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Closing out 2023: Year-end plan using “think, plan, do”

Dec. 4, 2023
To start off 2024 with a bang, take time to "think, plan, do." Truly focus on how the last year progressed, and what you want to accomplish in the coming year.

Think about your last vacation. Perhaps it was to Disney World or across the country to visit family. Whatever it was, your vacation took some planning, such as airline reservations, a place to stay, rental cars, and scheduling the time off from work. Without this preparation, who knows where you might have ended up?

As you think of your year-end planning, think of it like planning a trip. In this case it’s not for a vacation, but for your life. As you go through this process, consider these three words: think, plan, do.

Think about hopes, plans, dreams

As the year comes to an end, schedule time to reflect on the past year. To do this well, you’ll need to carve out some time to do nothing but think. Find a place away from the distractions of your practice, team, family, emails, and text messages. In the quiet and solitude, think about all that transpired in 2023. At the same time, consider your hopes, goals, and dreams for 2024.

This process should take no more than a couple of hours but will be well worth the time. As you think about this year and your hopes for the next, ask yourself questions about both your personal and practice lives. Regarding your personal life, did you achieve your goals? Consider things like time spent with family, recreation, exercise, or doing things you enjoy. Despite the challenges, were you happy as you lived out your life this past year? These are just a few questions to get you started.

About your practice, did you achieve your goals? What went well during the year? What were some of the obstacles or challenges? Did you work well with your team? Did your practice grow? How were the relationships with your team members? Did you enjoy working with them? Also ask, what would your dream practice look like?

As you consider the coming year, think about the changes, adjustments, or improvements you need to make in your practice. Be sure to keep an open mind and think BHAG. (This stands for big hairy audacious goals. BHAG comes from the book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras.)

Don’t shortchange this part of the planning process and spend at least one hour on it. Be honest with yourself, think of all the possibilities, and most importantly, keep away from negative assumptions. The thinking stage should not only consider your present reality but should equip you to dream big. Armed with this personal, professional, emotional, and financial information, you’re ready for the next step.

Also by Robert Maguire:

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Grow your dental practice by being different: Think like a patient

Plan your next steps

Having completed your strategic thinking, you’re now ready to come up with a strategic plan to help you achieve your goals. The first thing you want to do is prioritize your list; start with what is most important. Think of it like a jigsaw puzzle. This thinking stage helps you picture the puzzle you’re trying to put together.

The planning stage outlines and prioritizes the steps needed to reach the dreams and goals defined in the thinking phase. While putting the puzzle together, you might start with the outside pieces to frame the picture. If you did not achieve your financial goals last year, like framing the puzzle, your first steps could include, for example, improving scheduling or adjusting your fees. Next, you might want to look at your rate of broken appointments or no-shows. Schedule a team meeting to share your ideas and concerns, then implement new verbal skills to improve communication with patients.  

Whatever your plan, it’s paramount that you not only prioritize your list, but that you write it down. For your personal goals, put your list in a place where you can read it daily. Place your practice goals on a bulletin board in a common area visible to all team members. Once you’ve prioritized the steps in your plan, you’re ready to “do it.”

Do what it takes

This reminds me of the Nike motto, “Just do it.” I would expand it to, “Once you’ve thought about what you want to achieve and you’ve outlined the steps, just do it.”

When implementing a plan, it’s important to assign a person and a time frame to the task. This tells you who will do what by when. This can be done simply with a three-column project list. The first column lists the people responsible for completing the task, the second column lists their names, and the last column lists the expected completion date. Just like the goals list, post the project list in a common area. Most important, revisit it at every team meeting to keep you on track and hold people accountable, including yourself.

A few last thoughts

During the think phase, take your time, keep an open mind, and be honest with yourself. Dream big and let your imagination run free. While planning, prioritizing helps you focus on what’s most important and prevents you from becoming overwhelmed, which can derail you. When doing, realize that you don’t have to have all the answers before moving forward. Be courageous, step out, do it anyway, and take one step at a time. You’ll be amazed at how stepping out in faith will help you conceptualize your next steps.

Finally, you might want to include another person to hold you accountable and help you achieve your goals. It could be a personal coach, your dental team, or a trusted friend. Let others help you achieve your ideal practice. With these three simple words, “think, plan, do,” you’ll be well on your way to making your dreams a reality.

Editor's note: Originally posted in 2021 and updated regularly

About the Author

Robert Maguire, DDS, MASCL

Robert Maguire, DDS, MASCL is a dental speaker, coach, practice consultant, and DISC trainer, passionate about leadership and communication. If you’d like more information about Dr. Maguire and how he can help you achieve your goals, improve your communication, and find fulfillment, visit thefulfillment.coach/ or email him at [email protected].

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