Article Date: 9/1/2006

Do You Know What Time It Really Is?

When you can reach anyone at any time, it's easy to miss what's here and now.

If you're reading this at home, put Optometric Management down and immediately walk away. Let me clarify: If you're spending your family or personal time with work-related tasks, then you need to refocus your attentions.

It's so easy to slip

Cell phones, computers and portable electronic devices are so effective at keeping us in the loop that it becomes easy to live our lives out of sync. It's all too common for a parent to sit in the bleachers but miss the kid's little league game in favor of reading e-mail. (And let's not forget those who feel obliged to use cell phones in airport restrooms.) Suffice to say, in the effort to juggle priorities, we can easily drop the balls.

It's an emergency

Of course, exceptions exist. A patient who suddenly and unexpectedly loses their vision requires your immediate attention, for example. A family member may be rushed to the hospital. But these instances differ from the caller who desperately needs your opinion on which is better: number one (the green table cloth) or number two (the yellow one).

Some argue that the lines between work and leisure are blurring, but we could easily argue that they are being crossed.

The consequences

By making our lives accessible to everyone at every time, we compromise the ability of staff, family and even ourselves to make decisions. Staff become reluctant to make decisions when you're only a call away, a situation that can limit personal and professional growth.

You also miss what's right in front of you. At a recent vendor presentation, I was impressed by one doctor who appeared to take notes on his laptop. I asked what he thought of the meeting. "I really can't say," he replied. "I spent most of the morning instant messaging some buddies to get football scores."

On a more important note, staff and patients don't always react well when they see the doctor is distracted.

The solution for the office is straightforward: Limit non-emergency communications to specific times. Because we don't have our leisure days broken into numerous appointment times, it becomes more challenging to limit our personal time to only emergency calls. But it's just as vital to do so.

Like any tools, communications media, both low- and high-tech, can provide wonderful or disastrous results. It depends entirely on how the operator manages the situation. Now excuse me, I think I hear one of my children coming down the steps.

Optometric Management, Issue: September 2006