Manage your time, maximize your life

Time is a finite resource. You only have so much of it every day to provide quality patient care, lead the team, and operate a successful practice.

For more on this topic, go to www.dentaleconomics.com and search using the following key words: time, practice systems, Life Map, goals, dental practice, practice growth, quality of life.

Time is a finite resource. You only have so much of it every day to provide quality patient care, lead the team, and operate a successful practice. The better you can manage your time, the more successful you can be. Sounds simple enough, right?

But there are so many demands on your time, especially when things don't go as planned. Computers break down. Patients need emergency treatment. Team members get sick. Specialists need to talk about mutual patients. Some days, it feels like you need to clone yourself.

Every day can seem like a crisis in the making. When you are constantly putting out multiple fires, your stress level is going to be extremely high. That type of stress can only be tolerated for a short time by yourself and your team.

Inefficient systems are probably the most common cause of unnecessary stress. When your practice systems function poorly, it has a negative effect on everyone — you, your team, and your patients. Implementing new systems or updating existing ones will reduce stress, improve practice performance, and increase your own productivity.

Many practices put off redesigning their systems. In the course of consulting to dentists and specialists for more than 23 years, Levin Group has heard doctors give all kinds of "reasons" for not updating their practice systems. Here are some of the more popular "reasons."

  • My practice really isn't that bad.
  • My team can handle the stress.
  • They [system breakdowns] really don't happen all that much.
  • We're too busy to make any changes right now.
  • As soon as a new person gets fully trained, things will improve dramatically [Note: New person has been with the practice almost a year.]
  • Change will just make things worse.

Every dentist deserves to have a well-managed practice. The longer a dentist has an inefficient practice, the more time (and money) he or she is wasting on the road to financial independence. As Ben Franklin said more than 200 years ago, "Lost time can't be found again." Once it's lost, it's gone forever.

Inefficient systems could rob you of millions of dollars over the life of your practice. Don't let that happen to you. Levin Group Method™ recommends two straightforward strategies for doctors to get the most out of their practices and their lives:

1. Redesign practice systems

Your practice will be the main generator of your income. The more efficient your practice operates, the more profitable it will become. The key to efficiency is creating step-by-step, written systems. The right systems allow your team to reach its true potential.

To redesign your systems, follow these action steps:

  1. Collect all necessary data to understand each practice system.
  2. Use all collected data to develop an ideal model based on the unique needs of your practice.
  3. Customize all ideal models to fit the goals of the doctor and team.
  4. Implement new systems to increase practice and production potential.
  5. Measure results to ensure that the new customized model is on track to achieve all practice goals.

It can require a year or more for practices to completely integrate all new systems without disrupting daily operations or causing excessive stress on the practice. All major practice systems must be addressed and inefficiencies that slow down systems removed.

2. Create a Life Map

A Life Map is a year-by-year blueprint of your professional and personal life now through retirement. After creating hundreds of Life Maps for clients, we focus on key events that will affect your practice and your life. A Life Map evaluates the dentist's age, financial position, spending habits, lifestyle, children, elder care needs, and large financial events (such as college tuition) over the course of a practitioner's life.

How does a Life Map work? As an example, let's look at a dentist we'll call Dr. Stan (based on a composite of Levin Group clients).

In 1998, Stan was a 45-year-old general dentist whose practice was genere about 3% for the past two years. He owed $80,000 in educational and practice debt. Stan wanted to retire by 56.

Stan was married with two children, twin boys who were 11. His wife, Brenda, was a stay-at-home mom. She planned to resume her accounting career — at least part-time — when the boys entered college in seven years. The couple owed $450,000 on the four-bedroom house they bought three years ago.

Here are some of the elements that were included in Stan and Brenda's Life Map:

Life Map begins with understanding the doctor's vision and goals. This is a process of helping dentists and spouses identify their short- and long-term goals and placing these on a Life Map year by year. Once the vision and goals have been determined, then the appropriate actions and advisors can be engaged to achieve the right path to success. Click here to view Life Map

Life Map equals better quality of life

Enhancing your quality of life depends on what happens both inside and outside your practice.

Understand that each aspect of a Life Map is equally important. The goal is not to grow rich at the expense of one's health. Nor is the goal to accumulate a great deal of money and not enjoy the practice. The Life Map process is about achieving comprehensive success — in both your professional and personal life.

The use of the right advisors can help any dentist on the road to financial independence. Two questions dentists should ask before engaging any advisor are:

  1. What is your method?
  2. How many dentists do you work with?

These two questions will help you identify the advisors who best understand the unique situations you face during your career. Want a better life? Get a Life Map!

Are you interested in taking your practice and your life to the next level? DE® readers are entitled to receive a free copy of Dr. Levin's latest audio CD, "Eight Strategies of Highly Successful Practices." To order your free CD, e-mail customerservice@levingroup.com with "DE CD" in the subject line.

Roger P. Levin, DDS, is founder and CEO of Levin Group, a leading dental management consulting firm that is dedicated to improving the lives of dentists through a diverse portfolio of lifetime services and solutions. Since the company's inception in 1985, Dr. Levin has worked to bring the business world to dentistry. Levin Group may be reached at (888) 973-0000, or at www.levingroup.com.

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