2 Principles Of Productivity For Nurses (Part 2 of 3)

Sep 7, 2021 | Aussie Nurse

To start the journey of making improvements and being productive it takes doing some upfront work

The aim is to master your time and reduce the amount of effort that it takes to complete any task, it starts by identifying your priorities that are important to you and then setting up processes

The changes you make don’t have to be complicated although starting with small consistent steps everyday will eventually form into a habit. 

It does take time to pay find what works for you and then making improvements with small increments every day. It becomes motivating to see when the habits of productivity are in place, it becomes less about the results and becomes more about enjoying the process. Seeing your efforts grow with momentum is satisfying, especially taking a view of looking back in 6 months or over a year you will see quite significant changes.

The greatest benefit of productivity and making small changes is the impact it has on a persons life in regards to wellbeing, health, stronger relationships and completing meaningful work too.

Whilst I was researching for this blog piece I came across two principles about productivity, its funny because now that I have awareness about these principles they actually seem to pop up regularly in everyday life.

“The key is not to prioritise what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities”

– Stephen Covey

Number 1 – Pareto Principle

Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto was born in Italy (1848) he was a philosopher, an economist and the founder of the Pareto Principle.

One day he noticed that 20% of the pea plants in his garden generated 80% of the healthy pea pods. This caused him to think about other areas in life too, he focussed on wealth in Italy and he found that 80% of the land was owned by just 20% of the population. As time went on he was able to observe this principle in many different areas and the Pareto Principle became widely known.

80% of any results come from just 20% of action, the Pareto principle with a 80/20 split is just a general number but on a practical level in daily life or when at work its actually noticeable to see that most things in life seem to have an uneven arrangement.


Pareto principle occurring in daily life –
  • Clothing – People wear around 20% of their clothes 80% of the time
  • Music – People listen to 20% of the same music 80% of the time
  • Cafes – People visit 20% of their favourite cafes 80% of the time

I have tried observing this principle at work and I can see there are correlations with how time is prioritised with patients for example- for safety spending more time with patients who are confused or high falls risks. Its even weird how one nurse can have a heavier workload than everyone else on a shift (mind you we all get our turn). 

Knowing about this 80/20 split with the Pareto principle helps to determine what is important by identifying where 20% of your tasks will generate most of the value for your work, you can concentrate your effort there and get rid of any areas where your effort is not well utilised.

Number 2 – Parkinson’s law

Parkinson’s Law was observed by Cyril Northcote Parkinson (1955), he was a writer for The Economist. From his observations of Parkinson’s Law, Cyril phrased ‘that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion’.

I think the example where we all have experienced Parkinson’s Law is as students. Guilty of all nighters to cram for exams or leaving finishing an assignment to the last minute, this is Parkinson’s Law in action. 

We might have had plenty of time to learn or complete our work days or even weeks ago but we left it to the last minute or until the deadline, I know in the past I’ve said ‘i work best under pressure’, which isn’t actually true.

Cyril shared the story of a woman whose only task in a day was to send a postcard, something that normally takes a few minutes. Yet the person spent an hour finding the card, another half hour looking for her glasses, 90 minutes writing the card, 20 minutes deciding whether or not to take an umbrella along on her walk to the mailbox, on and on until her day is done.

Why does work expand to fill the time available? – Knowing that we have time to do something often means we leave work to the very last minute, there is no urgency or motivation until up to the deadline. It is procrastination that is leading us to miss deadlines, a way to build momentum is to set deliberate timelines by breaking down what you want to do into achievable slots of time.


When thinking about productivity we hear stories of highly successful people who have expectations of working 60+ hours in a week or there are statements of waking and going to the gym at 04:30 am. This side of productivity of being a robotic super-being is unrealistic for many of us as it may become overwhelming and cause personal relationships to suffer or even cause a person to lose sight of the value their work.

Productivity is a way to complement your life and knowing about these principles helps to gain more time in your life by helping to improve work-life balance and more than anything to prevent burn out.

(Photo by Sharon Pittaway on Unsplash)

“Simplicity boils down to two steps: identify the essential, eliminate the rest”

– Leo Babauta

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