Prioritsing workloads: No is the hardest word.

When I worked as a clinician I was generally contracted to work a regular day- 9am to 5pm, or 8am to 4.30pm in Australia. That said we generally didn’t actually work these hours. I would say I routinely worked an extra 30-60 minutes at the end of the day. And would answer phone calls and emails on my day off. There is a standard expectation in the profession that communication assessments can take anywhere between 45 and 90 minutes and therapy would generally be around 45-60 minutes. Meal time and swallow assessments could last between 20-60 minutes, depending. But overall you had an idea of how many patients you could fit in each day- in community I aimed to see 4 people each day whilst in outpatients and inpatient rehabilitation I aimed to see 4-8 people a day depending on what was happening e.g. meetings and ward rounds etc.


Yet there would always be more (if not lots more) patients on our waiting lists. Staff would ask if I couldn’t just squeeze in a quick review of a patient who could really benefit from my time. Families would ask us if I couldn’t provide some more valuable advice. It would often seem that the people I was working with could benefit from just a few more therapy sessions. In every role I have ever had we had a prioritisation matrices- we developed refined them to meet the needs of the client group we worked with, and based them on evidence. It also meant that there was a fairly transparent understanding of what was expected of us. And that we could be more objective about how to prioritise our workload each day, week and month. It was also a useful way on relieving the emotional burden, which can be rather wearisome.


Recently I have wondered if I should create a prioritisation matrix for my academic work! As I really embed myself in trying to finalise the thesis write up I am doing I have found I need to spend large chunks of time writing. Days even. My previous strategies of grabbing time here and there to chip away at various bits of work seem rather like drops in the ocean. I have also found that although I enjoy doing other things e.g. presentations at conferences on the role of the SLT in dementia, and decision-making and mental capacity I need to say no. I can’t spend time working on too many other things as I won’t get this thesis done. Yet having a few other things to work on can be quite useful- almost like a brain detox. But I need to prioritise these ‘other’ things. Perhaps we do need a prioritisation matrix for academic life?


Consequently I have decided mine would look a bit like this (today):


Priority 1 (should be undertaken every week, every day if possible, preferably in large chunks of uninterrupted time, or small chunks of time chipping away at things):

  • Thesis writing.
  • Thesis editing.
  • Job applications for after my PhD
  • Answering emails


Priority 2 (should be undertaken as a detox activity, to maintain contact with colleagues and the broader profession and to maintain sanity. One of two of these activities e.g. presenting on your PhD may even help you write up?????):

  • Presenting my PhD research
  • Doing small jobs that I had committed to ages ago- locally- and for friend/colleagues


Priority 3 (you could may be do something from this list IF you have time and they cause no/minimal stress or you REALLLLLLYYYYY LIKE DOING THEM maybe):

  • Any new projects.
  • Presenting things on the role of SLT in dementia or decision-making and mental capacity that do not fall into the above categories.
  • Things that are too far away and too stressful


This prioritisation matrix should be reviewed anytime there is a major change e.g. you get a new job / you finish a large chunk of thesis / every month.


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