Regardless of where you are in your medical career management, just starting residency, taking on the role of Chief Resident, starting a medical fellowship or starting in a new practice,

you will most certainly benefit from enhancing your organizational skills and the tools you use to support them.

We’ve all observed a well-organized professional in our educational, training and work environments – and it’s easy to see that a smart and thorough approach to personal organization is a clear key to success.

Organizational Skills

Ideally, you started honing your basic organizational skills long before you reached residency, since success in the classroom is as dependent on solid organizational skills as success in the workplace. But as you take on additional responsibilities, roles, and daily tasks, it is doubly important rededicate yourself to maintaining a well-organized workplace. Remember that you lead by example. Your well-tuned and tested organizational skills will demonstrate best-practices to your colleagues and direct reports, and ideally inspire them to adopt and develop these organizational skills themselves.

Experts generally cite the following key elements as hallmarks of a well-developed organizational approach to the professional workplace:

  • Prioritize your day and week. Learn to assess tasks to determine their degree of urgency, and whenever possible perform the most urgent first.
  • Create, maintain and reference your list of projected and scheduled tasks for each day. Create your new to-do list for tomorrow’s tasks at the end of your current day.
  • Before starting on a concentrated task or project, be sure you have all the tools and resources you’ll need close at hand. It will save time and keep your focus steady if you don’t have to stop to retrieve items and then start again.
  • Visualize your day at the start. Although it will most certainly take some unexpected and unplanned turns, having his visualized pathway though your day from the beginning will help keep you on track and less distracted by the interruptions.
  • Time management is key. Learn how to judge the amount of time you can and should dedicate to a task or project and stick to it.
  • Have a personal organizer that works for you ? and use it religiously. (See below for some tips on both hard copy and electronic portable organizers.)

If you haven’t yet developed the habits of a well-organized professional described above, remember that it’s never too late to start. You will be amazed at the immediate and very measurable difference it will make in your productivity and job satisfaction in your daily professional life as a physician.

Organizational Tools

Unless you are fortunate enough to enjoy the luxury of a personal assistant or secretary, you will likely be responsible for scheduling and managing your own daily schedule.

So, in addition to adopting the proven techniques of organizational skill noted above, you’ll also need to select the best methods and tools for you to keep track of and organize your day.

You have two broad choices – hard copy or electronic. Some managers and professionals in the healthcare sector will tell you that good old fashioned paper works best, while others believe that modern electronic devices are the no-brainer choice. What matters is that you select a method that works well for you and you stick with it.

Hand-held Paper Systems

Most of us are familiar with the popular brands and types of handheld paper-based organizers. Here’s a list and brief description of the most popular products along with web-site links to additional information:

  • Franklin Covey (NYSE:FC) – known for the Franklin Day Planner system.
  • Day-Timer – time and information products and services. Paper planners and organizers. Personal information manager software. Time management tips.
  • Day Runner, Inc. – maker of paper-based personal organizers, planners, calendars, and business accessories for the retail market.
  • At-A-Glance Group, The – manufactures planning, organizing and record-keeping products, for personal and professional use.
  • – offers wall, desk, mini, advent, and gift calendars.
  • K. Schweizer – journal and diary keeping products including blank books, scrapbooks, stationery, leather journals, albums, fine pens, and journal writing software.

In addition to selecting a tool for organizing your schedule and calendar, you should make sure the system you select provides ample room for notes, phone numbers, facilities and unit locations and other additional information you will want to track, reference or collect during the course of your day. A good idea would be a portable three-ring binder to supplement your scheduler, with color-coded sections, facilities maps, etc.

Hand-Held Electronic Devices

Often called “PDAs” or “personal digital assistants”, these devices now come in a broad range of prices and feature sets.

With so many available options, your choice will depend on such factors as allowable budget, compatibility with other systems, desired feature sets, size and weight, and your level of comfort with learning new technologies.

Critical features and functions you should factor into your purchase decision process are:

  • input method options range from abbreviated PC keyboard, keypad, touch-screen, stylus or voice recording.
  • communications: do you want your device to also send and receive emails, voicemail, and serve as a mobile phone?
  • connectivity: will you be synchronizing your calendar or phone book data with a server-based system? connecting to PCs or corporate servers to access databases, applications or other tools?
  • compatibility: do others in your program use existing mobile and server-based systems with which you need to be compatible?

Once you’ve thought about the above relative to you needs and budge, here’s a summary of the top-selling products brands and their products, along with web-site links to additional information:

Palm PDAs –

As the pioneer in the PDA market with its Palm Pilot, the Palm One brand and its several models are consistently top-sellers across the range of handheld devices.

  • PalmOne Tungsten T3 ? built-in Bluetooth (mobile wireless communications) approx $350
  • PalmOne Tungsten C ? built-in WiFi 802.11b (wireless communications) approx $350
  • PalmOne Zire 72 ? basic model approx $275

HP Pocket PCs –

Leveraging their considerable market share in the PC world, HP offers pocket PCs as their leading entry into the handheld market.

  • HP iPAQ h4350 ? touch, stylus and integrated keyboard; wireless; WLAN and Bluetooth; Intel 400mhz; approx $450
  • HP iPAQ h4150 ? touch, stylus; wireless; WLAN and Bluetooth; Intel 400mhz; approx $400
  • HP iPAQ h4150 ? touch, stylus; Bluetooth; Intel 400mhz; approx $380

Toshiba Pocket PC –

Another PC maker with a top-selling higher-end entrant in the product marketplace…

  • Toshiba Pocket PC e800 ? touch, stylus, Windows Mobile 20003; touch screen; audio/voice input; Intel 400mhz; approx $580

Viewsonic –

Viewsonic’s airpanel line offers a hybrid between a PDA and a PC notebook and thus falls close to the top-end of the pricing spectrum for handhelds.

  • Viewsonic airpanel V110P ? touch, 10″ active matrix screen; Windows CE; touch screen; wirelessly connects and synchronizes to your PC approx. $760

Asus –

A new entrant to the hand-held product sector, Asus was ranked #2 in a recent PCWorld benchmarking/product review.

  • Asus MyPal A716 ? stylus input; wireless and Bluetooth; backlit display; Windows 2003 Mobile; approx $450

To research and learn more about PCWorld’s recent PDA product review and comparison visit,aid,116027,00.asp.

About the Author:

Wesley D. Millican, MBA, CEO and Physician Talent Officer of CareerPhysician Advisors, LP, and CareerPhysician, LLC, provides comprehensive talent solutions for academic children’s hospitals, colleges of medicine and academic medical centers across the nation. He possesses a longstanding passion for career development of all young physicians and serves as a go to career resource for training program directors and their residents and fellows. In continuing his commitment to the “future of medicine”, Mr. Millican speaks nationally at residency and fellowship programs. His Launch Your Career® Series is a proven resource for today’s residents and fellows and has served as a go to resource for program directors over the last 15 years.