Priyanka Upendra: How to Balance Competing Priorities

I’m sure all my healthcare technology management (HTM) friends and colleagues will attest to the challenges of multiple priorities. Balancing these priorities is hard, and this becomes more difficult when they compete with one another and need to be delivered around the same time or within a budget.

I wanted to share three concepts that I recently learned that has helped me work more efficiently with these priorities, at work and outside of work:

  1. 21-day habit theory
  2. Developing “atomic habits”
  3. Using and applying habit trackers

I learned these concepts from Atomic Habits by James Clear and Ready-to-Use Habit Trackers by Rachel Watts. They taught me not just to create a habit or track them, but also to develop habits that will help me balance what I prioritize, both at work and outside of work.

First, I wanted to efficiently manage my work and the important projects that span different portfolios. Second, how do I fit two 45-minute runs with my dog and a 90-minute powerlifting/weightlifting session before and after work? Third, how can I accommodate 15–20 hours of study time to give my best for my doctorate program?

It sounds exhausting but, in all honesty, I have seen so many HTM professionals who have managed to do it all—balancing family, self, work, and other activities and delivering each and every one of them with perfection. It’s inspiring!

The 21-day habit theory, introduced by plastic surgeon Maxwell Maltz, is about doing something for a minimum of 21 days so you develop a habit out of it. This is then applied to Clear’s description of starting small and practicing small, “atomic-like habits” that compound over time. You write down and track short- and long-term goals, which are also broken down into atomic habits in a way you can track them and measure progress.

All of this really helps avoid the stress and confusion while balancing competing priorities both at work and at home. As the year comes to an end, we are all tasked with developing and presenting next year’s goals—I apply the same concept to developing and tracking goals!

Some of the important concepts I’ve learned to make that process easier are defined under SMART and SWOT techniques. Using SMART will help you define Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely goals, while SWOT helps you outline and discuss the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of a goal or project.

I think all of the aspects above are helpful to any HTM professional in one way or another. If you can get into the habit of getting just one percent better every day, and you track that progress, you will ultimately end up with results that are nearly 37 times better after one year.

Priyanka Upendra is president elect of the American College of Clinical Engineering, Quality & Compliance Program Director at Banner Health, and a member of AAMI’s Technology Management Council, Awards Committee, Nominating Committee, and BI&T Editorial Board.

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