This article reflects the conversations in the breakout groups on this topic at the Recently Appointed Consultants symposia on Thursday 5 June 2014 and Friday 13 March 2015.


When working as a consultant, it can be difficult to find time to keep on top of multiple commitments with a timetable that is different every week. Commitments can include administrative, clinical and non-clinical tasks. Jobs and duties can easily encroach into home life. Frequently consultants may be in the position of being asked to take on more responsibilities on top of an already full diary. Part-time consultants especially may find their work hours creeping up towards full time without their request.

If you have recently taken on a new consultant position then do not agree to take on any extra sessions without discussing the resources you need or the commitments you need to reduce to make space for additional work. Extra sessions that initially seem manageable may quickly overwhelm. Take time to find out exactly what a job entails before taking on any new commitments. Question the value of the request on your time. Ask questions, for example: what would your role be in the group/project?

It can be helpful to divide up your time to produce a rough weekly schedule. Try to allocate a specific daily slot for daily activities, such as responding to emails, and stick to it. It is important not to check your emails during a clinic. Emails can overwhelm, but breaking up the task at hand into manageable chunks should increase order and ease of response. List-making in order to prioritise workload tasks can also be helpful.

Speak up when you have a problem with regards to time management. It is important to be assertive. Say ‘no’ to extra tasks that are just not possible or that don’t fit your interests or long term career aspirations. But of course saying ‘no’ needs to be backed up with the reasoning behind it. Strategies may be necessary to allow successful negotiations, especially to allow you to say ‘yes’ to additional tasks that do fit with your long term career plans. Keep a careful diary of your workload to discuss. Take these diaries into job planning meetings or other meetings with managers. Try to look at the workload of colleagues – could the workload be shared to make distribution more even?

A mentor can be very useful, especially with regards to integrating longer term career aims into job planning. Remember that your employers need you as well as vice versa. And remember that having a home life is just as important as your work life.

Breakout group leader: Dr Alison Brown MA MD FRCP, Consultant Nephrologist and Clinical Lead, Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer, Newcastle University

Reviewed January 2017