Turn ‘busy’ into ‘productive’ by taking control of your time

As you look back on this past year, do you find yourself blaming lack of time for any unaccomplished goals? Maybe you feel you would’ve increased practice production, done one more team training, or took more vacation—if only you had more time. The truth is that each person has the same amount of time available—what matters is how you approach it. In this article, Jay Geier shares helpful time management strategies for dentists.

As you look back on this past year, do you find yourself blaming lack of time for any unaccomplished goals? Maybe you feel you would’ve increased production, done one more team training, taken more vacation, or gotten to the gym more frequently—if only you had more time.

But everyone is working with the same amount of time, so how do some people manage to accomplish everything they need and want to, while others fall short?

It’s all in how you value and use your time. You have more than enough to accomplish anything you want in both your business and personal lives. The problem is, you’re giving too much of it away by letting others impose their needs and wants on you, rather than dictating how your time gets spent. You might even be feeling rundown or overly stressed, with not enough to show for it. That’s because you don’t have control of your time, so you’re not in control of the demands of your business and personal life—they’re in control of you. Your time, energy, and effort have no intention.

Here are two strategies to start regaining control of your time so that your energy and efforts will equal productivity.

Be fully present in everything you do

In general, your daily tasks and responsibilities can be divided into three categories: production, planning, and personal. Production happens when you’re chairside treating patients; planning involves the back-end business activities; and personal encompasses all nonbusiness matters.

For doctors who have time-management and productivity issues, the trouble comes lacking a systematic approach to allocating focused time to the different activities. You may think the ability to bounce between patients, team meetings, emails, and phone calls is effective multitasking. But all you’re really doing is killing your productivity because nothing is getting your full attention or energy. Your day becomes unintentional as you drift from one activity to another, your mind wandering among all the different things you’re trying to handle. How can you expect to get everything done, and done effectively, operating like this?

Even worse, your patient experience suffers because you’re not fully present with those other tasks and concerns acting as distractions. Or how about team meetings? It’s difficult to be fully prepared and engaged before a full day of patients.

We train our clients to commit specific time to specific types of activities. For example, on days dedicated to production, you’re laser focused on patient care and nothing else. For time allocated to planning, you’re only focused on business building activities. When you need time alone to get work done, you need to communicate to your staff that your office door is closed, you’re not to be disturbed unless it’s an emergency. All personal tasks should be handled at home. The bottom line is, once you stop diluting your time, energy, and focus across too many activities at once, your schedule will become more deliberate, and you’ll finally achieve that productivity you’ve been looking for.

Commit to developing a more independent team

If you feel you’re being interrupted too frequently by your employees, it’s because you’ve trained them (mostly unknowingly) to do so. It’s easy to get caught in the trap of feeling that since they need you, it’s a meaningful use of time. But in reality, their dependence on you is the reason you’re losing so much productivity during the day. It comes from a lack of processes, setting parameters, and taking the time to assign responsibilities and ownership that would allow your team to more consistently operate on their own.

To fix this situation, you need to commit to retraining both yourself and them on a new way of interacting. The goal is to establish a clear understanding of the specific types of events or issues that warrant your attention, and which ones they should be handling without you. To get them in this habit, you must invest the time and energy to train and empower your staff. It’s about investing in your human capital as the valuable asset that they are.

Like any new process you try to implement, this takes time and patience, and it is best to start off simply to gain traction. Identify those urgent yet menial tasks that you know are not worth your time. Then choose a team member to whom you can transfer the responsibilities. This doesn’t mean you’re quitting or that the job just disappears. No, you’re investing in someone else who can do it better and cheaper than you. My personal rule is to delegate any task that’s a $10 to $20 an hour job to an hourly staff member because I know my time is worth much more than that.

Developing and investing in an independent team doesn’t just free up your time; it creates many growth opportunities for your business and personal life. Your ultimate goal should be to establish such a level of trust and responsibility with them, that your office can produce at a high level even when you’re not there.

Jay Geier is the founder of the Scheduling Institute, a private practice consultancy that grows independent private practices into thriving businesses that can either be sold for maximum value or kept for a lifetime of revenue.

Author’s note: The Scheduling Institute is the creator of the renowned five-star new patient/telephone training program, more than 20 other team trainings, and the Platinum and 5x doctor coaching programs. To learn more, visit schedulinginstitute.com.

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