Ask the Experts

Q: How Can I Avoid Catching Up on Paperwork Every Weekend?

In fast-paced work environments like an outpatient clinic, you may spend your day solving one problem after another and never finding a moment to document all the progress you’re making. That often means late nights catching up on paperwork, but does it have to?

Q: “I work as a physicians’ assistant in an outpatient clinic. Frequently, my days are running from fire to fire putting out the flames, while simultaneously responding to requests for medication refills, to patient calls, and to test results, as well as trying to fit in time to eat and make bathroom pit stops. This is the nature of working in medicine. The fires get put out regularly, but this leaves me with lots of documentation to catch up on nightly (or more likely, each weekend).  In a career that is laden with multi-tasking, can you offer any suggestions on how to best manage time with patients, paperwork and communications?” — INDYPA-C


Dear INDYPA-C:

This is a tough one as your time is truly not your own.

Since I don’t know the specifics of how your out-patient clinic operates (are you ever “off-duty” and not responding to emergencies so you can get paperwork done?), I want to offer you a few general tips for managing your time as best you can.

  1. Prioritize Your Workday. When time is tight, we want to make sure that our days have purpose. Write out the specific tasks you need to complete each day the night before. Keep it manageable and obtainable. Check it right when you get to work and post it where you can see it throughout the day. Check it often to help you stay on track. Having a visual reminder of what you want to accomplish each day can help you stay accountable.
  2. Let Technology be Your Friend. Are there any procedures, forms, systems, etc., that you do daily that can be streamlined? The less time you spend on administrative paperwork and phone calls, the more time you will have for patient care.
  3. Recruit Others. Is there any extra help available? Do you have any interns or volunteers who can help you lighten the load? If so, call in the troops!

Good Luck!

[Free Handout: How to Manage Your Time at Work]


Organization guru Leslie Josel, of Order Out of Chaos, answers questions from ADDitude readers about everything from paper clutter to disaster-zone bedrooms and from mastering to-do lists to arriving on time every time.

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  1. The biggest thing for me to learn is that I am task-based versus time-based. If I try to complete my work by blocking my time to do certain things, I will fail every time. I need a list of everything that needs to get done and start with the most important tasks first and then work my way down the list. If I don’t get to one (or a few) of the tasks toward the bottom of the list, they are transferred to the next day. Eventually, those tasks will get done because they become the most important, especially if there is a deadline. I also find it is best if I block similar tasks together so that I am in a ‘frame of mind’. If you are answering patient messages and refilling medication, can you do that all at once, maybe twice a day instead of doing it as soon as the message comes in? I find that if I am responding to every email as it comes in, I never get anything else done. It’s best if I let them roll in for a couple of hours and then answer them all at once. Just my two cents… ; )

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