We all want more time. As audiologists and speech-language pathologists, we always want to squeeze another thing into our calendars. Recording data, communicating with families, completing paperwork—we can all use more time to get through our to-do lists outside of treatment or teaching. Of course, we know there isn’t more time. So how can we make the most of the time we do have?
Writers like Charles Duhigg—“The Power of Habit” and “Smarter Faster Better”—and Benjamin Hardy—one of the most popular writers on Medium.com—offer tons of recommendations on how to best use your time. While we can all read about these ideas, it’s infinitely harder to put these ideas into practice.
I successfully tried a few ideas to maximize my time as a busy SLP. I hope they might be useful for you.
Recover and unwind from technology: I’m the biggest fan of technology, so this was hard to do. Turn off your email notifications, put your low-priority message threads on mute and try not to check your phone every time it buzzes. (I don’t know about you, but I feel phantom buzzes when my phone is in my pocket! Amazingly, I see no message when I swear I felt it.)
Initially, you might feel like something is missing. There’s quite a bit of research about our phone addictions. We get a rush of dopamine every time we look: “Ooh, I got a Facebook notification! I wonder what happened.” “New message—I wonder who it’s from?” However, if you calculate time spent mindlessly checking notifications, you’d be astounded. I get it. We all need a break from reality at times and procrastination can be refreshing. When you feel crunched for time, however, simply turn off those annoying and distracting aspects of technology. Time away from technology benefits your brain and your spirit, and you’ll increase your productivity significantly.
Work on mindfulness: What do you mean? I already struggle to find time for everything. You want me to add meditation? The answer is yes. I’ve read tons of research about the positive effects of meditation in a variety of areas. Taking time to reflect allows you to re-prioritize truly important responsibilities and feel refreshed mentally, which helps you put your best effort into the tasks you’re currently tackling.
Think about times when the TV or a co-worker in the next office distracts you and how this affects your focus. Most people easily recognize external distraction, but we are often less aware of internal distractions. Mindfulness exercises and meditation help us to heighten that internal awareness. Remember, meditation’s goal isn’t to turn off thinking, but to help harness mental energy when needed.
Set smart and stretch goals: We can clearly set and work toward goals for clients or students. We understand and can implement parameters about improving speech production, understanding language or swallowing functions. We can measure the data—both quantitatively and qualitatively—and get an idea of whether we’re making progress. But how do we know when we make progress toward our own goals? Most people find it challenging to take objective measure about their own lives.
That’s where smart goals and stretch goals come into play. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Following these kinds of goals can make big life changes seem more manageable.
For example, your goal might be: “I will work toward an ACE (Award for Continuing Education) this year.” Using this stretch goal, you can set up SMART goals for each month and how many CEUs you need to take. Or: “I will increase my social media presence to help grow my small business.” Stretch goals might include creating a presence on various social media platforms, and SMART goals include setting a specific time per week to manage interactions.
So, as the long days and relaxing vacations of summer wind down, take some time to find ways of maximizing your time and preparing for another busy season by trying these three tips. We feel like we can always take on more, but let’s not forget to take care of ourselves, too!
Dan Fitch, MA, CCC-SLP, works in schools and private practice. He blogs at Everything is Language and has consulted for AAC companies as well as presented on incorporating technology into school classrooms. He is a two-time ACE award recipient. firstname.lastname@example.org.