Get Time On Your Side

Heidi DiGennero

Two words that sound officious are time management. I think of someone telling me how I’m not managing my time well or I need to make time. The words make me want to say, “You sit in my chair, do my job, and you figure out how I can make time.”

But … who doesn’t want to find a faster way? Who doesn’t want more time to actually breathe and possibly even taste their food? Here are a few tips and tricks I have learned to be more efficient and organized.

Understanding how you use your time is the first step. During the shift or even your day, go to your Outlook calendar and add in how long it’s taking you to do tasks. If it takes you thirty minutes to do your continuing education, log it as an appointment. Appointments can overlap, especially if you took five 911 calls and worked the radio in between. Logging sounds like one more thing to do, but how many times have you reached the end of your shift and thought “What did I do today? I got nothing accomplished.” 

When you look back at what you did, you’ll see you had a very full day. Sometimes you accomplished nothing you wanted because you kept getting pulled in other directions or directions you didn’t anticipate. You had a meeting, talk, or call that ate up a portion of your day when you weren’t expecting it. Knowing what eats your time prepares you for the next time that particular activity rolls around.

A to-do list is the tool of getting on the right side of time.

Don’t let a to-do list frighten you. Think of it as a tool and not a source of anxiety. If you have a series of tasks you must do every day, list them. Then, on the days you feel like your furry friend hacked you up, use the checklist to ensure you finish what you must and keep your supervisor’s reminders away. It’s a way to keep you on track on those bad or hectic days. Maybe you didn’t get the Top 10 things done on your to-do list, but if you got one, two, or more, you’ve accomplished something. Take each accomplishment as a win and one LESS thing you must do.  

Warning: Don’t get too ambitious. If you list everything you want to accomplish, you’re not going to get it done unless the public and the field providers decide this is a day to crawl under a rock and not come out. Put what you know you can get done, prioritize it, and let the rest carry over to another day. Not everything can or will be accomplished in one day. Having the list will keep you on track because you won’t forget between today and tomorrow what you need to get done. 

Follow the rule of three. I learned this from an expert, and it truly works. If you have to deal with something, and it is not time critical, you’re allowed to look at/touch it three times. The first two times you can pass on it and wait to do it later. The third time you see it, touch it, or hear about it, you have to deal with it. The rule forces you to bargain with yourself on when you will do something and get it done instead of letting it linger like the smell of burnt microwave popcorn. 

To summarize:

  • Log your time to see what you did, and you can refer to it when you’re trying to figure out what happened to your day. You can also go back and look at a week, a month, or even longer when someone asks what you did.
  • The to-do list tool: A list of daily/weekly/monthly tasks to keep you on track when you feel like crap or life has gone insane.
  • Rule of three—see it three times with two passes allowed before you need to deal with it. 

Heidi DiGennaro started in 1995 in police dispatch and meandered down the career path of calltaking backup for a dispatch statistician., assistant supervisor, and, finally, shift manager for the Harford County Department of Emergency Services in Maryland (USA). What an Adventure! (hadigennaro@hartfordpublicsafety.org) 

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