You’re Never Finished But That’s OK, You’re Still Organized.

I've got everything under control.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, those of us working in the longterm care industry have a ton of work to do.  I have worked in other industries and this one by far takes the cake with giving you so many tasks you can’t think straight.

One of the things that used to drive me crazy is that I couldn’t get finished with all the tasks that had developed during the day in addition to the items already on my agenda.  I would spend countless hours at the facility chipping away at the ever-growing mountain of tasks before me.  Even during my AIT, my preceptor would call the building late at night and tell me to go home. Finally, I realized that everything simply wasn’t going to get done.  Our industry was broken as a whole and it wasn’t possible for most us of to get all of our tasks completed in the traditional manner. 

Even now when I hire a new employee, I make sure to tell that person in the interview that they will have to adjust their mentality for this industry.  This is a marathon, not a sprint.  There will never be a day when the desk is completely clear and they don’t have something with a timeline around the corner.  There will never be a day when you have nothing to do.  However, there will also never be a day when you’re bored.  I have worked in this industry since ’98 and have never been bored at work even once.  We’re too busy to be bored.

I also realized that while I couldn’t get everything done that I wanted, I could still make a huge impact by getting organized and ensuring that my subordinates were doing their jobs instead of bringing me all the things they were quite capable of handling.  While I still offer support and suggestions, I simply won’t do their jobs for them.  What do I need them for in that case?

Most of us use a variety of methods at an attempt to get organized. There are planners and desk calendars, post-it notes and phone alerts, Outlook , email, paper files, organizers, iPhone apps, and the list goes on.

I like to use a couple of methods to try to stay organized.  One is I keep an ongoing Master To-do List.  If a new task pops up, it goes on the master list.  Then, each day, I take a few items of importance from the master to-do list and make a daily to-do list – no more than 5 items.  These 5 things will get done no matter what, come hell or high water.

As they’re completed, they’re marked off the master to-do list and I usually put a “W!” beside them as this indicates a “WIN!”.  This goes a long way in building your confidence and power mindset (A trick I learned from Bill Phillips of Body-for-Life fame).  It builds a small series of consistent successes.

Another method I use is desktop organization of all incoming mail.   Even though at various times during the day, my desk looks like a train wreck happened on top of it, at the end of the day, every piece of paper has a home – whether that be a file, folder, binder, or letter tray.  (Thanks for that nugget, Chris!)  I usually use stackable letter trays – 5 of them.  Everything comes to an IN box.  A couple of times during the day, I’ll empty my IN box and review the contents.  If it’s something simple that I can knock out immediately, I do.  That way I don’t have to handle that piece of paper again.  It’s done! If it’s something that needs to be taken care of later, it goes into one of the other letter trays: 

*PRIORITY, URGENT

*PRIORITY, NONURGENT

*NON-PRIORITY

Or the *OUT box.  

Obviously, if it’s important, it’s something that needs to be done by me, and it has a deadline, it goes into PRIORITY, URGENT.  If it’s important, something that needs to be completed by me but the deadline is flexible or not in the near future, it can go into the PRIORITY, NONURGENT tray.  If it’s not something required by my employer, but rather a project or task that I just want to accomplish, it goes into the NON-PRIORITY tray.  And, finally, there always seems to end up on my desk a task that really doesn’t require me to take care of – one of my staff member is capable of completing.  This piece of paper goes straight to the OUT box and will soon make it’s way into the responsible person’s hands to whom I will delegate the task.

While there are certainly more sophisticated systems available, this is what works for me.  Find out what works for you and share it with us here!

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