Table 3

Ten common time wasters and potential solutions

Time wasterProposed solution
Telephone callsCheck messages and return calls 1–2 times per day*
EmailCheck no more than 3–4 times per day*
Disable auto-alert messages for mail arrivals
Develop a reliable and reproducible filing system for saved messages
Rapidly dispose of unwanted messages at first pass
Accurately identify and discard junk mail
Physical interruptionsClose office door and respect as colleagues do the same
PaperHandle each piece of paper only once (‘When in doubt, throw it out’)
Develop reliable and reproducible filing system
Store publications as electronic PDF files
Repetitive activitiesAutomate (eg, develop patient education handouts)
Create ‘quick text’ for frequently used phrases in email or in electronic medical records
Delegate tasks that can be done by others
DisorganisationClean and organise the desk and office
Organise paper, mail and electronic files for easier accessibility
ProcrastinationIdentify and address reasons for procrastination
Accomplish small increments of progress on a project
Do not allow perfectionism to get in the way of progress
MeetingsArrive on time (change the culture of lack of punctuality)
Bring alternative work if others are not punctual
Waiting†Perform quick and easy small tasks (clinical or administrative paperwork works well)
CommutingEnjoy music, books on tape, quiet self-reflection, relax
Use audio continuing medical education, learn a foreign language
Read journal articles if using public transportation
  • *May not be suitable for specific physician job descriptions.

  • †Includes waiting for meetings, conferences, telephone hold, etc. This is an ideal time to complete less important responsibilities (quadrants III and IV).