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Time seems to be the one commodity social care staff can never have enough of!

You can’t buy it; there is always a finite amount and yet a seemingly never-ending list of jobs that make it impossible ever to catch up.

If that sounds familiar, don’t despair! Time management is a phrase that gets slung about a lot without really meaning anything tangible.

Let’s work through some practical, actionable tips to help you get your agenda back under control – as recommended by the OUTT.com social care recruitment team, who know a thing or two about coping with a crazy schedule!

By thinking about organisation (and accepting that some things won’t ever get to the top of the to-do list!), you can regain your cool and focus on what matters.

The Challenge of Staying on Track in a Care Setting

The first thing we need to do is to be realistic. It’s tough to be organised as a social care worker.

Shifts can be long and overnight, so you don’t get the usual time during the week to sort out your everyday life admin.

When you’re at work, you might have a million individual tasks to do or have very little structure since the care required all depends on the needs of your patients or residents.

Then there are those fixed times in the schedule, such as:

  • Handovers between shifts.
  • Record keeping and paperwork.
  • Dispensing medications.
  • Mealtimes.
  • Ward rounds.

It’s essential to recognise that if you’re feeling a bit frazzled, you’re not alone. No individual can keep track of all of those jobs in their head.

Writing it down or keeping notes in your calendar on your phone is a great start.

Try setting the alarm to buzz ten minutes before each specific job in the shift, and you’ll be prepared and mentally alert – rather than rushing around like a maniac realising you’re five minutes late to a staff meeting and can’t find your report!

Another trick is to use a checklist – you can get an app for your phone if you’re not keen on wandering around with another clipboard to add to your repertoire.

Having a definitive list of tasks to do means staying focused and maintaining direction, working through the jobs methodically and without a whiff of panic.

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Prioritising Tips for Care Workers

Next, we’ll think about priorities. There are thousands of things that might change in any one shift, and so it can be challenging to set a concrete list of what you’re planning to do on any given day.

But, what you can do is assign a ranking to your tasks, so you never leave off the major stuff in favour of something less crucial.

Now, you’ve probably guessed that we love a list and add a highlighter to the project, and you’re onto a good thing! But, joking aside, colour coding is an excellent way to gain control over a busy schedule.

It’s not just about having a structure to follow but is also a visual work system that your brain can understand instantly, without needing to work through notes or figure out any rushed scrawl that no longer reads in English.

Try this:

  • Highlighting in green everything that is of top priority. Things that you cannot miss must be done every shift and that you can’t delay.
  • Choosing orange for important jobs that don’t have a specific time limit. Of course, you don’t want to forget these tasks, but you don’t need to put them first if any pressing situations arise.
  • Marking urgent jobs that need to be done quickly but aren’t particularly vital in blue. You might get these out of the way after your green jobs or delegate to another team member or junior.
  • Saving yellow for the less critical jobs. For example, say you’ve meant for months to sort out the supply cupboard – nothing terrible is going to happen if you never get around to it, but you would find it satisfying to get everything neat and tidy.

Traffic light systems are perfect for busy care workers because they require zero time for a stressed mind to comprehend – freeing up your headspace for more important things!

Mapping Out Time Allocations

There is a way to try and pinpoint where your time keeps disappearing – and it sounds a little fuzzy, but bear with us!

Time mapping means you have a grid of the day and separate each hour into a box.

You then use that planner to decide what tasks you are going to accomplish in the day. You can assign each job a time slot with an appropriate colour, so you know whether it takes precedence even if you’ve underestimated the time needed or stops at the cut-off.

Mapping out your day in this way is also perfect for:

  • Working out whether you can do it all. If you’re endlessly on the back foot, there’s a chance you’re taking on too much. If you have a ten-hour shift, and all of your jobs require 12 hours, it’s time for a rethink with your manager.
  • Seeing where time is lost. We all faff a little, and being disorganised can take up even more time when we search for things we’ve misplaced or try and decide how to keep up. Writing down your day can quickly show you the missing pieces or help you identify that you need to cut down on something.
  • Separating work and personal time. We’ve looked here at tips for the workday, but it’s equally crucial you rest. An over-tired mind won’t have the strength to navigate a hectic day, so you need to have a non-negotiable cut-off, at which point you reserve your energy for home life and relaxation.

Creating a visual image of your day is a simple job, but means it’s easy to see where you spend most time, which tasks you’re trying to cram into an impossibly short time, and where perhaps you have leeway to let go of less essential work that somebody else may have more time to accommodate.

Time management in itself can sound like a tedious task you don’t have time for – but trust us; it’s a valuable investment that will help your busiest days run like clockwork!