As a speech-language pathologist, do you feel like you spend more time on paperwork and meetings than you do with your patients? Do you want to feel more productive in your practice? Here are some hacks designed for the busy SLP.
Trying to fit your main priorities, like client time, prep work, and reporting, plus non-billable tasks like paperwork, education, insurance authorizations, personal notes, and researching new resources, into an eight hour workday can feel daunting. And despite the fact that it’s said a messy desk is a sign of brilliance, it's also a sure-fire way to ensure all your tasks take more time than necessary.
To help, we’ve compiled these tips and tricks for improving productivity to try, drawn from feedback from our own clinician partners.
1. Organize Your Desk To Declutter Your Workspace
Making sure you can find the right paperwork when you need it is key to your patient's success – and your sanity.
Try a hanging file organizer, and then organize papers within it with color-coded labels, binder clips, and files. Clear magazine organizers can hold your notebooks and educational materials. Make sure you have a good desk set for those critical items like staplers and writing utensils.
Go through your paper files as often as is possible and archive away those that you are not using.
One of our clinician partners suggests that you start organizing by taking everything off your desk, and then putting back only what you have used in the last month. Store anything that you don’t need immediately in your desk drawers or in nice storage boxes that can fit neatly under your desk.
2. Create Order From Paper Chaos By Going Digital
We recognize that due to HIPAA compliance rules, older computer equipment, and various insurance forms that are not available online, going fully digital may not be possible.
Still, the digital environment is one we live in today. Going paperless is not the future – it's now. So why not make your desk a little less cluttered?
Start by converting appropriate documents into digital files. A desktop, paper-fed scanner is great tool, and Brother makes a great one for under a hundred dollars. Digital files are a lot smaller than paper files!
Tired of writing the same phrases or descriptions to different people, over and over? Try TextExpander, a digital app which lets you instantly insert snippets of repetitive text from a repository of emails or boilerplate content as you type. Cool, huh?
Additional digital productivity apps and hacks to try include:
- Google Keep – Capture what’s on your mind in Keep’s notes and lists app.
- Evernote – Organizer, planner, notebook, storage - all in one place.
- MindMup – Are you a visual thinker? Our clinician partners recommend this app to “mindmap” your brainstorms, or work through problems.
- Focus@Will – Scientifically optimized music for helping to stay focused when doing paperwork.
- Dropbox – A place in the cloud to store your paperwork or materials that don’t fit on your drive.
Now that you have all these apps, perhaps you have too many passwords to remember them all. No problem. LastPass is a secure and simple password app which can securely remember all your passwords.
3. Leverage Templates For Those Necessary But Repetitive Tasks
There's no need to start from scratch with many common SLP tasks, especially when much of the time-consuming parts may have already been done. Try some of these template tricks.
- Reporting – It’s easier to write a client report when you have a template to start from. Where you can, templatize reports and save them digitally to create a master report. Then, you’ll have more time to focus on customizing and personalizing the report for individual patients.
- Goals – SpeakingofSpeech.com created the IEP Goal Bank where you can "deposit" your own goals/objectives and "withdraw" the goals/objectives contributed by others.
- SLP Paperwork – The Speech Newsroom posted some free speech therapy paperwork shortcuts used to reduce IEP and Evaluation report writing time.
- Language/Cognition Evaluation Template – ASHA created this handy template for adult speech-language evaluations.
4. Try New and Proven Work Habits To Increase Effectiveness
There are a number of proven habit changes you can make that result in increased productivity.
It’s well known that if you organize your activities in advance using a calendar or planner, they are much more likely to get done. Seems basic, huh? But not everyone does it, missing out on one of the most effective productivity hacks.
Try using Google Calendar or a desk planner and block off 3 months in advance. Other new habits to try:
- Do the hardest thing on your to-do list first – Avoid procrastination and do the tough project while you are fully focused.
- The Two Minute Rule – If a task can be done in two minutes, do it.
- The Pomodoro Technique – When faced with large tasks, break the work down into short, timed intervals spaced out by short breaks.
- Stand up and walk for 5 minutes every hour – The New York times reports this will "lift your mood, combat lethargy without reducing focus and attention, and even dull hunger pangs."
- Set specific times to check email – According to The Muse, the beginning or end of day is recommended to check email once, as opposed to checking email throughout the day.
Do you use any of these productivity tools or hacks? Are there any that you want to try? Others you’d like to recommend? Comment below.