Expert Interview

Time management begins with activity management

Susan R. Johnson

Time management expert Susan R. Johnson, MD, MS, is professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the Carver College of Medicine and ombudsperson at the University of Iowa. Through her work in administrative positions and as a clinician, Johnson honed her long-standing interest in time management and recently founded her own company, Thriving Amidst Chaos, to offer coaching, workshops and articles on the topic.

Johnson spoke with Endocrine Today and offered several tips for health care providers to better manage their time.

What was the motivating factor for you to learn about time management and then educate others?

Johnson: I have had an interest in time management since I was in junior high when I first experienced problems with procrastination and knowing how to juggle multiple tasks. I wasn’t very neat either! Like a lot of people, I managed to get by as long as I was in a situation, like school and residency training, where the expectations were clear. Moving to a faculty position, with its multiple missions and the need to make my own decisions about what to do was more challenging, but I muddled through. My moment of truth came, when in addition to my faculty role in research, teaching and clinical care, I accepted a position as a collegiate administrator. Now there were even more choices, along with a huge increase of things to do. I returned to the books I had been collecting over the years, and I discovered techniques that got me back on track. People around me noticed the difference and invited me to speak locally, and that morphed into invitations to other medical schools and to professional societies.

How does time management affect your life?

Johnson: I’m not perfect — my tendency is still to want to put things off — but now I know how to respond when it happens. My work space is organized so that I can focus, and I don’t waste time looking for information, I don’t miss deadlines or forget things, and I use my time more effectively. I save time by using efficient processes, such as for managing email. I’ve also learned not to take on too much at one time, and to finish things before I take on something new. All of this has allowed me to be more productive, and at the same time more relaxed and less stressed.