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The trickle down effect

By Dolapo Babalola, MD

I thought I was off to a great start on this particular Monday morning, but little did I know what was before me. I actually wasn’t doing too badly at first. I left home for record time–my children were settled in the car and I had successfully dropped them off at their various schools.

It was now time for me to make my morning commute calls when I felt the fresh breeze against my scalp, at that moment I thought little or nothing of it. I was done with one or two of my calls when suddenly I looked up at the mirror on the driver’s side sunvisor and to my amazement, I noticed that I left my hair at home.

My hair, you would question, but yeah, I wasn’t wearing my spare hair, the one that saves me in times of emergency. This is the one hair that holds me, until I can finally find time to get my real hair done. The irony of this was that I was barely ten miles away from work, and in a few minutes my first patient will be placed in the examining room.

I was speechless! For the next few minutes it felt like time stood still. I wondered “Do I drive almost 40 minutes back home or do I proceed to work looking unprofessional and explaining to everyone why I am in such a state?” I had to get off the next exit to deliberate for a few minutes, and then I decided to return home after calling the charge nurse to inform her of an unforeseen emergency. Yes, I considered my unprepared hair an emergency (if you know what I mean), even in spite of my full schedule on the first work-day of the week.

As soon as I got home, I located my spare hair (fancy wig:-)) and off the door I went. To say the least, the rest of the day went bananas’. All together I was scheduled to start seeing patients at 8.15am, but I didn’t get to work until about 9.30am. I tried on several levels to try to catch up, but it was totally impossible. All my patients choose this perfect day to all show up for their appointments. Mercy here, people!

This is when I thought of the “trickle-down effect.” If I had only picked up my fancy wig from the sitting room when I saw it and didn’t procrastinate to do it later, maybe, just maybe I wouldn’t be in the predicament that I was in. A day filled with confusion, failure to keep deadlines, quick in and out of patients’ rooms and of course missing my chit-chat time with my patients and work staff. For the most part, I am generally an organized and proactive person, but I guess this day got the best of me. I was only so glad to see the day end and I vowed never to let this happen again.

A day like mine might sound familiar to you on one level or another. I figured that as the year, 2010 comes to an end, what are the steps we can take to becoming effective in everything we do in the New Year, 2011? Time is a precious commodity and it equates to money. What we make of our time can either make us or break us in the future. Remember the popular saying, which goes thus; “time is money and money is time.” The interesting thing is that once that time is spent and gone, unfortunately you can’t get it back. Imagine, children growing right before our eyes, if we do not invest core values in their lives at their tender age, when will it happen? Can you fathom spending a minimum of $80,000 annually for tuition and unfortunately you wasted that whole year learning nothing. You can always make the money back, but not the time, experience or knowledge.

The “trickle-down effect” is rooted from proper time allocation, which if well-grounded and on the right path leads to a happier, wonderful life, and more time in the day for other relevant activities. I don’t know about you, but I would like to think that we all want to manage our time well, so we can be successful in every facet of our lives.

Come to think of it, proper time management actually can put you ahead of the most brilliant people in the community. You just need to know how to play the cards right and that’s where the acquired knowledge comes in.

I researched a few things that might just enable us to work in a productive and efficient manner in the coming year, 2011. Believe me when I say, this is for me as much as it is for you. These are steps we could adapt to our spiritual work, family time, careers, obligations, etc. So please, take this journey with me as we evaluate how to efficiently manage our time into five main categories;

Set goals:

1. These goals are what you are trying to accomplish both as short time and long time in the different facets of life. Examples are; setting goals for two weeks from now to five years from now.
2. Write down your “To Do List.” This certainly goes a long way; write it down in groups so it doesn’t become overwhelming. An illustration is a child told to go and clean his messy room. He says “I can’t, it’s too messy, and I don’t know where to start?” The Dad tells him to first start with laying the bed, which he does successfully. Then he is told to pick up the toys, which he does and you know the rest. Little by little, we can get things done if we prioritize.
3. Stephen Covey 4-quadrant “To do list” in the figure below is a helpful tool towards prioritizing appropriately and moving closer towards your goals and aspirations. Please, participate in this exercise and see what you would discover. Great time management means being effective as well as efficient. Managing time effectively, and achieving the things that you want to achieve, means spending your time on things that are important and not just urgent. Let’s discuss the distinction:
Important activities have an outcome that leads to the achievement of your goals.
Urgent activities demand immediate attention, and are often associated with the achievement of someone else’s goals.

How to avoid wasting time:

Be organized! Avoid the clutters! See it fit to own the essentials such as a speaker phone, Bluetooth or earpiece, paper-recycling bin, notepads, post-its notes, and address stampers.
Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? I bet you have. Well, the key thing to understand is that a very small number of things in your life that are going to contribute the vast majority of the value. If you’re a salesperson, 80 percent of the revenue is going to come from 20 percent of your clients. This is the same way that it is said to train up a child in the way they should go and they wouldn’t depart from it. Or imagine; forgoing your quiet time in the morning to rush out unarmed for the day ahead. Let’s make use of our 20%, which will end up empowering our 80%.
“Experience is the best teacher,” failure to gather experience is costly and time-wasting. Whatever will make you productive or efficient, learn, inquire, ask, or read about it. Experience comes with time and it’s really valuable, and there are no shortcuts to getting it.
My favorite quote: “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. Planning starts from the beginning of the day, it exists for next week, even next month. I have heard people say “But it makes life boring or locked in.” Really, it doesn’t make you locked in, you just have a plan to use as basis to start and modify as the changes come along.
Doesn’t anyone detest interruptions as I do? This is usually my downfall, my whole day gets threw off by this. Research shows that interruption takes typically 6-9 minutes, but then there’s a 4-5 minute recovery to get your head back into what you’re doing. Its cost can be infinity. A few ways to reduce both the frequency and the length of these interruptions are to inform others of no interruption moments, turn off all phones and electronic gadgets (if you cannot ignore it).

How to delegate to people:

Delegation can be hard, trust me I know especially if you are a type A personality, wanting things to be perfectly done, etc. But I realize that nobody operates individually anymore and you can accomplish a lot more when you have help. A few helpful tips to getting to perform this role well;
The first thing is if you’re going to delegate to someone, grant them authority with responsibility. You give them the whole package; time, resources and support. This is especially seen in the home, when the wives ask either the children or husband to assist with house chores but end up complaining when things are not done their way. This is a “No No.” Imagine, next time, they would prefer for you to perform all the duties on your own and this eventually leads to burn-out.
Don’t treat delegating work as a dumping. “I don’t have time to do this, you take care of it.” Treat well, with dignity and respect and it would make this whole a happier place (a place of division of labor).

Procrastination:

As the saying goes; “Procrastination is the thief of time.” Why do we procrastinate? Some, for the simple reason that the task might just go away, or they figure they could be more effective under pressure or maybe you’re just not comfortable with the task. The key balance here is to understand that doing things at the last minute is really expensive. It’s just much more expensive than doing it just before the last minute, for obvious reasons. I discovered some helpful solutions to procrastinating
Discover the reason for procrastinating in the first place. Is there some emotional feeling behind it? Work it out and proceed with the task at hand.
Make up a fake deadline and act like it’s real. This is cool because these deadlines would push you to finishing your task without the pressure that accompanies real deadlines.

Stress:

Stress is a normal physiological response of the body to situations or stimulus which are perceived as ‘dangerous’ to the body. Stress can affect anyone and everyone at some point of time in their life. When it occurs frequently it affects health – both physical and mental. A few well known and obvious entities can prevent us from being in a frequent state of stress. To start with, we need to believe in a Higher being and for me, that is the Almighty God (whom I highly recommend), others are maintaining healthy eating habits, ensuring a minimal of eight hour sleep and of course exercise, the good old exercise, which can be in multiple forms. Without these four main cores activities, everything can fall apart including remaining productive and efficient through the cause of the day and of course the year–which relates back to my initial illustration of my new found phenomenon “The Trickle-Down Effect”

Ask yourself this question, do you want to be effective versus being efficient or maybe a little bit of both in the New Year, 2011? The goal is that as we practice a few of the above pointers, it would stir us all in the right direction in all aspects of our lives. So I wish you a Happy New Year and Make it a Time-Wisely spent 2011!!!

Dolapo Babalola is a debut author of a Christian Inspirational Book titled “My God: Even in the Last Minute” released September 2010. She is the oldest of four children, born in Lagos, Nigeria in the mid-1970s to Dr. and Mrs. Adeoshun. Babalola is also a practicing family physician in clinical and academic medicine at Morehouse, in the Department of Family Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia. A graduate of University of Guyana Medical School, she completed residency training in Family Medicine at Morehouse Family Medicine Residency Program. Though a debut author of a Christian Inspirational Book, she has participated in several professional activities as research projects, presented at conferences, published in peer-reviewed journals and is a manuscript reviewer for the Journal of the National Medical Association. She is blissfully married with two amazing daughters. Dolapo is adventurous and loves to challenge herself. She enjoys spending time with family, dancing, writing, listening to music, and being inspired to reach higher grounds. Dolapo can be reached via her website: www.mygelm.com blog: http://mygelm.wordpress.com email: mygelm@gmail.com

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