Making the Most of Your Free Time

Making the Most of Your Free Time

Read Jane Braithwaite’s latest article in the Independent Practitioner Today talking about how to make the most of your free time.

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Making the most of your free time

Last month, we talked about time management and how to utilise time more efficiently. We need to do this to achieve our ultimate goal: creating “quality time” for ourselves, for enhanced enjoyment of life.

Happiness is described as a mental or emotional state of well-being, defined by positive or pleasant emotions; these range from contentment to intense joy. When was the last time you felt pure joy?

Creating a good work/ life balance is to create a balance between work, career, and ambition. This includes considering our lifestyle, health, pleasure and leisure, family, and spiritual development. That’s what we are focusing on in this article.

The Statistics

We started by researching the statistics of the general UK population, relating to work/life balance, and found some interesting statistics from the OECD (Organisation for economic co-operation and development). The OECD was created in 1961 and represents 35 countries. The OECD helps governments design better policies for better lives for their citizens. They produce a bi-annual report called the Better life index, which reports on each member country’s performance, against issues that shape the quality of our lives.

Free Time

The report is based on 11 topics that the OECD has identified as essential to well-being in terms of material living conditions (housing, income, jobs), and quality of life (community, education, environment, governance, health, life satisfaction, safety, and work-life balance).


If you visit the OECD website, you can create your own profile based on the conditions that are most important to you. If work-life balance is your top priority, based on the 2015 report criteria, you should head to the Netherlands. The UK scores well on safety and health, but less well on work-life balance.

[plsc_pullquote align=”right”]”Exercise is important for all of us but it can be hard to stick to a routine – unless we find something enjoyable.” [/plsc_pullquote]

The phrase “Work-life balance” was first implemented widely in the UK in the 1970s, and in 2016, is still widely recognised as an ideal we all strive for. Many people report feeling stuck on the treadmill of working life, feeling trapped, getting little exercise, and following a poor diet.

If this is the case for so many of us, how do, we break the trend? The key seems to be to prioritise quality time for ourselves.

We have compiled our top tips on how to create quality time and make the most of it.

1. Define quality time for you personally.

We believe it should consist of several activities that appeal to you specifically. It should ideally include exercise in the fresh air, free time, and time spent socialising with friends and family.

2. Structure your free time.

Are you happier at your job or during your spare time? Research has shown that many people felt happier at work; one explanation for this is that leisure time without structure can feel boring. The secret to this is to plan. Arrange an activity in advance for Sunday afternoon. Waking up on a Sunday morning with nothing planned sounds dreamy, but can actually feel uncomfortable and tedious.

3. Free time.

Having made the point about structuring your time, it’s also important to allow yourself some free time. Time to have a nap, watch TV and lounge around. This type of free time allows you to relax in an entirely different way.

4. Family and friends.

Take stock of who your favourite people are and make a conscious effort to meet up with them. Arrange to participate in activities together. What do you all enjoy? Whether theatre, music, parties, or champagne – plan to indulge in these activities together.

5. Exercise is important for all of us

But it can be hard to stick to a routine – unless we find something enjoyable. Physical activity can sound exhausting but it’s very energising, particularly if taken in the fresh air. Get together with family or friends for a long walk or cycle ride. If you really want to work on your fitness, but have little time, investigate HIT training. Short bursts of exercise can be squeezed in at the start or end of the working day, or even in in your lunch break. Look at for those who need a personal trainer to motivate them. The good news is the training sessions are only 15 minutes long!

6. Hobbies.

Allocate time to indulge your passions and hobbies. If you have let these go over the years, try to revitalise previous interests, or perhaps start afresh with something new. If you love the idea of playing a musical instrument, take a look at “Get Playing,” on the BBC Music website. They have created a virtual orchestra of 1200 people of varying musical ability, playing every type of music. It’s fabulous.

7. Your Inspiration folder.

Create two folders, one physical and one online. File cuttings from magazines and newspapers of appealing activities. Store reviews of enticing restaurants and seductive holidays. Spend some time occasionally glancing through these ideas and investigate further. If you spot something interesting while you’re out and about, take a quick photo to remind you to follow up later.

8. Reflect.

Look back on your favourite holidays, days out and activities over the last few months. Which ones do you remember with pleasure? Make a mental note to repeat these, or investigate similar activities. Then plan them for the future!


If you fancy claiming back some of that free time then get in touch to find out how we can support you with a Designated PA and your practice with a Designated Medical Secretary.

Jane Braithwaite is Managing Director at Designated Medical and regularly contributes to the Independent Practitioner Today publication.

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Time you Stopped Chasing the Clock

Time you Stopped Chasing the Clock

Jane Braithwaite’s latest article, ‘Time you stopped chasing the clock’, published in the Independent Practitioner Today shares some tips with us about how we can stop time running away with us. Read here…

TopTips2Jane BraithwaiteOur monthly series by Jane Braithwaite (right) gives some vital tips to help you stop time running away from you.It is generally assumed that doctors are very good at managing time; after all, each patient’s consultation must be managed within a specific time-frame, whether that’s ten or 30 minutes.Stop Chasing the ClockHowever, it is fair to say that we all want more time; whether that’s to get work done, to enjoy life or both.

This month’s article on time management for doctors will explore several pertinent tips on how to manage your time – this most elusive commodity.

The Wikipedia definition of time management is as follows: ‘Planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency or productivity’.

Stop chasing the clock

Favourite technique

My favourite time-management technique is the Eisenhower method created by the US President Dwight D. Eisenhower. It is also referred to as the Urgent/ Important Matrix.

[plsc_pullquote align=”right”]Eisenhower said: ‘I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and important. The urgent are not important and the important are never urgent.’[/plsc_pullquote]

The matrix described by Eisen­hower allows you to consider each activity in one of four sectors in his matrix.

An activity that falls into the urgent and important category is clearly something that you need to do immediately.

Urgent, Non Urgent?

However, non-urgent but important tasks are often more significant, but as they are not urgent, they slip down the list. Efforts should be made to deal with these tasks with urgency.

At the other end of the scale, any task that fits into non-urgent and not important should be discarded completely. And if it is urgent but not important, should you bother to do it? Only you can decide, but do make a conscious decision instead of wasting your valuable time.

Biggest time-wasters

One of the biggest potential time-wasters for all of us is the use of email and the Internet.

If time management consists of ‘planning and exercising conscious control’ over the amount of time spent on an activity, then email and Internet usage need to be managed with care.

If you are managing your own practice email and sifting out requests for prescriptions and follow-up appointments, why not ask your secretary to manage that account and to forward only the relevant emails to your separate ‘private’ account.

Personally speaking, I have picked up several tips over the years that have helped me in various ways. I tend to find one or two lightbulb ideas in each different method I research that subsequently stick with me.

Here are my tips for you:

  • Plan. Establish a planning routine. Some people do it at the start and end of the working day, others do it on a Monday and Friday at the start and end of the working week. Planning helps you avoid having to unexpectedly dedicate a chunk of time to dealing with an urgent issue.
  • Prioritise. Use the Pareto principle or 80:20 rule. Prioritise the 20% of actions that will have the most impact.
  • Delegate. Just because a task lands on your lap doesn’t mean that you must complete it. Immediate delegation is a very effective strategy, which brings me onto number four.
  • Avoid procrastination. This is a bad habit that needs breaking. Decide on the next action and do it.
  • Use an app. Numerous app developers have focused on time management, and you can choose from a wide range of software applications. I use Toodledo daily, but there are many others to choose from.
  • Email agenda. Always have an agenda in mind before you log into your emails. Starting at the first email and working through them chronologically is not an effective agenda.  Decide how much time you can allocate to email and set your objectives. Have a list at the ready of your top five objectives and deal with the emails that relate specifically to those objectives.
  • Analyse your time. Think about what you spend the most time doing and look at changing processes to save time.  There is a choice of time-tracking software programs, designed to help you measure the time you allocate to various activities.  For example, if you spend a notable amount of time phoning patients, perhaps the patient emails or letters you send could be amended to include more information.  Enclosing guides on medications, symptoms and so on might help to cut down time spent on repetitive calls.
  • Meetings. Before the existence of email, this was the number one time drain. Even if it’s not your own meeting – clarify your agenda and objectives in advance so you can focus on getting your desired outcomes. Set your boundaries by stating a time limit up front. Let the organiser know that you must leave at a certain time and stick to it.
  • Filing system. How much time do we all spend looking for something that’s filed in a safe place? Most of us need both a paper and online filing system. Investing some time in a good filing system will save many hours in the long term.

To conclude I would like to finish with a great quote by Stephen Bayne: ‘I am rather like a mosquito in a nudist camp; I know what I want to do but I don’t know where to begin.’

I hope these tips help you avoid being that mosquito!


Jane Braithwaite is Managing Director at Designated Medical and regularly contributes to the Independent Practitioner Today publication.

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Time Management Tips for Doctors

Time Management Tips for Doctors

Time management is the key to unlocking success in private practice.  Read the advice from the experts at Designated Medical on how to be the master of your time.

time management tips


Our team of medical secretaries are available to help manage your practice on a flexible basis to ensure you make the most of your time.

Contact us to discuss how we can help grow your practice.

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