Straight Talk
Working smarter

Most everyone has a tip on how to save time or work more efficiently – AASV members share their tips below.

From Barbara Petersen

“Text messaging on my cell phone safely (not while running calls) can be a helpful communication tool. I send text messages to clients, colleagues, friends, and family. I use the same courtesy when texting as I do when calling someone. Keep in mind the time of day and keep messages less than 160 characters if you know the recipient has a phone capable of receiving limited amounts of data. Texting allows me to schedule and change appointments, track patient history, follow up on sick calls, pose questions, answer questions, finalize health papers…the opportunities are endless – especially with picture messaging. There are three degrees of texting: those who really enjoy it and text often (I fall into that category), those who read texts and respond with phone calls (those are some of my clients and colleagues), and finally, those who dislike it and do not participate. Professionally, I ask clients whether or not they text, and I text full words and complete sentences. Our practice reimburses us for our text messaging fees when we text with clients and one another.”

From Rod Johnson

“I use a number of means to save time and attempt to stay organized and on time, but none are very high-tech. I have eliminated a home phone and now operate with two cell phones. I carry a BlackBerry and a small Acer computer. I still operate with my things-to-do pages when in the office. I have a marvelous executive assistant who sets up my travel and knows my schedule to allow for making appointments and planning meetings and events. Life is good!”

From Jodie Pettit

“I feel like the last person who should be giving advice on this subject, but there are a few things that make my life somewhat easier. First is my BlackBerry Bold– easy to keep up on e-mails and other communications while on the road. I don’t type many e-mails on it, but at least I know what to prioritize when I get back to the desk. I try to be very aggressive about filtering junk e-mails and blocking senders. Just pitching all the junk e-mail is a time sink if you ask me. I also use the memo feature to track ‘to-do’s’ and grocery lists, reading lists, and songs I want to add to iPod, etc. I’m not smart enough to use the mobile Excel or Word functions, but I’ll bet they are handy for those who do.

I once read that clutter causes stress because your mind subconsciously sees it as work to do, and I believe it. My house is very stressful most of the time. One strategy I use to minimize the clutter is to tear out magazine articles for later reading. This keeps the pile to a minimal size and doesn’t seem as mentally daunting as looking at a pile of magazines I have to read when time allows. Actually, JSHAP is the only magazine that does not get decimated after a quick scan.

Finally, and I don’t know if this counts as time-saving or just indulgence, but I am a book fiend and completely addicted to audio-books. I read while in the shower, on the treadmill, painting the house, cleaning the horse barn, and driving to meetings. Most of it is fiction or management books, but occasionally I throw in a podcast or other industry news brief. It is a great stress reliever and even counts as educational if you pick the right books. I also have a Kindle, which is great for travel reading, but after years of audio-books, I have a hard time sitting down to read an actual book without multitasking.”

From Brad Leuwerke

“I often wonder where all the spare time I had, early in my career, to put together highly detailed e-mails or herd letters has gone. I have certainly learned, from others in our practice, how to work more efficiently. From a communication standpoint, I have found that, instead of generating those lengthy herd letters that I found were sometimes misinterpreted, getting into the habit of calling clients on the way home from a visit, detailing our visit over the phone, and generating herd letters or follow-up e-mails as bullet-pointed highlights, was a big time-saver. This has made my time on the road much more efficient each day. Including in herd letters pictures taken during a visit goes a long way to describing a recommendation. In practice, I have found that making single-pig kits for vasectomies or prolapse repair, where most of the materials can be left at the site, reduces clean-up back at the clinic and also adds a layer of biosecurity. I have found that wrapping my ultrasound in a Ziploc bag for pregnancy checking saves a lot of clean-up at the end of the day. Diagnostic sampling and blood-testing kits put together at our clinic also shorten the time it takes to sample and ensures a complete set of samples is collected each time. I am sure that there is a lot more to learn on how to save time by working smarter, but these are a few practices that have really helped me out.”

From William Hollis

“Learning from the mistakes of others has a certain appeal. Misery loves company, they say. None of us has the time or desire to make all the mistakes ourselves, so let me share a few of the time-management mistakes I have learned from in hopes that they may help you in your quest to work smarter.

Start the day with a short list. I used to make long detailed lists of several calls to make, or several reports or projects to outline, when in fact the list can always be added to. Starting with the short list, checking off the tasks, and moving on has been a better approach for me.

Use the tools without enslaving yourself to the tools. My cell phone and computer have been more valuable for the times I have turned them off and returned to them later. I can also connect the two of them together, set up reports or dictation for down-loading, and take off driving … getting the two of them to work together without me is really exciting.

Use a GPS. The directions and maps of the good old days are long past. If the GPS takes a single lane, wooden bridge, dirt road, make a note of it and redirect. The GPS has saved me time finding locations and getting lost while talking on the cell phone. Better yet, do not leave a farm without telling the GPS where you are. It is our goal to have repeat business … so tell the GPS where you are, and it will direct you back there.

Gather the news of the day quickly. I prefer satellite radio while driving, and have several presets that report in at the same time each day. Other folks use Web-based newspapers and magazines, but I have not figured them out as well. I do use Web-based market reports for quick check-ups, and have several set to stay current, so when I bring them up they have everything already calculated.

The old time-savers also still work well and deserve recognition. Office staff maintain treatment sheets, water and feed medication-protocol calculation sheets, diagnostic database reports, and updated disease summaries. All of these are ready made and can be tailored to the client’s needs. Office staff are tremendous time-savers and really build business while thinking ahead to what we need.

Finally, I still carry home a briefcase with 20 pounds more materials than I will ever complete that evening. I often shut down and enjoy the kids, which is what should happen in the evening anyway. The problem is not being efficient at home; it is planning ahead with the one or two items I actually will complete and leaving the rest for tomorrow. The extra 20 pounds is good exercise, so I will probably keep carrying it home every night anyway.”

From Emily McDowell

“I believe I get a lot more accomplished when I am busy. As a student, I wanted to be involved in student club activities, but I also had class work to do so I had to set rules for myself. At times, I turned off the Internet on my computer or only studied from paper notes. During one of my really busy semesters, I stayed at school and studied in the library until 6 pm every night, reviewing my notes for each day. I heavily used to-do lists for each day and checked off tasks as they were completed. It was also important to me to make time for myself and my family. I know the time-management habits I’ve learned will help me manage my time when I’m a practitioner.”

From John Waddell

“The electronic health-certificate process has been a huge time-saver for me and our staff in the office. We use the GlobalVetLink (GVL) system, which also has a portal for electronic scripts. Although I’ve been trained on the scripts, I’ve not used it yet. The GVL system also has the ability to interface with the diagnostic laboratories for test results, and this could be our avenue to somehow self-certify a disease status (ie, PRRS).”

-- Tracy Ann Raef