Time management refers to how we organize and use the time we have. Time management is a life skill that can impact many areas of our lives. As Counselors, the use, or lack thereof, can have a direct impact on the work we do with our clients. A large portion of what we do is being emotionally available and receptive to our clients to help them navigate their life. If we are not mindful of our own thoughts and behaviors, we can easily slip into a pattern of not using our time in the most effective manner. Keep reading to learn 10 time management tips for counselors. 

Want to save even more time in your practice? Check out our editable / fillable / printable counseling worksheets in PDF format that will help you streamline your practice.

Why is Time Management Important for Counselors?

Effective time management skills can have a variety of benefits, including increasing our productivity and our overall workplace satisfaction. Additionally, these skills can help us navigate our days with confidence and a sense of ease as we know what we need to accomplish. You may also find that this decreases any work-related stress you may be carrying.

When we have effective time management skills, we are able to focus on the task in front of us rather than worrying about what needs to be done and trying to find time for our to-do lists. This allows us to be fully present and engaged with our clients.

We can use boundaries to support our time management skills as well. An example of this would be to avoid going over the time allotted for sessions, intakes, consultations, and supervision sessions.  Boundaries can help you simplify your day, and make it feel more manageable.

Healthy time management in counseling sessions can strengthen the therapeutic alliance and demonstrate the act of establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries for our clients. Additionally, being mindful while we are with our clients allows us to respect both their time and ours. 

Time Management Tips for Counselors

Here are tips and suggestions of how you can improve your own time management skills:

1. Develop a Schedule

One simple task that can make a difference in the flow of our workday is to develop a schedule. Schedules can help us have clear and defined expectations for our days. Schedules should include all of your job duties that need to be completed before you leave for the day. This can include meeting with clients, completing paperwork, case consultations, engaging in supervision, and other responsibilities. The goal here is to respect your own time and boundaries regarding your work day and availability. Schedules can be for your benefit only, or you may share your schedule with your colleagues so that they are aware of your availability.

2. Set Boundaries

When we think about setting boundaries, effective communication is often a vital component. We should be communicating with our clients about the length of time for their sessions, especially if they are meeting with you for an intake session or a first session. Setting healthy boundaries regarding your time can help you use time management in counseling sessions.

As with other life experiences, there are always exceptions to the rule. If you are meeting with a client who has verbalized suicidal ideation or intent, verbalized an intent to harm others, or is discussing a form of child or elder abuse, extending the session to safely and appropriately assess the level of risk would be your priority.

3. Structure your Sessions

Something that can help clients gauge their time with you in session after your initial meeting would be to have some kind of structure to your session. As an example, you may begin with a check-in where they can share how they feel they are doing, if they were able to try using a skill you discussed in your last session, and if they have anything specific they would like to focus on during their session. When you are approaching the end of your session, you can focus on using reflective and summarizing skills to recap the content of your session. If you continue using this, or a similar pattern, you can help your sessions progress in a manner that is predictable and respects both your client’s time and yours.

4. Have Time For Yourself

When you are creating a schedule or routine for your day, it is important to ensure that you are leaving time for yourself. Take a moment to think of a day you had at work that was busy, and maybe a bit stressful. Were you able to take care of yourself that day? Is there anything you could have done differently?  When we find ourselves busy, whether it is at work or in our personal lives, we can sometimes forget to take care of ourselves. This can include drinking water, eating snacks or meals, and even using the restroom.  If you find yourself in back-to-back sessions, allowing yourself to take a few minutes to collect yourself can help you be fully present for your clients in their sessions. It can also be helpful to schedule a lunch break so that you have time to set aside for your personal needs.

5. Respect Your Own Time

Following up on the previous tip, it is important to ensure that you are respecting your own time. This means being firm in your boundaries. As an example, if you have 30-45 minutes set aside for your lunch break, use this time to do whatever you need for yourself. Eat something, do some stretching, listen to relaxing music, or go for a walk. Try to avoid doing paperwork, reading emails, returning phone calls, and doing other work-related tasks. Taking breaks can help us feel recharged and energized for the remainder of our day.

6. Leave your Work at Work

Another way that you can work towards establishing and maintaining healthy work boundaries is by working only during your scheduled time and leaving work at work. This can be interpreted in two ways, one being that you don’t physically bring your work home with you. Checking emails, writing progress notes, and other tasks can roll over to our time that should be focusing on other areas of our life.

7. Visualize Ending Your Shift

An additional way to leave work at work is to try not to focus on your tasks and clients when you leave the office. A helpful strategy could be to pick a geographical location or thing, such as a sign or stop light, that you see when you leave work each day. When you reach that location, visualize dropping your work hats off until your next shift. When you return to work for your next shift, you can visualize picking the hats back up when you reach this landmark. This can help reinforce a healthy work-life balance.

8. Break Tasks Into Smaller Steps

If you have a task that feels overwhelming, such as completing CEUs or developing a presentation, it may be helpful to break this task down into smaller steps. This is a strategy that you may have discussed with your clients that you can apply to your own life. By doing this, your large tasks can feel more digestible and less overwhelming. Additionally, you may find it easier to set aside smaller time frames for the broken-down tasks compared to a large period of time.

9. Prioritize Your To-Dos

For many, being able to prioritize tasks can make a significant difference in our to-do lists. When we sit down and create a prioritized list, we are able to see the tasks in front of us and see which ones need to be completed as soon as possible, and which ones can wait until tomorrow or the next day. This can help ease any stress that is causing you to feel overwhelmed by your to-do list.

10. Speak With Someone

Lastly, if you feel that you are struggling with your use of time, speak with your supervisor or colleagues about time management tips for mental health professionals. Your supervisor can listen to your concerns and offer you suggestions that you may be able to incorporate. Time management is a skill that we develop throughout our life and our careers. With each role that we have, there will likely be a shift in our responsibilities which will have to be reflected in the use of our time which provides us with an opportunity to continue growing and learning. 

Final Thoughts on Time Management in Counseling Sessions

Reviewing these time management tips for therapists can help us see where we can make some changes to our behaviors and boundaries that would benefit our work. While our focus is often on our clients, it is important to remember that we need to be taking care of ourselves as well.

When we shift roles, receive a promotion, or begin a new position, there will undoubtedly be changes to our responsibilities. No matter what position we are working in, it is important to ensure that we are working to establish and maintain balanced uses of our time. Healthy time management skills can have a direct impact on our ability to focus in session and provide the support our clients deserve.If you feel that your time management skills could be improved, use this as an opportunity to speak with your colleagues and/or supervisor to learn more about what works for them.  

Want to save even more time in your practice? Check out our editable / fillable / printable counseling worksheets in PDF format that will help you streamline your practice.

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