Emergency room triage

Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.
d. 278 B.C.

On several occasions over the years, I’ve had the unfortunate experience of taking someone to an emergency room at a hospital. After a hospital staffer gets the patient’s name and information, the patient is sent to triage; a nurse checks the patient’s vital signs, determines the reason for the visit, then makes a decision about the next step.

The choices are either to proceed with immediate treatment, or — as happens in most cases — to send the patient back to the waiting room. Generally, the waiting rooms I saw were teeming with folks, all thinking they have an emergency and waiting hours to get medical attention.

But misuse of emergency rooms isn’t the point of today’s lesson. This lesson is about learning from the triage process.

I’m not an expert on triage, but we can learn a lot by taking a high-level view of the concept. Basically, in triage, a nurse makes a decision about the urgency of each patient’s condition and determines who will be treated first. Think about what would happen if patients were served in order of arrival. Medical problems aren’t all equal; some can wait, but delaying treatment of others could result in loss of life.

So how does this process relate to our business and personal lives? It’s simple. We can set up a triage process for our lives: we sort through and prioritize all the things we want and need to do. Some of the things on our “to do” list should be shuffled off to the waiting room. Others ought to be put on high alert. But without a system for separating the life-altering from the mundane, we often focus on the wrong thing.

Apply the process of triage to your to-do list. Keep only the most important items on your primary list. A second list can contain things to do after you’ve finished the critical items.

There are also a few questions you can ask yourself to determine if you’re working on the most important tasks.

  1. What is the highest and best use of my time right now?
  2. What is the worst thing that can happen if ____ is not done today?
  3. Is there anything I can delegate to someone else?
  4. Is there anything I can totally eliminate from my list?

If you set up a triage process for your life, the important things will get done before mundane ones. As a result, you’ll always be working on the highest value task.

Don’t worry about time management; work on task management. It’s easier and you’ll be more productive.

…if you do not take control over your time and your life, other people will gobble it up.
Michelle Obama
1964 –

Copyright © 2018 John Chancellor

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