At least once a week, maybe even once a day, we’ve all wished we could have more than two arms. Or even better, more than two versions of ourselves so we could get even more done.
That’s because in health care, there are slow days and there are busy days, and sometimes there are busy, busy days, and it’s never easy to predict which will be what.
The team at Accredited Home Care is familiar with occasional moments that feel like there’s too much to do at any given point in time. It’s something that doesn’t change, whether you’re new to the industry or have been working in health care for decades. Though duties and responsibilities may change, whether you’re a skilled caregiver like an RN or someone will less training, there are still going to be some busy moments where you wish you could clone yourself.
What does change is how well you manage yourself and how you manage your time at these busy moments. Client care is important since that’s why you’re here, but it’s not always easy to provide adequate care if you’re too tired, too stressed, or too distracted.
So caregivers, whether they’re nurses or aides, skilled or unskilled, need to figure out good ways to balance time and attention to make sure clients receive quality care.
The quick, easy answer is “multitask better,” but it needs the proper kind of multitasking.
Research has shown that what most of us think of as multitasking – trying to do several tasks all at once, usually makes things worse. One study showed that pushing to do a lot at the same time can cut your overall productivity by 40 percent and ensure you do poorly at every task.
Often, instead of easily moving from task to task and getting your to-do list done at warp speed, you’re more likely not making an impact on one task before it’s time to switch to another. It takes your brain time to catch up and remember what you’re supposed to be doing, and it also makes you more vulnerable to being distracted by anything else that might come up, especially new tasks or changes in the existing tasks.
So essentially, by throwing too many balls up in the air and new ones coming in, you’re not able to catch many of them, and might be making things worse rather than more efficient.
In a health care environment, this type of multi-tasking could be distracting, even dangerous. At best, it can be seen as poor customer service if you appear to be trying to do too much at once. At worse, it could cause harm to yourself or others if you forget some detail or make a mistake while trying to get everything done at once.
Other research backs this up, but also show us something interesting about ourselves: while classic multitasking appears to make us do every task worse, many people falsely consider themselves to be great multi-taskers.
Bad multitasking isn’t just due to bad time management either: it’s biological. Some research has shown that the challenge of multitasking is that you’re activating the same area of the brain for several related tasks. This essentially makes your brain compete with itself for which task to do, which often activates other stress hormones through your whole body.
Many health care workers will tell you that, regardless of how well multitasking works or doesn’t work, sometimes there are truly too many tasks to do in a given amount of time, so you have to get creative in what you tackle and how you tackle them.
So even if you’re not trying to do everything at once, it doesn’t hurt to figure out ways to get a lot of stuff done in the time you have.
Productivity experts offer a variety of suggestions.
- Plan ahead. Good organization seems to be the best way to anticipate and respond to everything heading your way. This can include making a list of what projects could be coming your way in the future and what they will require. In a home health care role, you can list which clients you have coming up.
- Prioritize tasks. While you may not be able to control day-to-day scheduling, you can still anticipate what skills and tasks will be needed when you visit each client and a general summary of what’s ahead.
- Include extra time for clients. Scheduling out each minute of each client visit usually turns out to be a bad idea. The minute a client needs something, it alters your schedule for the rest of the day and may cut into time with later clients. If a client wants to chat or needs help, it may cause you to unnecessarily get upset about the ruined schedule. If you must plan out your schedule, bundle in a certain amount of “free time” for everything from chatting with a client to getting caught in a traffic jam. This approach is less rigid and can be better for you, your brain, and your clients.
- Most efficiency experts say tasks get easier the more you do them, so you’re able to do more things faster. But starting from scratch trying to balance it all can backfire badly.