Nine Tips on Better Time Management for Practitioners
Nine Tips on Better Time Management for Practitioners
by Honora Wolfe
As we get older, time becomes our most precious commodity. There is never enough and every piece of our work, every patient, every errand can become a burden on what seems to be our stretched-too-thin schedules. Our personal lives, our relationships, and our health may suffer the consequences. So, here are a few tips to help you keep yourself organized and your time managed in such a way that a bike ride, time with your family, a manicure, or a trip to your own massage therapist or acupuncturist (imagine that!) fits into your schedule with more ease. If you really get good at this, your schedule will feel more like easy, free-flowing qi than a rigid, “scheduled”, life.
1. Invest some time to plan each day.
At the end of each work day, take a few minutes to review and prioritize a to-do list for the next day’s work. Block out time for each task or set-of-tasks and put them onto/into your calendar or other planning software or system. The, when you come into work the next day, you can use your to-do list or planning calendar to keep yourself prioritized and on task.
2. Consolidate paper!
Eliminate all but one planning tool/software or calendar. Get rid of those little sticky notes, to-do lists, and scraps of paper. If you use planning or calendar software, try to integrate phone numbers into the software or into the calendar so you can reference them quickly.
3. Batch all the little tasks.
Bills to pay? Errands to run? Trying doing them all at once if you can. You might even take a ½ day per week and just do all your errands at that time, both personal and professional. Do the same for phone calls that you need to make or emails to answer, creating a block of time on your calendar to get them done. You cannot imagine how good it feels to get your most-dreaded marketing phone call out of the way by 10AM! Or, take twenty minutes at the end of each day to call patients, both checking on the new ones that just came in or contacting the old ones that you have not seen for months.
4. Keep quiet.
See what happens if, for one week, you never talk to your patients or your staff and colleagues about anything other than the care of your patients. No movies you’ve seen, gossip about the neighbors, what’s happening with your son’s soccer team, just your patient’s health and care. Most people in our profession are too friendly and, as such, we get sucked into talking to our patients about everything under the sun. Just think what it would be like if you gained back 5-15 minutes from every patient visit! You could do more marketing, see another patient if you don’t need to do any marketing, or go to that yoga class you’ve been thinking about. Learning how to control your own talking and the talking of your patients without being rude, can be a huge boon to you personally and to your practice.
5. Never handle a piece of mail more than once.
Read it and respond, pay the bill, file the report, recycle the paper, or do whatever is required, and then forget it. If you go to the office early, take time to go through and process the mail. That way it does not pile up on your desk and get lost. Create an “end-of-day or end-of-week” file for any pieces that require more time or thought. Look through the file at least once per week and decide what you want to do with that piece of information and then do it. This is another powerful tool for maintaining order on your desk and in your brain.
6. Can you say yes to this one?
Do more than a few of your emails and phone conversations begin with “I’m sorry I didn’t get back to your sooner, but...”? If so, you may really need the above suggestions!
7. Find some supplies to help you stay organized....
Take a trip to the closest Crate & Barrel, OfficeMax, or other store with supplies for helping people stay organized. Think about the ways in which you like to store and retrieve information and what your personal habits are in your office. Spend a little time and money choosing and purchasing some items to help you stay organized. Choose ones that you really like so that you will actually use them!
8. What could be automated?
These days almost everything except treating your patients can be done online! Appointment scheduling for your patients, banking (automatic monthly payments, payroll deposits), purchasing supplies, can be done by your computer with a small outlay for software or monthly payments for various functions.Even some marketing functions can be automated with regular email marketing companies. What could you set up so that you only have to think about it once a month or once a year?
9. Read up.
Really want the low down on organizational skill and time management? Get a book by Peter Gordon, one of the best time-management gurus out there.
I hope one or two of these ideas help you get more organized and give you the time you need to reach your goals, grow your practice, or just relax more often, more quickly. For more tips on growing your practice and managing it efficiently, keep you eye open for my book, Points for Profit: The Essential Guide to Practice Success for Acupuncturists by Honora Wolfe, Eric Strand, and Marilyn Allen, 4th edition!
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