Episode 160 | The Power of Focus & Time Blocking

In this episode, Dr. Cari Wise, discusses the importance of time blocking and intentional focus to increase productivity and reduce overwhelm. 

She emphasizes the need to evaluate and eliminate non-essential tasks from the to-do list, and shares her personal experience of using time blocking to complete a stack of 19 medical records efficiently. 

Dr. Wise encourages veterinary professionals to challenge the belief that there is not enough time to make progress on tasks. She highlights the benefits of time blocking and intentional focus, including increased productivity and reduced stress.

Music Credit: Music by Lesfm from Pixabay



Website: https://joyfuldvm.com



Music Credit: Music by Lesfm from Pixabay


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This transcript is auto-generated and may contain typos.

Hi there. I’m Dr. Cari Wise veterinarian, certified life coach and certified quantum human design specialist. If you are a veterinary professional looking to uplevel your life and your career or maybe looking to go in an entirely new direction, then what I talk about here on the joyful DVM podcast is absolutely for you. Let’s get started. Hello my friends. Welcome back to another reflection Friday episode here at Joyful DVM.

Today is January 19th, 2024. And here, over the next few minutes, I wanna share with you something that I really leaned heavily into this week in order to get things done. And it is this skill of time blocking and intentional focus. So many of you would probably agree that there are way more things on our to-do list than we’re ever going to accomplish in any given period of time.

And that’s okay. But when the list itself becomes so overwhelming that we completely retract and don’t make any progress at all, that’s where we are getting into some trouble. The truth is that these things on our to-do list, some of them don’t even need to be there. So going through that to-do list, getting rid of the things that don’t even need to happen,

maybe the nice to haves, but that aren’t really all that important to you, just give yourself permission to delete those. But the other things on there, the things that you really must complete, there’s a way to get those things done, even when you believe initially that you don’t have time to do so. And the magical way to get this all accomplished is by time blocking and focus.

This is something that I used this week in the clinic. It was a crazy few days early on in the week, and I found myself 19 medical records behind. Now I’m somebody who doesn’t even like to leave at the end of the day without those medical records completed. But I’m also somebody who will not stay late to write medical records. I have worked very hard to try to maintain my focus as much as possible throughout the day to steal moments here and there to write those records as I go along.

So it’s unusual for me to have a bunch of them left over at the end of the day. And certainly a stack of 19 over the course of two days was even excess for me. And so what did I do about it? How did I get those things done and not end up taking them home? The way that I got it done was with this time blocking and intentional focus.

So now we just happened to have a, a piece of our schedule, an anomaly where we didn’t have any appointments for a couple of hours scheduled. Now that doesn’t mean, ’cause this is veterinary medicine, that doesn’t mean that that will, that a a period of time was gonna remain empty. And quite honestly it didn’t. There were some quite a few walk-ins that occurred and some other things that happened.

However, what I did in that moment was I let my team know that I was unavailable, that I am focused on writing these medical records and when I say I’m unavailable, that doesn’t mean I’m unavailable to a medical emergency. That doesn’t mean that I’m unavailable to a walkin appointment. What that means is that I’m unavailable for chitchat, that I’m unavailable for anything,

anything that really isn’t urgent that needs my attention right now. I asked them to kind of stack up their questions and that I, if they really needed my attention, that they were literally going to have to walk over and tap me on the shoulder because I would not hear them. And here’s how I utilized my earbuds. So most of us have some kind of earbud or some kind of audible that we can put into our ears to listen to music or something else from our mobile devices.

And this can be your superpower secret to getting things done In a chaotic environment, what I do is I pop in those earbuds, I put on some instrumental music, so without words, but to stuff that is upbeat and I play that at a volume that cuts out everything else around me. When I do that, I can stay laser focused on whatever the task is in front of me to accomplish so I can start cranking out those medical records using my example of this week pretty darn quickly when I’m not getting distracted by a million things By nature.

As medical professionals, we have trained ourselves to pay attention to lots of things at once. Listen to the side conversation, listening to a heart rate on a medical device, listening to animals in cages. Are they making normal sounds? Are they making abnormal sounds? So we are used to all of these inputs and interacting with them on some level, but sometimes we just need that focus to be able to get stuff done.

And so by popping in those earbuds, even if you only have five or 10 minutes, you’ll be amazed at how much you can get done when there are no external extractions, distract, no external distractions, I should say. The other thing that we have to note if we’re gonna try to utilize this system is we have to overcome a belief that we don’t have enough time right now to make any progress.

So many of us take a look at our to-do list. To use my example, I can take a look at a stack of 19 medical records that need my attention and I can start to get into a story about how long it’s gonna take me to do that and how I don’t have that block of time available to me. And that might be true that if I wanted to sit down and accomplish all of them in one fell swoop,

that the amount of time in my schedule that day did not exist. However, the time did exist. If I utilize the bits of time that I had throughout the day, and this really is an amazing skill to develop if you are one who tends to stay after hours writing medical records or ends up with a stack that just follows you around for weeks and weeks and weeks until finally you just say screw it and you file ’em and you move on.

So to do this, you have to have some kind of method that alerts your team that right now is not the time to interrupt you these days. Like I said, I use earbuds and I just let everybody know verbally, Hey, if you need me, you’re gonna have to tap me ’cause I will not hear you. I’m focused on getting these medical records done.

I use the same thing if I’m working on some other project at work, for example, when I’m working on my controlled substance inventory, I cannot have a lot of distractions. There’s math involved in that. You’ve gotta fill all that paperwork out the right way. So that’s another time that I’m gonna go under is the way that I say it. I put my earbuds in,

put on some music so I can’t hear anything and I just get stuff done Before these earbuds and things in my, when I was back in practice, when I owned my own practice, I would sit at my computer screen and I literally had these glasses that I would wear and I would put sticky notes on the sides of the glasses, like blinders. I know that’s so silly,

but I would do that so that I couldn’t see what was ever was going on around me. And sometimes they would just like stick a sticky note on my back that said, do not disturb. When I was in education, when I was running those vet tech programs and oversaw 13 programs across the country, there were a lot of things that I was responsible for and a lot of it was data related.

So spreadsheets and gathering information and inputting numbers, things that needed my attention, and also analyzing information from different campuses. And again, if I was the revolving door, because I was also the department chair of a specific campus, it was very difficult if I was getting interrupted every few minutes. So I developed a PA a a system in that environment whereby I literally had a stack,

like a container that held all of my pens and I had a ruler sticking out of it that I would put a note card on that said, do not disturb. And I would set that right at the edge of my desk. So if somebody walked around the corner of my cubicle, they would see that and then they would just turn around and walk away.

Now, some of you may hear this and they, you may be thinking, oh my gosh, that is so rude. But it’s not rude. We have to be able to define our boundaries and to control our own focus. We can get so much more accomplished in the amount of time we have available if we will just hone in where we put our attention,

if we will not allow ourselves to get pulled into side conversations. And in the veterinary world, we have to think about getting pulled into drama and commiseration and complaining and gossiping. That stuff does nothing to help clients or to serve patients. But by golly, it does decrease the amount of time that you work on your medical records and can be the very reason why you’re sitting there after everybody else has gone home trying to get that stuff finished up.

So number one, you gotta stop telling yourself a lie that you don’t have enough time because there is time available in your day. Every single one of you, there is time available in your day that you are just choosing to utilize in a way that doesn’t actually help you move toward checking more things off your list. And then number two, you have to have your own system.

And I’ve given you a very easy one to do, putting in some Airbus, letting some people know, Hey, don’t bother me right now unless you have an emergency. I’m gonna be working on this task. And you just do that. And as you start to do that, grabbing even just two or three minutes here and there between appointments, even walking out an appointment,

once you’ve gotten communicated to your support staff, what needs to do to wrap that appointment up, popping in your earbuds so you can get to work, typing or writing up whatever you need to do in the chart before you walk into the next one. Those few minutes here and there make all the difference in the world. That’s how you get your time back.

And that’s actually how you start to even enjoy your days more. Because when you are focused on what you’re there to do and you stay committed to doing those things, there’s not any time left over to get sucked into commiseration, blame, gossip, frustration, any of that drama. There’s no time for that. You simply go there, you do the job that you’re there to do,

you take care of the clients, you take care of the patients, you document the things that need to be documented and you, and when you stay out of the drama, it is amazing how much more quickly, even the busiest days become so much more enjoyable. So my friends, as you go through the next week, I challenge you to find what will work for you for focusing your attention and blocking your time to get things done and even outside of your career.

When you’ve got all those things at home, which again seems very overwhelming with the short amount of time that you have off before you go back to work, I want you to utilize the same system. You may not need the earbuds to to cut out distractions, but if you will take that time and give yourself some blocks of time to do things, you can make many of those tasks only take as long as you allow them to take.

So say I’m giving myself an hour to knock as many things off of this list as possible and go, you set a timer and you just get back at it. If your mind wants to wander, if you start to just get away from the tasks on the to-do list, you come right back into it because you have committed to yourself that you are gonna spend one hour knocking a bunch of stuff off that list.

And as you, when you get to the end of that hour, one of two things, and probably both is gonna happen. Number one, you are going to feel very proud of yourself for what you have accomplished. That’s gonna help increase your confidence in yourself. And number two, you might just find that you wanna keep going. And if you have the time available to that,

then by all means do so. So my friend, some tips for you as you head into the next week on how to manage your time a little bit better so that you feel less stressed, less overwhelmed, and you actually get more stuff done. I would love to know how this all works for you and I’ll see you next week. Bye for now.