5 Time Management Tips and Resources for Social Workers
“There are never enough hours in the day” is a cliche for good reason. Our busy world is filled with obligations to work, family, and friends coupled with distractions including smartphones and social media that can drag our attention away from our true priorities. It can feel like the to-do list never gets shorter.
Time management is an important skill that can keep any busy social worker sane. Beyond making to-do lists, there are many things you can do to effectively manage your time. Here we offer five best practices as well as some resources NASW offers members to help streamline tasks and accomplish more in less time.
Set Time Limits
Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill time available for completion. Therefore, if you set a time limit for a particular task, your mind naturally focuses on getting it done efficiently. When setting time limits, complete your highest-priority task first.
Technology can work in our favor when it comes to time management. Many tools exist to automate mundane activities that take up time. NASW developed one – the CE Tracker - to help automate and organize your continuing education needs. The CE Tracker tells you exactly what you need to renew for your social work license in your state— from the amount and type of CE’s needed, to renewal deadlines. When you take a course through NASW’s online CE Institute, it automatically updates your CE records as well as allows you to add in courses taken outside of the Institute. It’s available through an annual subscription: $25 for members or $40 for nonmembers.
Focus on One Task at a Time
It might seem like multitasking can help you get more done—after all, you’re doing two or more things at once. But the truth is repeated studies show that our brains don’t actually do two things at once and shifting mental gears takes time each time you’re switching between tasks. It also hinders creativity. When you’re working on a project, don’t check your email, don’t look at your phone, and don’t start a second project until you get your task done. If you’re easily distractable, consider turning off or minimizing notifications on your phone and computer to help you stay focused on the task at hand.
Don’t Search Hard, Search Smart
When you’re working on a research project or need regular updates about the latest policies, online searches can take a lot of time to find exactly what you need. NASW offers members daily and weekly digests of association updates and events, mainstream news stories important to the profession, and conversations in the MyNASW online forum. Additionally, members have the option to subscribe to advocacy alerts that keep them informed about NASW’s legislative efforts. NASW also gives members access to thousands of research articles through its online Research Library which connects them to 25 social science databases.
Use Software Platforms that Do Some of Your Work
Staying more organized is key to better time management. Fortunately, there are a myriad of software platforms that keep you organized and do a lot of the work you used to have to do manually, including many that support private practice. NASW partnered with one tool, TherapyNotes, that was built especially for mental health professionals. It tracks patient appointments, notes, billing, and claims, and will connect your calendar and to-do list with your records, notes, and billing. In addition, it can bill insurance and manage payments, and it will process credit, debit, and HSA payments so your patients can pay more conveniently, ideally reducing the need to send multiple invoices. NASW members get three months free when they first sign up.
Good time management does more than improve your productivity—it can help you make room for other things in your life that make you happy.
Become a member and explore ways you can take advantage of NASW resources to help you manage your workload and grow in your career.
Learn more about the value of NASW Membership