Batch processing, by Sameer Islam MD
I thought being a doctor was going to be pretty straight-forward: take care of my patients, update my knowledge up on topics I was not clear about, and repeat the process.
Boy, was I wrong.
As a new doctor, I soon got overwhelmed by all the things that came up in my day: patient questions, messages from my electronic health record, labs results, staff queries, etc. It seemed like as soon as I got one thing done, another pile of stuff came crashing down on me. And this didn’t even include seeing patients, running a clinical practice, doing procedures or having a family life.
I was allowing the priorities of something else take over and in return my personal life and well-being suffered. I knew that something had to be done or I would go insane.
So I started to look into different productivity ideas from the business world to help me out, and I found one that changed my outlook: batch processing
WHAT IS BATCH PROCESSING?
Batch processing is the idea of grouping similar tasks requiring similar resources in order to streamline their completion. You ONLY do these tasks during the allotted time and no other tasks are performed. There is little change in cognition while doing these items - they take up the same mental bandwidth.
Studies have shown it can take up to an average of 15 minutes to completely regain focus, and by multi-tasking we can lose up to 40% of our productivity. In fact, working in a perpetual state of shifting tasks and refocusing attention creates fatigue, stress, and decreased productivity. If that’s the case, we are not being nearly as effective as we could be and we are not giving ourselves or our patients our full attention.
I have personally experienced this when I am deep in the middle of a task, and then an email pops up and I get distracted with the email. As soon as I am done with the email, it takes me a while to remember my previous task and even longer to get back into the flow of things. Once I get going, someone will interrupt me about a non-urgent issue. I address that, but the cycle of unproductivity continues. That is wasted time that ends up eating my day.
HOW DO I CHANGE?
So now that I knew what to do, the question in my mind was HOW can I do this. It took some trial and error, but I think I got my system down.
I use my calendar as the guidepost for batch processing.
I also made a list of what I need to get done to make sure I cover all my bases. This is important because there is a huge difference between need and want. There a lot of things I want to do but very few I need to do. I had to think hard about what really was necessary. My list is comprised of:
What I did:
1130-1230: “Patient Stuff”. Every day I blocked out this time to review patient labs/imaging and contact the appropriate staff. I only worked on this and I made sure to finish within the allotted time. I turned off my email, closed my other internet browsers, turned my phone to silent, and closed my door.
430-500: “Review.” Here I reviewed any pre-authorizations from my staff, delegate tasks, cover any emergencies or overflow from before. Same process as above.
Weekly Review: Also, once a week I did a “weekly review” to assess what was coming up next week and to capture anything I might have missed from the week before (more on this later).
After experimenting on this for a while, what I found was:
What do you think? What have you done to make your time easier?
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