1. Hader, Richard RN, CNA, CHE, CPHQ, PhD, FAAN, Editor-in-Chief

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My first job was as a new graduate staff nurse in an intensive care unit. After about 18 months of practice, I decided I was ready to take the national certification examination in critical care. To prepare for the test, I bought a review book but never read it. I believed I didn't need to spend time preparing because I was sure of my abilities. I assumed that I knew the material and could use good critical thinking skills to pass the test without difficulty. Of course, I failed. So, early in my career I learned a profound lesson-if you don't prepare, regardless of your confidence level or past experience, you jeopardize your ability to succeed.

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Whether you're doing something as mundane as developing your team members schedule for the next month or preparing to deliver a presentation to the board of trustees, it's imperative that you spend time in preparation to optimize your opportunity for success. As nurse leaders, however, finding the time to prepare can be difficult because we're constantly required to multitask and meet tight time frames to accomplish objectives, while facing constant interruptions to solve day-to-day operational issues and crises. These challenges make it extremely difficult to set aside time to look, think, and plan ahead. How can we better prepare so we can achieve our goals while still finding the time to meet daily commitments?


First, articulate a clear vision and think with the end in mind. If it's difficult to define an end point, it'll create confusion for both you and your staff. What do you want to accomplish? What resources do you need to get the job done? Do you have the knowledge, skill, and ability to accomplish the goal within the team, or will you need to rely on expert guidance? By clarifying the answers to these questions, you'll begin to build a framework for success.


Once you clarify your vision, don't procrastinate!! Delaying the completion of assignments only causes you more anxiety and stress, and will deter achievement. The thought of completing an uncomfortable assignment or task is frequently far worse than actually doing it. Sometimes it's difficult to get started because a project appears to be too intimidating and overwhelming. Breaking the assignment down into small components with realistic time frames will help you get started. Once you break down the initial barriers, begin to craft easily obtainable goals to build a strong foundation for your final project.


Don't assume all the responsibility yourself. Carefully analyze the assignment and determine what components you can delegate to others. By entrusting others to participate in completing the task, you'll build confidence in your staff and enhance teamwork and ownership of the process.


As simplistic as it sounds, every leader must keep a current task list that intersects with predetermined time frames, objectives, and goals. This will provide a structure to ensure that you keep current with future agendas and obligations. Make certain you scrutinize your schedule to stay ahead of time frames so you aren't placed under undue pressure.


Learning from the experience of others is beneficial. Researching your topic through querying the literature or networking with others can save you time by avoiding common pitfalls while simultaneously determining best practice. Reading or listening to the work of others will enhance dialogue, stimulate creativity, and spark enthusiasm.


Your leadership success depends on your forethought, plan, and execution. Prepare. It'll save you time, reduce stress, improve outcomes, and build teamwork.


Richard Hader