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Work smarter, not harder

Ah, the million pound question. How do you grow your business without compromising everything else in your life? The key is to work smarter, not harder.

As someone who works with small businesses to develop and grow, it’s critical that we take into account your 1 year, 5 year and long-term (exit) plan and how much can you feasibly take on yourself. Too often, my clients are coming to me with issues such as “How do I grow the business without sacrificing my family time or social life?” or “I’m working flat out in clinic, I’m burning out and not really seeing the rewards.” You shouldn’t have to see your life outside of clinic fall by the wayside in order to have a thriving business- so let’s talk about practical ways that will help you manage your time more effectively…. beginning with self discipline.

Self discipline is the key that enables you to organise your tasks and day effectively and make it home in time to put the kids to bed or spend some quality time with your partner. (Spoiler alert: Healthcare practitioners are humans too- You are allowed a life outside of clinic.)

Save the below blog to read later and read on to find out my simple strategies to work smarter, not harder.

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1. Plan Regularly

A major problem for most people is having too much work and not enough time to do it, and one of the best ways to manage your time is to plan your day. No matter how you juggle your schedule, the number of hours in the day will always remain the same. Think about it, if you knew what you had to do each day, if you’d broken it down into manageable tasks based on the time you have available to you, how would you feel? My guess is:

  • You’ll feel more in control, be more productive and more secure in your job.
  • You’ll get greater satisfaction from what you do.
  • You’ll give yourself more time to relax and enjoy life.

Remember: The number of hours in the day will always remain the same. That’s important to bear in mind, but I will caveat that statement- the number of patient contact hours may change so you need to be flexible and flow with your responsibilities!

So how can you effectively plan your day? My suggestion is that before you leave clinic for the evening, make a to-do list of all your unfinished business and projects, and what you need to carry on to the next day. Review the list, prioritise what needs to be done first and decide how much time you need to get each activity done.

By using a planner like our task planner or one that shows you a full week at a time, just 5 minutes on your plan before you go home at the end of the day will mean you arrive at clinic the next morning knowing exactly what it is you need to do that day and when you should complete the task by, removing the temptation to procrastinate or potter about on Facebook.

You will also benefit from planning as you can take small bites out of larger projects – more about that later. By planning you will also be able to be proactive rather than reactive which avoids any unnecessary stress; tasks like organising your clinic admin or finishing those GP letters will seem much easier when you’ve scheduled time to do them.

2. Prioritise: What are your high return on time-investment tasks?

Eighty percent of your accomplishments come from 20 percent of your efforts.
Strategically thinking, what 20 percent of your work is the most valuable to you and your clinic? My guess is, it’s going to be treating patients not fixing the printer or updating your Facebook page (Yes, Facebook is the biggest motivation-killer out there… which is why I mention it a lot!) Try to focus the lion’s share of your time and energy on the activity that gives you the highest return on your time investment, and shift other responsibilities on to reception or your associates. No man is an island, so don’t think you need to go it alone.

Learn to say “NO” to non­essential demands or pass them to others you trust.

3. Done is better than perfect.

Avoid wasting time perfecting every email, note or letter when you could spend the time more profitably on something else that has a higher return on time-investment. Ask someone to proof read emails or letters instead.

Tuck it, transfer it or trash it. Quickly glance over every piece of post and every memo or email message you get. If it looks as if it’s potentially important, file it right away in a folder marked “pending” or delegate it to someone else to take care of. If it’s not relevant or it’s something you’ll never look at again, trash it. Handle your post the same way at home.

If you work with others closely, check your emails first thing so you can re-prioritise your day, and then turn off those push notifications so you’re not being constantly interrupted. If your emails are not vital to your work then check them later on after finishing a difficult task as a brain changer task (more about these later)

4. Take more breaks: Respect your natural attention spans.

Stephen Covey tells a story about a woodcutter whose saw gets more blunt as time passes and yet he continues to struggle away, cutting down trees with a blunt saw. If only he would stop to sharpen his saw he’d save himself a lot of time and effort in the long run. The moral of the story? Take time to sharpen your own saw. Preserve your ability to practice and create more balance in your life by allowing yourself time to breathe and press pause.

Try working in short bursts by utilising a timer, set it for 15-25 minutes and when it goes off – take a break and stretch your legs, grab a drink or just sit for a few minutes to reset your attention span. If you’re really strapped for time, try switching to a different kind of task to give your mind a rest- we call these “brain changer tasks”. When you have lots of things to do, you can use small tasks like replying to an email or following up a phone call a chance for your brain to rest from the more strenuous tasks.

5. Chunk down your major projects

Divide large projects into manageable pieces and attack only one piece at a time in manageable chunks (no more than 30 minutes). Our goal-setting resource can help you work out the first stage of the big project and make what could seem a daunting prospect immediately more manageable.

6. Schedule Concentration Time

Block out some time every day when you can’t be disturbed except in an emergency. Use that time to get the most important tasks of the day done- preferably first thing in the morning so you’ve got the key bits out of the way first thing. Deter unwanted distractions by letting staff know what you plan to do and why – close the door to your office or clinic if you can or wear headphones to avoid distractions outside your door.

7. Stay Flexible

All your careful planning will be of little use if you assume that you can’t veer from the schedule you set, so don’t be too rigid. Instead, practice the art of effective procrastination. In other words, ask yourself, “Is putting off my next scheduled task and continuing what I’m doing an intelligent decision, or is it just a delay tactic?”

Limit the things you add to your to-do list otherwise you’ll just keep adding and adding, never reaching a point where you can stop and enjoy yourself… Which is the  whole reason why you are organising your time more effectively.

8. Prior preparation prevents poor performance

Finally, start your workday right—at home the night before. Prepare your breakfast/lunch for the next day, lay out your clothes and get your workbag organised. Then spend a smug and pressure-free hour or more doing things you enjoy before going to bed.

These suggestions for are for you to streamline your time, try some out and see whether it works for you. As an added bonus suggestion, review your treatment and product costs – do the math and work out how an extra £2.00 on your treatment cost would change your monthly takings. If there’s a benefit to you, discuss the idea to colleagues and plan how you would like to introduce the new fee AND when you will review costs again.

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