Straight talk

Tick tock … time’s running out

It’s 9 o’clock in the morning and you are already running behind. Need help in managing your time? Swine veterinarians have stepped forward to provide tips and advice on what works for them and what doesn’t.

From Jason Kelly

“Timely communication with clients is critical to helping them make good decisions. When times are busy and you’re spread too thin, sometimes details can fall through the cracks. We have made the decision at our office to upgrade to all-in-one devices such as UTStarcom Pocket PCs (UTStarcom Inc, Hauppauge, New York) or Palm Treos (Palm Inc, Sunnyvale, California). With these devices, you can check your e-mail, use the internet, write herd-visit notes, view health protocols, make calls, and many other things with one piece of equipment. You can check diagnostics on the internet when you are on-site with a client, send an e-mail whenever a thought pops into your head, or check your most up-to-date schedule without calling the office. Prices for these devices are reasonable and the monthly data fee is really cheap. It has saved me a lot of time, but so far I haven’t run out of things to do. I wish it would wash my truck for me, but maybe that’s being too critical.”

From Steve Henry

“Worrying about managing time in detail takes all the fun out of work. Work to have fun and try not to have too many deadlines. When you are enjoying the work, there always seems to be time.”

From Gene Nemechek

“With so much time required to handle communication from e-mails, regular mail, and telephone messages, I try to use the rule of ‘handle it one time’. Answer e-mail immediately and delete, handle regular mail one piece at a time (decide to throw away, file, or answer immediately), and return telephone messages ASAP.”

From Jeff Husa

“It’s ironic that time management is the subject of‘Straight talk’ this month. I’m currently on an army deployment and am still trying to keep up with family and veterinary responsibilities. Getting everything done is truly a struggle! All of us face daily distractions that pull us away from other important accomplishments. I consider myself to be the world’s worst time manager, so I may be qualified to comment on the critical nature of balancing life. First, establish priorities. We need to keep the important people and relationships in our lives at the top of our lists. This is easier to propose than to consistently achieve. Ringing phones, a knock on the door, and that‘modern convenience’ of e-mail seem to instantly become priorities. I’ve found that to accomplish a major goal, I must temporarily screen out the rest of the world. It’d be nice to simply shut off the cell phones, to lock myself into a room, and to avoid e-mails while I grind away at that ever-present pile on my desk. It just isn’t feasible long term. I’ve found that turning off the television or finding a quiet space in the library for a few hours will help to get a paper written. As my Department of Motor Vehicles record will attest, I’ve also found that driving faster between herd calls isn’t the answer! Those of you who’ve read or participated in Covey’s1‘Seven Habits’ should appreciate the guidance to ‘Put first things first’. You must determine your own list of priorities and keep it up to date. We all love our families and our careers. Our veterinary oath binds us professionally and personally to the heartfelt care of our colleagues, producers, and pigs. Someone once said, ‘It is best to be quick to smile and slow to anger’. If you find yourself in the opposite frame of mind, I urge that you take a step back and a deep breath, and remember those priorities that are closest to your heart.”


1. Covey SR. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Fireside Edition. Simon and Schuster Inc, New York, New York; 1990.

From Jim Collins

“I answer my own telephone because I can deal with most calls quickly and immediately rather than letting them ‘queue up’ to be returned later. Also, the clients really like the customer service of having immediate access whenever possible. I also quite often make my own photocopies, fax information, and perform other small office tasks because it is more efficient and time saving compared to handing office staff many small tasks of a few pages.”

From Rodney Johnson

“If you have an assistant, allow him or her to become involved in helping you more than you think you should. You will soon find things disappearing from your plate that you thought only you could do. Things will get done on time. You can spend more of your time with clients, family, and the people that matter. The people around you will feel more a part of your business and you will be amazed at how much they can do to help your business grow!

Here is my tip: Hire an assistant before you know you need one! If you are as busy as most veterinarians, you are likely doing things an assistant can do faster, better, and more cost effectively. Food for thought!”

From Cate Dewey

“Time management is NOT my strong suit. Too often my deadline is defined by when the pressure builds to the bursting point. I get off-track because of my people focus – my family comes first, the other people in my life come next, and then my work becomes a priority. If my son needs me, the paper does not get written. If someone needs to share their troubles, the phone calls do not get made. What works for me? Karen Richardson keeps me in line and gives me deadlines in a manner that is hard to refuse. I derive great pleasure from my work and multitasking is exciting – so I do have energy for what needs doing. The time-management course I attended taught me two important facts. I tracked my daily activities (on the quarter hour) for 2 weeks so that I could understand where the day goes. Each day I make a task list and do my best to accomplish what I can from that list.”

--Tracy Ann Raef