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Croner-i: Managing a heavy workload as a Practice Manager

Q:
As a practice manager, I’m finding it hard to juggle the many responsibilities, not only for myself but also my staff, especially during these trying times. How can I manage things with the ever-increasing workload?

A:
Managing yourself and staff is a great challenge. The demands of a practice manager vary from juggling many tasks at a time, completing deadlines, responding to and supporting the partners, practical issues such as changing light bulbs or mending the toilets, leading your staff, always needing to be available, email management and much more.

This can, at times, be overwhelming and it is sometimes difficult to know where to start to put things into perspective.

Imagine an empty jar; if you fill it with rocks, it will appear full. Next, fill the jar with pebbles and gently shake it. This will cause them to roll into the open spaces between the rocks, which will again appear full. Finally, pour sand into the jar. This will result in it filling up the remaining spaces and not overflow.

However, if you repeat the exercise, this time putting the sand in first, then pebbles and finally rocks, the jar will be full but with leftover rocks.

With this in mind, think about dividing your life and tasks into three categories.

  1. The most important things in your life such as your family, your partner, your health, your children (rocks).
  2. The other things that matter such as your job, your house, your car, your hobbies (pebbles).
  3. The “small stuff” (sand).

This story of rocks, pebbles and sand provides an illustration of how you can manage yourself. If you spend all your time and energy on the sand, you will never have time for the important things in your life. It is vital to pay attention to things that are key to your happiness.

In the day-to-day hurley burley of the practice activities, think about doing the following simple actions.

  • Press the “pause button”. Take a few minutes away from others to give yourself a break from pressing matters. This can be making yourself a cup of tea/coffee, going for a walk around the block, not reply immediately to a challenging email, or asking someone to come back at an agreed time so that you have some space to come up with a response.
  • Be clear about when you are accessible to others and when you need time to work without interruptions, eg put a notice on your door indicating that you are not to be disturbed and when you will be available, and divert the telephone. People will soon learn that many work issues can wait a couple of hours or they may even solve the problem themselves.
  • Have the confidence in your staff to do their tasks, delegate more and support them through coaching.
  • Focus on the tasks that you can influence, eg dealing with complaints, managing the staff rather than, for example, trying to make changes to the Primary Care Network policy.