How to Identify and Manage your Priorities as a Radiologist
December 2nd, 2022
Dr Koshy Jacob held an Achievers' Web Meet on 8 November, 2022. This article is the transcript of the web-meet which has been edited for clarity.
Family, recreation, pleasure, going on holidays, your relationship with your friends and with your family. These are incredibly important things, and if we don't recognise that, then we quickly end up prioritising work with effects on the family.
‘Managing your time without setting priorities is like shooting randomly and calling whatever you hit the target.’ - Peter Turla
Are you someone who's reactive to whatever comes up in front of you at that moment? As soon as something comes into your mind, you want to act on it because you're afraid that you'll forget it if you don't.
If you could move those things swirling around in your head to electronic notes or paper, you take away some of the stress and put it into a different place.
Managing your Priorities
‘Either you run the day or the day runs you.’ - Jim Rohn
Time stresses are some of the most pervasive sources of pressure in the workplace. It's important to know how to beat the stress and deliver the things that are essential to doing a good job.
Managing priorities is a crucial aspect of time management. Rather than getting more things done in less time, you learn how to get the right things done in less time. You can massively reduce stress by prioritising.
Plan and organise each day so that you free yourself and your team to attend to less important tasks later. Put your tasks and projects on a to-do list or an action program and add them to your schedule, then you'll know which tasks clash with other tasks, and you can work with your own deadlines.
As a radiologist, especially if you're sitting an exam like the FRCR or FRANZCR, a good process will help you prioritise your exam into your daily routine.
The Paired Comparison Analysis
Use this for decisions where the criteria itself is vague, subjective or inconsistent. You basically look at your list and compare each task with the rest of the tasks and then decide which one you're going to do.
The Decision Matrix Analysis
Prioritise tasks while taking many other factors into consideration.
The Action Priority Matrix
A quick and simple diagramming technique which basically asks you to plot the value of the task against the effort it will consume, and by doing this you will spot the quick wins, the ones that you can quickly finish.
Getting Things Done, by David Allen talks about moving things from your brain into the to-do list. If something can be done in under 2 minutes, do it straight away, and you basically start reducing your to-do list.
The Pareto Analysis 80/20 Rule
This technique helps you to identify the most important changes to make when you are faced with a flurry of problems.
The Eisenhower principle
I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important and the important are never urgent. - Dwight D Eisenhower
List all the activities and projects that you feel you have to do. Then check if each one is important and urgent. If it is important and urgent, you do it, if it's important but not urgent, schedule it, if it's not important but urgent, delegate it, if its not important and not urgent, you've got to find a way to eliminate it.
Urgent and Important
You can't always predict or avoid some issues or crises, but it's often good to not pack your timetable with things. An example could be a phone call from your spouse. If it's constant, then you may say to your spouse, don't call me more than once or twice, unless it's urgent and important, then you know to pick up since it's urgent. Here's a few more examples, a crisis at work, an emergency case, taking a family member to hospital if they’re sick.
Important but not urgent
An example could be the FRCR 2B exam in January or March, daily reporting goals, your health and fitness. Many of us often put this into not important and not urgent, and then we end up getting coronary heart disease and diabetes and all kinds of things. But this is important but not urgent, and so you need to schedule it into your daily routine.
Planning for a vacation, you might not think it's important, but it might be important for your family and friends.
Conferences and courses, these are important for our development as people. There are activities that help you achieve your personal and professional goals. But you've got to allow plenty of time to do these properly so that they do not end up becoming urgent.
We've interviewed a number of our candidates who passed the FRCR 2B exam and pretty much all of them prioritise their exam preparation in between their daily routine. They made sure that they did two or three written packets and they attended courses and online vivas.
It's quite interesting, there are people who join our FRCR 2B Combined Subscription, and then they don't turn up on Saturdays and then one month before the exam, they suddenly realise they're not ready for vivas. Is that a surprise? You have not been attending any of the viva courses which have been there, which you could have taken leave for, or you could have negotiated with one of your colleagues to hold the fort on a Saturday morning.
This is where it's important but not urgent. Otherwise it will become important and urgent. For example, if you decide on 1st January that you don't have enough viva practice and you've got 20 days left for exam, what do you do? It becomes panic.
Urgent but Not important
This includes things like a request from a colleague, checking emails, some meetings which are not necessary for you to attend, work related calls, booking flights. Maybe someone rings you up in the middle of something and asks you to do something you can't. You've got to ask yourself when you get these kind of requests, can they be rescheduled or delegated?
It's often other people who create this little box. And sometimes the most appropriate thing to do is to say no. Saying no is an art, and how you say it will determine the kind of the response that the other person has.
Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It by Chris Voss is a very good book about negotiation, it can help you learn the art of saying no.
Not Urgent, Not Important
These activities are frankly just a distraction. If at all possible, avoid them or do them when you're just in your downtime. Social media, surfing the net and watching tv, it's nice to do and to make contacts with different people. But did it really add to your life? Some of these activities may be things that other people want you to do, even though they don't contribute to your own desired outcomes. Learn to say no politely and explain why you can't do it.
Here's a tip: When you call someone, always ask them, is this a bad time to call you. Then they can say yes or no without feeling bad about it because they can say yes, it is a bad time. There's a psychological difference in the way that you are saying no when you ask that question.
Creating a Priority Management Process
First of all, identify your goals.
Plan out each week in advance and identify your long-term goals. Write down all your weekly tasks, especially recurring tasks and then prioritise the tasks in these four boxes: Urgent and important, Not Urgent but important, Urgent but Not Important and Not Urgent and Not Important.
You need to identify the big items which you need to achieve by the end of this quarter or this month to hit your year-end goals, and these goals will act as a guideline to keep you on track, week on week.
Secondly, when you create your list of tasks, write down everything you need to accomplish this week, and then prioritise them. Write down an approximate time it will take you, and then schedule it.
I often say to candidates who call me up about how to prepare for the exam, spend 3 hours a day to do the packets on our system. 3 hours a day means one written packet, one long case, one rapid reporting case. Put that into your timetable and in 30 days you have to finish 30 packets. The next 30 days, you can start doing three rapid reporting packets a day instead of long cases and basically put it into your timetable, create a work schedule.
Figure out your top priorities and start with your A priorities, your Bs, Cs and then your Ds. Do some kind of block scheduling where you group similar tasks together and that can help you work efficiently. For example, you want to plan a holiday, put it all together as part of your holiday plan, book time off work, the flights, accommodation, parking, the things you're going to do on the holiday and anything else that you need to do. That can be really helpful rather than trying to do a part of it.
Another management tip is to delegate to each other. There may be things that someone in your family is better at doing, ask them to do it and let you know when its been done, but make sure that you have a check list item for it and discuss it when it's been done, then you can tick it off.
There's lots of Resource Scheduling Software that can help you with this. You can track and review it, ask yourself how long each batch of tasks took to be completed? Did you stay in track? Do you need more or less time to complete your tasks? Once you have a good understanding of your working habits, you can use that to become accountable.
Make your to-do list of all your tasks for the week.
Set aside time for unexpected tasks.
The most time should be set aside for the urgent and important as well as the important but not urgent tasks because they are the most common.
Learn to say no to certain tasks, but do not procrastinate. That is one of the worst things you can do.
Always give some time in your day to attacking your to do list.
If you do this sort of prioritisation exercise, it will change your life.