‘Don’t confuse being active with productivity. Many people are simply busy being busy’
Robin Sharma, writer
You have probably heard the saying: ‘If you want something done, ask a busy person.’ But why would this be the case when it seems like a paradox? Perhaps the saying should really be that you should ask a ‘productive’ person.
Productive people are those who are busy but they are also organised and have a good idea of how much they can do and can take on. Henry Ford made a fortune by making cars. But he didn’t do it by building better cars than anyone else, he did it by creating a better system for making cars. He streamlined the process and created the production line that is still used in car factories today.
The Quality Standard for Imaging (QSI) encourages departments to think about their systems and to test them to ensure they are doing things the most efficient way.
Make a plan
It’s easy to become distracted, so to be productive rather than busy you need to make a plan or a road map. This plan can then be broken down into manageable chunks, which will help you focus. Every day, write out a list of tasks that you want to achieve and their order of importance. These everyday tasks feed into the chunks of work, which eventually achieve the plan. Being focused on the tasks and not getting distracted from the plan is the key to improving your productivity.
Multitasking may feel like you are coping – and it sometimes feels good to be doing lots of different things – but it is now thought to be bad, not only for your productivity but also for your health. Multitasking over-stretches your brain, which increases your heart rate and blood pressure and makes your cortisol levels rise. Cortisol is your stress hormone and, once you are stressed, your effective decision-making capabilities are compromised.
Using your plan, your daily task list and breaking down your work into manageable chunks should reduce multitasking and help you to concentrate on each job in turn.
One big distraction is email. If a task, such as writing this article, needs to be concentrated on, I switch off my emails. I can check them when I’ve finished – I don’t think anyone needs to speak to me that urgently.
If you are doing other tasks that require less concentration, try applying the two-minute rule. If an email arrives that will take less than two minutes to read and deal with, such as accepting an invitation to a meeting or providing a quick answer to a question, then do it straight away. However, if the email will take you longer than two minutes, add it to your To-Do List with the appropriate priority and return to it later.
Ask for help
Other aspects of being productive are knowing when you have capacity to take on further tasks, when to say no and when you need to ask for help. When people start to work on quality improvement, it can be very difficult not only to know where to start but also to know when and where to ask for help. Quality improvement affects every part of a department and one person cannot possibly know all the aspects of an imaging department. Often the solution involves system change and this will affect many people. If we want true change, we need to ask for help and to bring everyone else along with us.
Author Katrina Mayer said: ‘I’m courageous enough to know I can accomplish great things. I’m humble enough to know when to ask for help.’ Once you’ve realised that you can’t do everything yourself, there are then two more hurdles: knowing who to ask and how. Most people in your department will welcome your asking for help – there is no need to pretend to be an expert at everything so be humble and honest. The worst thing they can say is ‘no’ but you will find many are happy to pass on their advice.
Use your plan and tasks so you are clear about why you’re asking and what you are asking of other people. Everyone in your department will have their own tasks to complete so be realistic about timeframes for answers or results. If your request is specific and meaningful, they are more likely to see its value.
Asking for advice is different
to asking for something to be done. Advice needs to be sought from the most knowledgeable person; however, if you have jobs to be done, remember you have a whole range of staff to choose from. Eager students or newly qualified Band 5s may be more than happy to take on a small audit or research project. You could speak to those who mentor students or newly qualified staff about quality tasks that they could take on.
Finally, remember that there are also people outside your department to help you. I support and advise all departments on aspects of quality; the College of Radiographers has officers with differing specialities who would be happy to answer questions, and the Royal College of Radiologists is there to help radiologists and oncologists with their queries.
We have QSI To-Do List pads for your everyday tasks. If you email me, I’ll be happy to send you one. I wish you all a productive month.
Katherine Jakeman, Quality improvement partner