Too much to do, too little time
The most common form of stress that practice owners experience is the feeling of being overwhelmed with far too much to do and having little time to do it. In fact, “TIME POVERTY” is the biggest single problem facing our profession today!
We do not have enough time to fulfil our responsibilities. Because of budget limitations, staff motivation and training, downsizing, patient care and time needed with treatment planning, and then competitive pressures, individual practice managers and principals are forced to take on more and more work, all of which appear to be indispensable to the smooth functioning of the dental practice.
These pressures in turn, often lead to unproductive behaviours by both dentists and dental teams. Unproductive behaviours include procrastination, blaming anyone other than yourself, poor standards, waiting for a better time to do the work and generally never feeling that you are progressing. These behaviours lead to unfulfilling work and lower profits, not to mention lower standards of care.
This cannot be good for any business, especially in a business like ours where a “service with a smile” is so important to our ultimate practice growth.
Ask yourself the following questions:
How genuine is your smile when you are under stress?
How effective and productive are you when you are pushed for time?
How much do you dislike your job when you are under pressure?
In this mindset are you taking your business forward or are you stagnant?
This tends to come to us in all forms and manner; and is definitely not beneficial to our long term health. When we are not achieving our goals in life, we often tend to procrastinate or just settle ourselves in our comfort zones that are familiar and bearable. Going outside this zone often leads to undesirable stress.
Stress often comes in three forms – the good, the bad and the ugly!
The ugly stress is the one that leads to verbal tension and complete uncooperative behaviour. This is damaging to the entire infrastructure of the business. You will instantly recognise this because it will be the only thing playing on your mind. Please get rid of it now!
We then come to the bad stress; this is often the one we do not realise is creeping in on us. This is the stress leading to job dissatisfaction, where we no longer enjoy the practice of dentistry yet don’t even stop to think about its cause. We often blame our patients and unmotivated staff. We tend to feel there is no way out, and this is the way it will remain. We go into an “if only” mode.
What we need is good stress; this is the one we need to keep us alert and motivated and is the one that allows us to achieve goals. Good stress is created due to reorganising the elements that give us bad stress.
As a business owner, we need to take a step back and re-evaluate our situations. We need to ask ourselves – What are we trying to achieve? We then need to figure out the steps that will take us there.
We need to look at the bigger picture of where we are heading.
The most common time wasters:
- Telephone interruptions
- Drop-in visitors, e.g. sales reps
- Ineffective delegation
- Lack of clear and definite purpose, vision and goals
- Crises management
- Attempting to do too much at once
- Lack of prioritisation
- Personal disorganisation
- Lack of practice systems
- No concrete system to monitor progress
- Lacking the ability to say “No.”
- Having poor team members
Becoming an expert
Then all we need is to create solutions. One such solution to the problem of work overload is for you to become an expert in time management. You can probably learn no other skill that will give you more value per pound spent than to become highly knowledgeable and experienced in using time management practices.
It is a case of giving more value to your time than your money. To do this, you need to take an “inventory” of yourself and your practice needs. Then you need to prioritise the steps which will lead to your “bigger picture”. You need to develop sound leadership qualities to redirect the team and their operative functions within the practice.
The art of leadership and delegation is what will eventually save the day. As a business owner, you need to be more visionary in your role to take your practice forward.
Time management is about doing your job in the most efficient way possible to maximise profits and enjoyment.
The two indispensable keys to the practice of time organisation are:
- the ability to set priorities
- the ability to concentrate single-minded on one thing at a time
Since there is never enough time to do everything that needs to be done, you must continually set priorities for your activities. Perhaps the very best question that you can memorise and repeat, over and over, is, “What is the most valuable use of my time right now?”
This question will do more to keep you on track, hour by hour, than any single question in the list of time management strategies.
Often we are so busy doing the LITTLE things that all we achieve is LITTLE results!
The natural tendency for all of us is to major in minors and give in to the temptation to clear up small things first. After all, small items are more manageable, and they are often more fun than the big, important things that represent the most valuable use of your time.
However, the self–discipline of organising your work and focusing on your highest value tasks is the starting point of getting your time under control and lowering your stress levels.
This principle applies to dental business management and to your time allocation with your patients and their treatment planning. Schedule your patient diary to maximise income while lowering your stress levels by deploying the correct time allocation per patient. There is nothing more stressful than a waiting room full of patients!
There are various techniques for scheduling your patients with better efficiency. One such approach is to book long higher-income earning procedures in the morning (when you are at your optimum energy level) and to book lower-income earning procedures in the afternoon. This way, you still have sufficient productivity each day, yet you are not stressing yourself all simultaneously.
One other action point you can use is to create definite practice systems for various jobs and then create a checklist for that system. Soon the systems within the practice will become auto-run by the team as the norm, hence freeing you up for creative ventures to grow the business.
Twelve Tips For Effective Productivity
- Write down a plan of critical objectives for the following week.
- Focus on results ……not activities.
- Prioritise the daily objectives by giving each activity a 1-5 star priority.
- Plan your daily activities the day before. Your day will begin on a higher note.
- Include personal time for yourself daily to reflect on your day ahead.
- Good planners consistently get better results than non-planners.
- Give start times and finish times per activity for effective planning.
- Ensure delegation is done effectively by ensuring the job is explained clearly with the help given when required and, more importantly, a deadline for completion decided.
- Do not put off high productivity activities. Follow the Pareto principle that 20% of your actions will lead to 80% of your results and vice versa.
- Regular, planned and prepared meetings to increase practice communication
- Provide complete and adequate training for the team.
- Do not succumb to interruptions during a planned activity, e.g. telephone interruptions, internet use, emails, etc.
Set clear priorities each day, week, month and year, and soon you will realise your potential for further growth and productivity. This we can only do if we have taken the TIME to work out where we want to steer our ship. We need to understand the most valuable use of our time – deciding what to eliminate, delegate, and outsource. We need to be creative in the procrastination of our responsibilities. What should do we do now and what we can leave for later are very important product decisions. We will ultimately have peak performance and enjoy the benefits if we manage our valuable time to its ultimate potential.
Correct and efficient time management skills are essential to practise owner especially if you are ambitious enough to want to enjoy the fruits of your labour and obtain enjoyment and fulfilment in the practice of dentistry, not to mention increased productivity!