It is the rare intern who is intuitively efficient. For most of us it involves reflection and practice. The most important thing you can do to be more efficient is to be constantly analyzing your behavior, looking for opportunities to shave off a second here or a minute there. If you do that enough times, those seconds and minutes accumulate and pretty soon you are “in the flow,” where you make it look easy to handle everything that comes your way.

Of course, there are some helpful tips that you don’t need to reinvent:

Notes should be succinct. Most surgeons move their lips when they read—so keep it short and to the point.
If you aren’t busy, you are wasting time. There is always something that can be done, and if you aren’t busy, you aren’t thinking far enough ahead. Pro-actively anticipating future tasks will help smooth the workload.

Understand the difference between urgent and important. While many tasks are urgent, not all of them are important. The difference is easy to see when, for example, you get a page to renew an order for restraints while you are having a conversation with the attending about the course of a sick patient. But there are many other times when deciding which task to do first will be more difficult. Try and step back and assess what things are truly important, and prioritize them.

Write it down. You might have heard the saying “there are two kinds of interns—those who write it down and those who forget.” Writing things down and periodically reviewing your list of tasks can help you continuously prioritize all the tasks you need to do and organize yourself to accomplish them in the most efficient manner possible.

Combine trips. If you are going to the ICU to do a postoperative check, you can check on the other patients while you are there and avoid a separate trip later in the day.

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