and efficiently complete tasks. The number of apps is evidence that no one has it exactly figured out (so don’t feel bad about being so disorganized), but it is also proof that finding the right tool or method is an individual thing. Moving our task lists to and prioritizing them in the cloud and accessing them via that one thing you carry around with you all the time, always look at, and (hopefully) never lose, is a great use of technology (although not as satisfying as the video game Candy Crush).
The key to success is similar to physical therapy. Basic ingredients or steps are required, but diligence and consistency are key. If it isn’t working, you probably haven’t found your method, so keep trying. Some of us are prone to procrastination and disorganization and secretly thrive on the pressing deadline or the backlog of work that needs to be done. Who are we kidding? No one likes that and it’s no way to live, so mark a date on your calendar to get started on your path to efficiency and organization. What you get back in time saved will far outweigh time spent.
Eric Cardin, PT, MS, is the executive director of South County Physical Therapy, Inc., in Auburn, Massachusetts. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.