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Present Time Is the Right Time

"I'd really like to attend the departmental budgeting workshop; I know I need to learn more about budgeting. But there's just too much to do right now. Tell you what-I'll go the next time, after I get some of these overdue assignments off my back."


"Yeah, I know my files are a real mess. The drawers are bulging-and just look at the size of the stack of stuff waiting to be filed. I keep saying I'm going to tackle this on a slow day, but when does anyone ever have a slow day around here?"


"Go to a time management program? Sure, I could use it. But not right now. Make it later, after the rush is over."


There was once a fairly popular little cartoon that hung on many office walls. It showed 2 figures on opposite sides of a table, both leaning back with their feet on the table. They were surrounded by mounds and mounds of raggedly stacked papers. The caption portrayed 1 character saying to the other, "Next week we've got to get organized."


"Next week" hardly ever arrives in the sense of actually triggering action. "After the rush is over" becomes a hollow promise for the many working managers for whom the rush is truly never over. The long awaited "slow day" seems never to arrive except for those who make it arrive by coming in on a weekend, and "getting those overdue assignments off my back" usually accomplishes no more than staying even as other assignments arrive.


Running a department is an open-ended task. One is never finished, never totally "caught up." There is always something to be done, whether urgent, not quite so critical, necessary but low priority, or "nice to do if we have time." Even a conscientious manager working in today's frantic health care environment may stay focused and productively busy all of the time and never get close to the things that are "nice to do if we have the time."


How, then, can we tackle the overdue assignments and the office clutter and get them under control? Getting organized, getting caught up, or improving one's productivity in general depend more on attitude and mindset than on assistance and the availability of time. We cannot allow ourselves to believe we should await a "better time." For the most part, there is no "better time"; once the future becomes the present, it looks very much like the past did when it was the present. For most people most of the time, the best time is now.


Overdue assignments? Starting today, get 1 of them, preferably the most important one, moving. Establish a priority order and keep chipping away in between and around your other work. You might prefer large chunks of uninterrupted time, but accept the fact that bits and pieces may have to suffice. If you are the average busy manager, this is probably the only way you will get reasonably current.


Office clutter? Bulging files? Set a loose schedule for yourself, perhaps a half-hour per day, 1 file drawer per week, 1 stack of miscellany per week, or whatever works. Again, the key is to chip away at it, to avoid letting yourself be lulled by the possibility of the "right time" sometime in the future.


Budgeting workshop or time management program? There's no better time than now. Would you avoid attending an educational program if your superior order you to go? Probably not, no matter how inconvenient the timing seemed to be. So, order yourself to go.


All of the steps you take to put your job or surroundings in order, all of the steps you take to learn how to be a more effective manager, combine to provide the most effective sort of continuing management development-self-development.


This issue of The Health Care Manager (Issue 35:1, January-March 2016) includes the following articles for the reader's consideration:


* "Concierge Medicine: A Viable Business Model for (Some) Physicians of the Future?" defines and describes the medical management structure of concierge medicine and addresses its increasing popularity among physicians and patients who are frustrated by the limitations imposed by managed care organizations.


* "Regional Interrelationships: A Leadership Opportunity for Health Care" stresses the need for health care executives to move beyond simply providing health care treatments and instead learn to focus on strategically leading their regions by addressing the regional interrelationships that exist in their geographic areas.


* "Managing Patient Falls in Psychiatric Inpatient Units: Part 1" reports on a quantitative, descriptive study of the significantly higher number of patient falls in hospital inpatient psychiatric units than in medical-surgical areas, addressing the following questions: What are psychiatric unit directors' perceptions of the possible intrinsic factors that contribute to patient falls? And what are psychiatric unit directors' perceptions of the possible extrinsic factors that contribute to patient falls in the psychiatric inpatient units?


* "Contingency Management of Health Care Organizations: It Depends" explains how managers can apply contingency theory to the development of a contingency approach to managing health care organizations and how they can become more effective by doing so.


* The Case in Health Care Management: "Ultimatum" asks the reader to consider the ways a manger might address the problem created by a key employee who demands a specific change and reinforces that demand with the threat of resignation.


* "Rightful Discharge: Making 'Termination' Mean It Is Really Over: Part 1-Issues and Legislation" provides a thoughtful and practical review of the issues likely to surface after termination decisions and addresses the applicable legislation by which health care managers can reduce the unnecessary risk of expensive, time-consuming litigation after termination of employment.


* "Developing a Successful MHA Student Mentor-Mentee Program" reports on a study comparing past methods for implementing and running a mentor program with newer program models and discusses the various models of mentor programs found within the academic environment of an MHA program.


* "The Effects of Transformational Leadership and Mediating Factors on Organizational Success Using Structural Equation Modeling: A Case Study" reports on a study undertaken to determine the effects of transformational leadership and mediating factors on organizational success from the perspective of administrative, financial, and support employees in teaching hospitals using structural equation modeling.


* "Patient Access: Improving Wait Times in a Specialty Clinic" reports on a 6-month pilot project conducted with the aim of scheduling 50% of new patients within 7 days of referral to reduce the backlog of patients, implement scheduling guidelines, and use nurse practitioners to improve practice efficiencies.


* "Deciding to Decide: How Decisions Are Made and How Some Forces Affect the Process" suggests a systematic approach to making decisions and solving problems, offers advice for addressing the most neglected part of the process, and briefly addresses the often overlooked effects of emotion in decision making.