Over the past 35 years, I’ve seen the healthcare IT industry from just about every angle, from my time in radiology to helping create the healthcare sales division at Perceptive Software to my most recent role as Access president (and many stops in-between). Along the way, I’ve found that while each profession has its differences and quirks, the art of getting things done is consistent across all niches, companies and roles, from interns all the way up to executives.
Throughout my long career, being mentored by some incredible leaders and passing these lessons on to people I’ve mentored, I’ve distilled what I’ve learned about productivity into four simple but highly effective lessons:
You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t know how to organize yourself, you’re not going to be able to apply it. There are many levels to true organization, but a good place to start is knowing exactly where to find all of your electronic files—just like Access Passport gives users one place and one view for all of their eForms.
Come up with a folder and subfolder system that makes sense and make sure you date your documents so you don’t have version control issues, particularly when collaborating on projects with others. You also can use tools like Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive so you can locate, edit and share files more efficiently and securely with colleagues.
If you still have paper notebooks, also make sure you keep these organized. Use tabs to color-code emails and paper notes alike. The faster you can get to the information you need, the quicker you’ll be able to put it into action.
You could be the most organized person in the world, but if you don’t know how to prioritize your tasks, you’ll be running from one thing to the next like my grandkids in the Lego Store. At the end of each week, take a few minutes to review the past week’s activities and goals, analyze the level of activities, and then determine a few key priorities for the upcoming week.
And each night, outline two or three things you absolutely must get done the following day, along with a few others that you can tackle should you check the first few tasks off the list. You can use your calendar to block off time to focus on specific, high-priority projects.
I also advise that you set better expectations around your priorities, as my colleague Brandy Taylor referred to in a recent post. If you know you need a few hours to crank out a new contract, finish a creative project or complete any other important task, then let your colleagues, customers and partners know that you’ll get back to them later on but are tied up for now.
It’s all very well to get and stay organized and improve your ability to prioritize. But these are just preliminary (albeit necessary) productivity steps. To be truly productive, you have to put your plans into action and execute on them.
Too many companies spend more than half their time sitting around talking about grand schemes and coming up with new ideas and too little time actually deciding which of these are doable and then taking action and implementing them. In today’s business world, your clients, boss and others expect rapid results, and while you shouldn’t rush, you should continually hone your ability to execute in a timely manner.
Whether it’s a product release, a trade show like HIMSS or an interdepartmental meeting, there are always going to be drop-dead dates and times for certain projects. You have to be ready to deliver.
I guess you could call this a “3 + 1” model, in that there’s a fourth quality that forms an umbrella over the first three items on this list: discipline. If you lack discipline, you won’t be able to organize, prioritize or execute—or you will do each one inefficiently, wasting time and energy unnecessarily.
One of the most interesting books I’ve come across recently is Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...And Maybe the World. In it, Admiral William H. McRaven shows how small habits, as the title suggests, can help you develop discipline with small things that you can extend to bigger priorities in your work and personal life. And if there’s one person who knows the importance of discipline, it’s a man who has commanded an entire naval fleet!
Try going to bed and getting up a bit earlier to avoid tiredness on one end of the day and rushing around on the other. Take a crack at training for that 5K race you’ve always thought about doing. Or, as McRaven suggests, simply start each day by making your bed.
It might sound overly simplistic, but you’d be amazed how much more you’ll get done and how much better you’ll do it if you can start adding discipline in just a few areas of your life.