Time management – top tips on how to manage your day and find more time

Sometimes the biggest enemy of the social worker or professional caregiver appears to be time. There are simply not enough hours in the day to complete all the home visits, needs assessments and care plans to the standard that you’d like to.

However, by reviewing your time management practices and taking these pointers on board, you can eventually turn time into your biggest ally.

1.    Look after your health
The healthier your lifestyle is, the more energy you have. The more energy you have, the more you’ll be able to do in less time. In other words, it takes longer to do tasks if you’re low on energy. So maintain your energy levels by aiming for eight hours of sleep a night, always eating lunch—even if it has to be at your desk or on your way to a home visit, and staying fit by finding a form of exercise you enjoy and can fit around your schedule.

2.    Be professional
The more professional we are, the less time we waste on activities that add no value to our work. It’s amazing how much time we can save if we cut out certain little habits. Let’s say that on a typical day, we:

•    Arrive for work 5 minutes late because we know we can get away with it
•    Make our morning coffee quickly but then spend 5 minutes chatting with whoever else is in the break room
•    Check our personal email account several times
•    Also check Facebook a few times
•    Occasionally go on our phone to check Twitter
•    Come back from lunch a few minutes late because we know we can get away with it
•    Reply to a text from our partner or flatmate
•    Do a bit of window shopping on our way back from a home visit
•    Phone the occupational therapist to discuss a service user but also spend a few extra minutes discussing our personal life
•    Leave work a few minutes early because we know we can get away with it

Even though each of these things in isolation doesn’t take up much time, if we add it all up, we begin to get a picture of how much time we’re actually wasting. If you can cut some or all of these out, you’ll find that you complete tasks and meet deadlines slightly more comfortably.

3.    Ask for help in your supervisions
When you meet with your supervisor for a supervision, be open and honest about how easy—or otherwise– you’re finding it to manage your time . Express any concerns you have and any challenges you’re facing. A good supervisor will not see this as a sign of weakness but will instead work with you to find a solution to the issues at hand.

If your supervisor has an open door policy, there is of course no need to wait for a supervision to go to them for advice. If your supervisor doesn’t have an open door policy, but you feel you need to speak with them before your next supervision, simply pop over an email requesting to schedule an ad hoc meeting.

4.    Only take on as many cases as you can handle
At the weekly case assignment team meeting, you may feel pressurized to take on more cases than you have time for, whether it’s to look good or to justify your place on the team. Avoid doing this by remembering the reason you’re in this profession is to help service users, not to feed your ego or suck up to the boss. And you can’t help a service user if you don’t have enough time to handle their case properly.

When, during a case assignment session, your supervisor suggests you take on a case you don’t have time for, simply state that you can’t currently afford enough time to do it justice and, if necessary, politely remind them of the particularly complex and time-consuming cases in your current caseload.

5.    Work as a team
If you try to resolve a particularly challenging issue or case by yourself, it’ll take a lot longer than if you were to involve your colleagues. Again, it’s important to open up and ask for help during your supervisions but you can also use team members other than your supervisor or manager.

For instance, if you’re trying to find a care home for a service user with very specific needs, instead of ringing round all the homes in the council catchment area for hours on end, consult a colleague who recently placed a service user with similar needs in a home. They’ll already have done the research to create a shortlist of appropriate homes and will be able to pass this on to you. Be sure to return the favour wherever you can, so your colleagues will be happy to continue helping you.

By Nisa Chitakasem, Founder of Position Ignition, a careers consultancy dedicated to helping you with your career choices and challenges. We’re passionate about helping you to find the right career path for you – whether it involves finding a more rewarding career, making a career change, figuring out the right career plan or being creative about career direction.

For free advice, guidance and information on careers visit the Position Ignition Career Blog or find us on Twitter @PosIgnition or Facebook