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Ten Steps to Improved Productivity

The old adage "Time is Money" doesn't ring any truer than it does in the Medical Transcription industry where minutes and seconds can add up over the course of a month or a year to serious income - or lost income opportunities. The following information is designed to help you chart a course to higher levels of productivity and income as a Medical Transcriptionist.

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1. Get on a schedule.

One of the most common mistakes that independent transcriptionists make is to approach their work in an unstructured, haphazard manner. It is important to establish a clearly defined schedule early on to ensure that you consistently devote enough focused time to production. Don't underestimate the positive impact that a predictable work routine can have on your overall productivity.

It is all too easy to allow productivity to suffer because of a declining level of commitment and discipline - particularly when you have no one looking over your shoulder. It is not reasonable to expect to achieve a level of production in a home based environment that is equivalent to what was produced in an office setting without a similar degree of discipline.

2. Create some space.

Most people find that in order to achieve peak productivity they must have a dedicated space that they can organize in a way to allow for optimum productivity. Attempting to create a mobile office space will more often than not be self-defeating.

It will be important to carve out your own permanent space that will allow for a measure of privacy and easy access to the equipment and resources that will be needed throughout each production session.

3. Get the training and resources you need.

Medical Transcription is a dynamic and evolving discipline. In order to stay abreast of the most recent trends and technological advances it will be important to continually push yourself to learn new skills and increase your technical vocabulary. Invest in yourself and in your resources. Your productivity depends on it. Not only that, as you develop the technical capacity to take on more complex report types, your marketability will improve dramatically. Transcriptionists capable of producing clinic notes are a dime a dozen. Those capable of producing complex operative or specialty reports at a high level of quality are much more valued in the marketplace - and their income usually bears this out. Set some stretch goals each year for training. Talk to your employer about starting you on more challenging work assignments that will allow you to break into the more lucrative, higher-end segments of the industry. Also, surround yourself with the right technology and terminology resources. Don't be penny wise and pound foolish - understand the correlation that exists between productivity and resource availability.

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4. Remove distractions.

The things that make the home-based work option most attractive - freedom, time with family, personal space, and convenience, are also the very things that will become a drain on your productivity if you allow them to. You know what I'm talking about: the nice background music that is just a little too loud to allow full concentration on your work; a favorite soap that is quietly beckoning in the very next room; a continuous parade of kids in and out of the work area; an unpoliced refrigerator that is just too close - and too tempting for comfort; and the worst evil of all - the telephone - yes, all of your friends have now discovered that you are home and take advantage of the opportunity to call and chat - or worse yet - drop their kids off to "play" as they "run a few errands."

What initially seemed so attractive and inviting has become stressful and frustrating. In a traditional office setting these types of situations simply do not exist. They don't exist because they are not allowed to. At home, however, you are the queen of the castle, and the story can be quite different, which is the primary reason too home based workers settle for a reduction in their income when they begin working from home. This is so unnecessary. With a little discipline a home based worker should be earning much more than her office based counterpart. Instilling discipline does not mean that you completely ignore all of the fine perks we talked about earlier. To the contrary. That is what staying home is all about. You simply need to exercise some control and set some very definite limits - lay down the law and then stick to it. A lack of control over your life and activities leads to depression and despondency. Who needs it? Caller ID or a good answering machine can work wonders in helping you screen calls. It is nice to chat with friends during the work day as long as the calls are made on your schedule and have a definite time limit. Drop-in visits (or worse yet, "drop-off" visits) should be avoided like the plague. Simply let your friends know that during working hours you are unavailable. Remove yourself from other distractions like the Television and refrigerator through physical separation. Then work hard to maintain that separation while you are working. If the kids are a distraction then you need to find ways to minimize that distraction. One of the best pieces of advice I can offer is to put them on a schedule of their own. Kids are at their best when they have a structured routine. Map out a typical day for them and then work to get them and keep them on that routine. Try to orchestrate their play time, nap time, quiet time, creative time, snack time, and other activities in a way that maximizes your own productivity. For example, synchronize their nap time and quiet time with your most productive work sessions, their snack and play time with your breaks and so forth. Of course one of the great (and often the most frustrating) things about kids is that they can be quite unpredictable. Be patient and realize that this is one of the reasons for staying home in the first place - to experience these moments. Learn to laugh at the situations that come up and use them to reduce your stress level rather than increase it. For more tips on creating a family-friendly work environment click here.

5. Schedule your breaks.

Taking frequent breaks can make an otherwise long day more pleasant. Everyone needs to get away for a few minutes to clear the mind, get the blood circulating again, and recharge the batteries. The important thing is to establish a set break schedule and then stick to it. By doing so, you will create a natural psychological incentive to work diligently until break time - and then reward yourself with a brief change of pace. When you take a break, remove yourself physically from your immediate work area. Clear your mind and focus on something else. Take a brief walk, sit and relax, read the paper, play with the kids or the dog, make a phone call to a friend, etc. Do something that you look forward to doing so that it becomes a reward for productivity - and more importantly - a break from your work.

6. Purchase good equipment.

Make sure that the action of your keyboard is right for you and that your mouse tracks properly; that your computer monitor is not hard on your eyes and that your chair doesn't cause back pain. If your headset doesn't fit properly or your footpedal is constantly getting stuck fix them or replace them. There is nothing more demoralizing than to have to fight all day with inadequate equipment or furnishings. You do not have to spend a lot of money - just make judicious purchases. A few extra dollars spent on the these tools can add great value to your productivity and add measurably to your positive attitude over time.

7. Get organized.

Keep a trash can close by and fill it up with the junk that continually comes across your desk. Be decisive in dealing with paperwork - either file it or get rid of it. Don't let things continue to pile up until you are so overwhelmed that you can't function properly. Clutter is one of the great enemies of efficiency. For more ideas on organizing your desk area and reducing the clutter, click here.

8. Set goals.

Set a goal at the beginning of each day to produce a certain amount of output - either lines typed, minutes of dictation completed, etc. Then reward yourself for meeting your goals. Set a weekly goal and then if you meet it take an early quit on Friday to recognize the accomplishment.

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9. Create an inviting ambience.

Make sure that your work area has adequate lighting. Dress up your work area. Decorate it with plants, pictures and things that will make it warm and inviting and ensure that your time spent there is pleasant. A bright and cheery work space will be more conducive to a positive work experience and will add tremendously to your productivity.

10. Schedule your non-work chores and errands during non-working hours.

In a home based environment there is a tendency to want to take care of chores and errands as soon as they come to mind. This can be devastating to productivity. The best thing to do is to make a list of these errands and then schedule a definite time to deal with them. They should not be allowed to interfere with your prime transcription time. Also, it is important to set realistic expectations about what you will be able to do as a home-based worker. Don't assume (and don't let your family and friends assume) that you will have a lot of extra time for errands just because you are working from home. Remember, you still have a business or career to manage.

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