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Make the Most of Your Workday


Wed Sep 26 2018

Make the Most of Your Workday

Healthcare professionals do not have to give up on workday engagement, positive expectations, and time management. Recently, I worked in a large healthcare system developing and facilitating leadership training for clinical and nonclinical supervisors and managers. The pressing challenges included patient care, key metrics, engagement, staffing, and retention. Our leadership training needed to acknowledge, align, and help healthcare professionals to meet these challenges.

There was a lot to learn from listening to talented and dedicated professionals, especially RN unit supervisors. Training professionals need to offer new ideas, strategies, and tools to help healthcare professionals stay engaged, positive, and productive as they care for patients directly or indirectly. My experience in healthcare was a major catalyst to tackle workday challenges with new perspectives and strategies. My primary message in Make the Most of Your Workday is to actively take more control of our own workday quality. Here are a few suggestions applicable to individuals, teams, and training.


Enlarge Your Circle of Influence

We need some influence over the workday, including problems, to be engaged and bring our best self to work. Stephen Covey describes problems in three categories—problems in our direct control, indirect control, or no control. Regardless of the problem category, we have a circle of influence. This is the exciting core of workday engagement and satisfaction. It is very easy to forget that we control our attitude, mood, and reactions, and that we are not powerless!

Despite some serious workday concerns—staff calling out, workload increasing, number of emails and meetings rising, priorities changing—Stephen Covey’s work gives us hope because we can adopt a proactive approach to help reduce this circle of concern. “What can I do about this?” is a great question; “What can I do to manage staffing needs (short and long term)?” “Which tool could I propose to the team to reduce emails?” The larger our circle of influence, the greater chance for active problem solving versus the feeling of being defeated day after day.

Review Your Own Mindset, Mood, and Expectations Each Day

It is important to know your mood, mindset, physical energy, and emotional state as you get ready for the workday. Pay attention to feelings, thoughts, beliefs, schedule, reactions, and enthusiasm. What are the day’s most important priorities, challenges (such as back-to-back meetings), and bright spots? What communication triggers do you know of so that you can anticipate possible responses that will be in your best interests? Recognize your body language—do you grimace when annoyed, or get short-tempered when hungry? Consider that you can choose your mood and even adjust your attitude throughout the day.

Use Different Types of Time Management

As our training team met to develop programs and modules, I remember the laughter around discussion about the value of a time management module for RN unit supervisors. That laughter was a good challenge to come up with approaches to priority, time, and energy management that could work in healthcare. Here is an example of a kind of workday I call “survive my shift” that calls for a different approach to time management.

Imagine that a team member calls out, which throws your own plan out the window. Go with the current reality and don’t label your change in plan as a failure; praise yourself and your team, and take breaks when you can. Then, go home tired but satisfied in how you met the day’s surprises. Even an “I survived my shift” day counts as a good one. This may take a different view of priorities and a more realistic planning for certain days, weeks, or situations; this is necessary, along with giving yourself time to relax and refresh for another good day tomorrow. Time does not have to be the monster we fear or battle every day.


Our workdays are precious, go by quickly, and result in our going home satisfied and happy or defeated and unhappy. The benefits of staying engaged, positive, and productive at work impact ourselves, patients, colleagues, our organization, and our community, plus our own circle of friends and family. I know from experience that workdays are full of challenges and that I can always ask, “What can I (or we) do about this?”

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