Time management tips for GP trainees

Dr Kathryn Leask, medico-legal adviser at the Medical Defence Union (MDU) discusses the importance of managing your time effectively as a GP trainee.

Keep a diary so you have a record of any important appointments or events (Photo: TravelCouples/Getty Images)
Keep a diary so you have a record of any important appointments or events (Photo: TravelCouples/Getty Images)

Although time management can't increase the hours in the day or reduce your workload, it can help you feel more in control. It can also help you to achieve your personal and professional goals – from studying efficiently and having enough time to effectively communicate with patients, to ensuring you have a healthy work-life balance.

With the heavy workloads faced by doctors, effective time management is also important for clinician wellbeing and patient safety. Below are a few tips to help improve manage your time as a GP trainee. 

Get organised

Firstly, keep a diary so you have a record of any important appointments or events that are taking place during the week. This could be a paper diary or on your phone.

Include any personal commitments so there’s no chance of you forgetting something important that is happening outside work.

Remember to check your diary before the beginning of each week so you have an idea of what is happening from day to day to allow you to plan your time and to prioritise the most important tasks, considering how much time is needed to perform them. Make a list or use colour coding, setting priorities according to the urgency of the task.

Whilst you may not have much notice about the patients you will see, check what appointments have been arranged for you in advance so you can be as prepared as possible and, if necessary, have a discussion with your supervisor.

This might be particularly helpful for follow ups or patients who attend on a regular basis. Keep a note of any patients or issues that you would like to discuss with your supervisor and arrange a time when it is convenient for you both to catch up.

Also, make sure you factor in some time for breaks and for your own health and wellbeing. Speak to your GP supervisor if you are feeling overwhelmed and/or struggling to manage your workload.

Break it down

If you have a large task, project or a significant amount of time set aside for revision, break this up into manageable chunks with breaks in between. It is better to do little often than become fatigued and unproductive.

If you find you are tired or can no longer concentrate, stop. Have a break and come back to it when you feel refreshed. It is also advisable to consider how best you learn and what revision tools or techniques you can use to aid this. Don’t be put off by what other people are doing to revise. Everyone is different.

Revise your least favourite topics when you feel most productive and finish with something that you enjoy. Don’t delay tackling the topics you really don’t like or find difficult. The sooner you start these, the better you’ll understand them and it will give you time to ask for advice or do some extra reading.

Avoid procrastination

Having a plan will hopefully reduce the risk of procrastination. If you are easily distracted by non-urgent tasks, tasks that you prefer or are easy to deal with, do them first and get them out of the way or, write a list and set aside some specific time to do these later, after you’ve done your other tasks.

Complete your priority tasks first and reward yourself with something you enjoy once you’ve achieved your aims.

Learn to delegate

The art of delegation is as important in your personal life as it is in your professional life. You can’t do everything yourself so learn to ask for help.
As well as learning to delegate, learn to say ‘no’ where appropriate so you can properly protect your time.

Learning to say no is particularly important in a clinical setting when you should work within the limits of your competence or level of experience.

GP trainnes can access e-learning modules from the MDU here and tailored information for traineees from the MDU can be found here.

Find more information for GP trainees on GPonline here

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