Developing Efficient Habits - using the Eisenhower Matrix

One of the commonest challenges mentioned by new grads is overwhelm, described as the sense of treading water and just about going under, in relation to demands on time. This is not unique to recent grads. Even experienced clinicians experience the buildup, but have learnt techniques to manage these crunch times. One such technique is the Eisenhower Matrix (EM).

So why the name?

Dwight D. Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States from 1953 until 1961 but before becoming President, he served as a general in the United States Army, as the Allied Forces Supreme Commander during World War II and later NATO's first supreme commander. It can be assumed the guy experienced time pressures!

In essence, the EM prioritises task by urgency and priority. Have a look at the quadrants and think about your day. Are you reactive to situations? do you have strategies in place to handle situations? do you feel on top of your day throughout the day? are you comfortable staying on time? how is your energy level mid shift and end of shift?

You might think that Quadrant 1 is a good place to be. Dealing with the highly urgent and high priority situations. It is necessary but essentially this is the Bushfire quadrant. High energy is highly draining and therefore not ideal for longevity. Clinicians that spend a lot of time in Quadrant 1 live on adrenaline and quite literally burn out. Not ideal for good decision making over time.

Quadrant 3 is on face obvious, but don't think of Delegate as only to another person (e.g., a more experienced clinician, admin staff or other health professional). You can also delegate to a handout (e.g., exercise or education sheet to teach/reinforce your treatment) or website that provides important content you have previously reviewed and deemed relevant. Think of Quadrant 3 as your Resource/Contacts and continue to develop them.

Quadrant 2 is the most important. I prefer to think of this as the Planning Quadrant. Here with awareness, you plan and manage situations that could or will arise, and by planning allow yourself to deal with them BEFORE they arrive in Quadrant 1. Think of it like chronic pain and pacing. Pacing is the planned Quadrant 2 activity and Quadrant 1 is the Rescue medication. Poor planning/pacing leads to increased medication use. My suggestion is that each time you end you end up in Quadrant 1, note the what and why of the situation and use Quadrant 2 time to spend reflecting what you did, what you could do next time and what skills or preparation you need to manage the situation better next time.

Quadrant 2 is also where you plan and set your goals. How many clients a day, time of your last client, when you set aside time for communications, personal development and exercise. As your life becomes fuller, you will need to decide, plan and schedule them all. For example, if you see an extra client just before 5.00pm because of your caring nature and your normally finish at 5.00pm, you might miss your own exercise class. As a result, you won't get the physical activity you need or the mental relaxation and may not sleep as well that night. Meaning, the next day in the clinic you are feeling only so so and don't have the necessary energy for your clients. Squeezing in someone, squeezed out something else - your own health and wellbeing.

Quadrant 2 is also your To Do List. Things that you need to do or have recognised as being beneficial to your development. If you have a spare 5-10 minutes deal with the next item on your To Do List.

Quadrant 4 is the Distraction quadrant. Time spent here is wasted in the productivity sense, but it still consumes valuable time, meaning more items are likely to end up/pile up in Quadrants 1 and 2. Think social media for this one and decide on how much time you allow each day for this activity. Are you sticking to it? If find yourself with an extra 10 minutes, aim to tick off the next item on your To Do List and gain your buzz by achieving something that you have previously identified as important.

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