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March 26, 2017

Time Management Techniques for Human Service Professionals



Time management is a critical skill needed to be successful in the human services field.  Case management has changed significantly over the years and so has the amount of work and responsibilities.  I would argue that the amount of work has tripled over the last decade or so. Caseloads have also increased along with the amount of paperwork and service coordination that is expected from case managers. One thing that hasn’t changed is the amount of time available to handle such a heavy workload. That’s why time management is so important.

                      
I offer a few techniques that I have tried to save time and be more efficient. Some have worked while some have not been as successful.  I still find myself in a struggle with time management even after over 15 years in the field.  The key is to keep exploring techniques until you find what works best for you.


1. Set up an outline of activities for the day- It’s always a good idea to have at least a basic schedule and plan for your day. Develop or find a “To Do List” template and list your planned activities each day. These templates can easily be downloaded and are usually free. Of course, your day will likely never go as planned but at least you will have a basic framework to start your day.


2. Utilize Technology- Outlook and Google calendars help with organizing and setting up reminders for appointments and when particular assignments/reports are due. Calendars can easily be synced to your phone so you can get reminders when you are out in the field.


3. Ask for suggestions- It never hurts to ask your co-workers what they do to manage time.  You will be surprised at some of the ideas you discover through communicating with others.


4. Set aside “paperwork” days- One of my favorite techniques is to set aside specific days to do paperwork. Yes, I know every day is paperwork day for case managers but setting up a specific day to do nothing else but documentation can help you catch up. Friday would be the ideal day to do paperwork to wrap up the week. However, choose a day that works best for your caseload and schedule.  It’s also a good idea to include this in your voicemail so that clients will know not to call on that particular day.  Your paperwork day might also be a good day to  telework from home if the agency allows this option.


5. Be strategic with face to face appointments- Try to schedule home and site visits at the beginning of the day and/or the end of the day. I have found this approach to be helpful especially if you live further away from the main office.  If there is a work site or day support program near your home then it makes sense to do that visit on the way to work instead of making multiple trips during the day.


6. Focus on billable activities first- Time management involves prioritizing activities. I try to focus on billable activities first then work on the other tasks. Notes, quarterly reports and treatment plans are usually considered the most important documents that need to be completed in a timely manner.  

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