It seems that everyone wants to get more done in less time these days. We’re all crazy-busy and searching for productivity hacks.
Productivity hacks that promise so much but often deliver so little.
Because working in a dental practice isn’t the same as working in an office. You don’t need strategies for getting your inbox to zero, staying off social media or creating a minimalist workspace.
Instead, you need help with making the most of those small gaps that occur during the day, and finding out how to juggle dentistry by day and business management by night.
So let’s find you some strategies that actually work, shall we?
Productivity Isn’t What You Think
Before we get too carried away we need to look at the definition of productivity. The business dictionary says it’s:
“A measure of the efficiency of a person, machine, factory, system, etc., in converting inputs into useful outputs. Productivity is computed by dividing average output per period by the total costs incurred or resources (capital, energy, material, personnel) consumed in that period.”
But productivity isn’t really outputs based.
I prefer Mike Vardy’s definition of productivity. Mike is a productivity strategist and he says productivity is intention + attention.
And this makes sense. Not only that, but you do it every day with your patients.
You’re a productive dentist because each patient that comes in receives your full attention, and your intention is to provide them with the best dental care possible.
If you didn’t give your dental work your full attention all sorts of problems would arise. And if your intention was not to provide the best care but to make as many new friends as possible, your productivity would be significantly affected.
So let’s agree with Mike, that productivity is intention + attention.
Work With Yourself
The problem with many productivity hacks or strategies is that they’re too rigid. They require you to follow a stringent process.
The Personal Efficiency Program (PEP) follows the guidelines Stephen Covey wrote about in The 7 Strategies of Highly Successful People. The problem is that the approach requires you and your team to be trained in the system, and work within those guidelines.
The Pomodoro technique uses time blocks (often of 25 minutes) to work on a task, with short breaks between tasks. But these systems aren’t great for running a business dental practice, and they don’t allow for your own natural rhythms.
Before you adopt any productivity strategies, it’s best to have a clear idea of how you work best.
When are you naturally at your most energetic? What time of day is best for tackling challenging work? When is better for routine work?
Finding a system that is flexible enough to work with your own natural energy rhythms and work style is fundamental. If you don’t do this, you’re unlikely to stick to the new program because there’s too much change involved.
Schedule Your Time
One thing I always recommend to my clients is that they have scheduled admin time during working hours.
Many dentists avoid this because they think it reduces their chair time, and therefore their billable hours. But here’s the upshot.
When you schedule regular admin time during working hours, you’re more productive. My clients have told me that they didn’t believe this in the beginning. But it works.
When you stretch yourself too thin by doing dentistry all day and then business management at night, you become exhausted. This isn’t about ‘balance’ this is about being sensible.
If one of your team members was critical to your business, would you let them work 12 hour days and risk them experiencing burnout, adrenal fatigue and illness?
No. You wouldn’t. So don’t do it to yourself.
Now, let’s look at how to make the most of your admin time, and how to tackle projects effectively.
Themes Give Flexible Structure
Mike Vardy uses themes to give his work structure, but a flexible structure. Here’s how it works.
You set a theme for each day, to give you focus. You can also have an overarching theme for the month, and you can have modes of work that might run across time blocks each day – such as from 9-10 am each day.
Here’s how this helps you.
When you set your theme for Monday as ‘finance’ then you know that any time you have available on Monday is focused on your finances. If you’ve decided that 12-12.30pm each day is an admin mode, then on Monday your admin would focus on finance.
Maybe you’d pay bills, generate financial reports, or email your bookkeeper.
If you decide that Tuesday’s theme is staff, then you’d use that time to focus on staff issues. Maybe your admin time would focus on placing an advert for a new DA, or writing up notes from a staff review, or writing a job description.
This allows you to focus your attention, but the system is also flexible enough to allow for different tasks. You can also use it in conjunction with other strategies that work for you, such as the Pomodoro technique of working in blocks.
The key is to stick to the themes for each day, and not mix them.
If you find you need to change the structure to better fit your work, that’s fine. But then stick to the new schedule. Don’t mix it up.
(If you want to hear more of Mike’s strategies be sure to listen to this episode of the Savvy Dentist.)
Strategies Can Be Stolen
Tim Ferris has a number of strategies for increasing productivity. Tim is the author of The 4-Hour Workweek and Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers.
Tim recommends breaking big projects into the smallest conceivable pieces because they’re less overwhelming. He also recommends making each task as easy as possible.
One simple example is making it easy for people to brush their teeth for 2 minutes each day. Using a timer and keeping track of the seconds is tedious but an electric toothbrush that automatically tells you when you’ve brushed for two minutes makes the task easier.
Tim’s techniques of breaking down projects and making them simple allows you to make the most of those small breaks in your day. It also allows you to harness the power of your team (more on that in a moment).
When you have smaller chunks of work you can also work them into your daily themes and modes.
Routines Really Rock
Mike Vardy swears by his morning and evening routines. They keep him focused and increase his productivity.
Kenneth Chenault the CEO of American Express has an evening routine where he writes down the top three things he wants to accomplish the next day. Benjamin Franklin asked himself each morning, “What good shall I do today?”
The author PG Wodehouse did callisthenics before his standard breakfast of toast, coffee cake and tea. The novelist William Styron stayed in bed for another hour to think and read.
The point is not what your routine should look like, the point is to create a routine that works for you. Think about the best possible start to each day, and do that.
If you’re focusing on improving your health you might start with exercise. If you want to reduce stress, your morning routine may include meditation.
Whatever it is, create a routine that will set you up for a great day. Every day.
Teams Increase Your Capacity
Delegation is an art and it needs to be done well. The key is to get really clear on what you want to be done, find the right person to do it, and create an action plan.
I know many people struggle with delegating effectively which is why I created a simple infographic that lays out the delegation process, step by step.
When it comes to keeping your team focused, motivated and on track, a morning huddle is invaluable. (Click to Tweet) This is a super short, intense meeting that you have with your team every morning.
Done right, a morning huddle will increase the energy and productivity of your team, keep them focused and improve your patient experience. The key is to do them right, so I created a simple infographic for morning huddles too.
Boost Productivity Without Working Yourself to Death
So now you have an absolute arsenal of tools to boost your productivity, without working yourself into an early grave.
Take the time to create a morning routine that works for you, and sets you up for the day. Work with your natural rhythms and be sure to schedule admin time during business hours.
Try using themes to give yourself flexible structure, and make the most of your team. They’re your secret power to getting more done in less time.
And above all else, look after yourself. Keep yourself healthy and well rested so you can bring you’re a-game each and every day.