Time is a consumable commodity that equals the playing field among the rich and poor, successful and seeking, experienced and neophyte. Time is the commodity that we can choose to give away for free or turn it into a million-dollar moment. We make or break these moments by our perception of time, how we value it, and, most importantly, how we manage it.
What separates the masters of time management from the novice is simple: Masters know, understand, and leverage the power of time. Every moment is spent looking for problems and turning them into opportunities. Plans are devised with intention and strategy to capture the small, necessary steps that create major, benefiting solutions. Masters know which items are the most important to focus on in their practice, while leaving room for urgent and unpredictable events.
Effective time managers experience exceptional productivity, high rewards, calm schedules, less stress, confidence, and increased profits. They are happier in life, because they have time to explore hobbies outside of their practice, family moments are never missed, and healthy living is a lifestyle.
Becoming a master time manager starts with the three P's: problem-solve, plan, and prioritize.
Every office has problems, but no one wants to admit it, share them with others, or face them head on. Without aggressively and actively searching out problems within your practice, you will miss the first step in time management and the opportunities that come along with problem solving.
Effective problem-solving involves four key steps. Do these on a regular basis:
Define the problem. Not as easy as it seems. Involve your team members to get their perspective.
Brainstorm alternatives. To think outside the box, ask people who think differently than you do, not like you. They may be a good complement to you. Ask them!
Decide on solutions. Divide your solutions into three categories: keep for immediate implementation, save for a later time, and revisit to see if it's worth looking into.
Implement a solution. Pick only one solution to implement at a time.
From the smallest change to the most radical, implementing a new solution within a practice can send a team spiraling out of control with emotions, worry, and uncertainty. It can derail a practice from meeting its goals for weeks if not properly managed. To avoid the negative elements associated with change, make sure you plan extensively and make a to-do list.
We are not talking about the strewn Post-it notes you have all over your desk, the pieces of scrap paper taped to your computer, or the reminders you keep (and never look at again) in Outlook. This is a to-do list like you've never used before -- a useful one.
Important components of a to-do list are as follows:
- Specific, small steps -- no generalizations
- Result-orientated and always linked to a goal
- In order of importance
- Measurable and tracked
The key for successful time managers is the ability to ultimately prioritize their time. Whether it's focusing on problem-solving, delegation, decision-making, planning, or goal setting, unless you know which component of time management is the most important for you in any moment, that moment is wasted.
The most popular prioritization tool used is linked to U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and made famous by Stephen Covey in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It's called the Urgent/Important Matrix. To truly leverage the power of this activity, extend one of your morning huddles by 20 to 30 minutes once a week and complete this matrix with your team.
Too often dentists are stressed because their teams are not focusing on what they feel is important or what is immediately needed for the business. This is because the team doesn't know what's necessary. You haven't made it clear and drawn it out for them. The Urgent/Important Matrix during a huddle provides clarity, direction, and ensures everyone is on the same page.
Putting it together
A time manager knows how to put all three of these components together into one, seamless enterprise. To get to that master level, do the following today:
Actively and aggressively look for problems throughout your office. Where there is a problem, there is an opportunity.
If you don't have morning and afternoon huddles with your team, start! Morning huddles are patient-focused, while afternoon huddles are business-centered. This is where you start to brainstorm alternatives and solutions.
Make a list of what's important and what's urgent using the Urgent/Important Matrix. If it's important, make it a priority. If it's urgent, get it done while also determining a way to manage and navigate the process for the future.
Jen Butler, MEd, certified professional coach (CPC), board-certified coach (BCC), has been working in the area of stress management and resiliency coaching for more than 20 years. To learn more about her services, programs, and the Jen Butler Practice Analysis, contact her at 623-776-6715 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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