I'm an Educator, Not a Juggler!: 4 Ways to Manage Your Day

Greg Durkin, MEd, RN-BC wears a lot of hats, literally and figuratively! Greg is a Staff Development Specialist at Boston Children's Hospital. 


Many people think that our role is to do orientation and CPR and that’s about it. But we know better. We are educators, facilitators, mentors, consultants, project managers, evaluators and change agents. (Take some time and review the NPD Scope and Standards if you doubt me!) On a recent workday, I did more than orientation.  I did all of these things (and more!):

  • Taught 2 software training classes
  • Identified regulatory requirements for competencies
  • Completed post class paperwork for continuing education (CNE); reviewed a 2-day course and agreed it met the definition of CNE
  • Met with project manager for an LMS implementation
  • Consulted with a newer team member on a course review
  • Developed a survey to evaluate a nurses week event
  • Imported a course and post-test into LMS for physicians
  • Prepared handouts for a national level presentation I'm giving
  • Provided troubleshooting help to a naming convention for some live classes
  • Ran a course completion report in response to regulatory visit
  • Answered emails and phone calls
  • Ate on the go
  • Found time for myself to regroup and focus
  • Prepared a meeting agenda
  • Worked on a shared governance organizational chart
  • Tracked my time


The variety and pace can be dizzying and we can find ourselves overwhelmed, frustrated or just plain exhausted.  That’s a lot of activity to juggle. Being able to work in this environment is essential to NPD success.  I have four ideas to help you.

1. Align your work.

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You’re doing some things you shouldn’t be, I know you are. You might even enjoy them. But they aren’t part of your scope of practice, or they aren’t aligned with organizational priorities. To manage your workload, sometimes you need to make sure what you are doing is actually important and part of your job.


  • Review the Scope & Standards for NPD Practice
  • Compare that to your job description
  • Start a conversation about what you're doing in relation to both of those
  • If it is in your control, stop doing what isn't aligned
  • Demonstrate value by doing things that are aligned with priorities, show people how what you are doing is mission critical


2. Understand your work.

Durkin - emphasize - small.jpgYou’re also doing things you have to that you don’t enjoy. I know I do!  They are frustrating and decrease my job satisfaction. Interestingly, I’ve learned that when I don’t like doing something, I amplify its duration and effect. Like when I have to get a teeth cleaning, a 20 minute dental visit turns into a morning of pain, anxiety and discomfort and worries about how will I even be able to work the rest of the day! Of course, the visit goes fine, they are just twice a year, and all of that fuss was for nothing.


I do the same thing at work, I am responsible for helping groups of MDs set-up default settings in our electronic medical record.  I don’t enjoy it, it takes little skill and I really dread doing the sessions. Oh, how I fuss about having to do them! It was a big dissatisfier until I realized that I have to do these just 6 times per year, and each session takes about 30 minutes.  It turns out that this is a minor part of my work encompassing 0.14% of my total yearly work time. Why was I giving it so much energy? I started to focus on the 20% of my work that is delivery of web based content. The 15% that is live education. The 15% that is managing our competency process.  All things I enjoy doing, and they add up to the majority of my work.


Make a list of everything you do. Quantify how much time you spend (in percentages) on each activity during a week. Sort them into “mostly enjoy” and “mostly don’t enjoy” columns. I’ll bet that you end up with <25% of your work in the “don’t enjoy” column. Get a grip and focus on the 75% that you do enjoy! Emphasize the positives and that will get you through the negatives.  If you find that you don’t enjoy most of what you are doing, it’s time to make some serious changes.

3. Adapt and let things go.

Durkin - let it go - small.jpgYou need to adapt to self-imposed stress, deadlines and “I have to…” One of the harder things to learn as an NPD specialist is that not everything must be done RIGHT NOW or BY ME. Don’t be afraid to let something go for today, or for this week and focus your energy elsewhere, or to change priorities regularly. Complete tasks and meet deadlines, but adapt your work style so one small task doesn’t keep you from everything else.  Don’t dwell on small stuff like the background color of the slides you are putting together. I’ve spent hours fussing over stuff like this and that kept me from other more important work!  Also avoid the “I have to do this” trap. We all fall into it sometimes, believing that we are the only ones who can and will do the task. This sucks your energy to one thing at the expense of everything else. Can someone else do this?  Can it wait until tomorrow, or next week?  Identifying and shifting priorities is essential, and to do that, sometimes you have to let go of self-imposed pressure (no one is making you choose a different color blue for those slides) or the need to be the only one who can.

 4. Take control of your time.


Durkin - balance - all.jpgYou are not an hourly worker, you have some amount of flexibility in your role related to time. One mistake many of us make is letting others take charge of our calendar and our day.  Quantify how you spend your time. Do you know how long certain tasks take?  If not, start trying to figure it out. It’s an activity that pays off big returns! Budget your day and own your schedule. Block time in your calendar for prep work, research, typing minutes, or other tasks. Make an appointment with the CEO of You, YOU. Block that time and keep it as if you were actually meeting with the CEO of your organization. And make sure to schedule time off to restore, regroup, and re-energize. Self-care isn’t a new concept, you know what to do. Now do it!

So there are four quick ideas to help you juggle many hats.

We are all busy and manage a lot of diverse work responsibilities. These ideas have helped me gain control over my work life, increase satisfaction, and decrease frustration. I bet you have more ideas that are helpful.  How do you manage competing priorities? Share them in the comments!

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