Manage your time to maximise your profits

One of the biggest complaints from doctors and dentists is the lack of time within working hours for tasks other than treating patients. Time to work on strategy planning, recruitment and team development or indeed, just leaving the practice at a sensible hour. Time management is a key skill required to run a business successfully and no matter how long you have been trading there is always more to learn. Fortunately, there are lots of practical tips and tools to ensure you are using your time effectively and in turn, maximising profits.

The importance of time management

“Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else” – Peter F Drucker Using time efficiently within your business can be the difference between: • Profit v Loss • Productivity v Stress • Growth v Decline Effective time management needs to run right through your business too, it can’t just be down to one or two people keeping the ship afloat. Your team needs to be educated on time management and helped to develop strategies that assist them on a daily basis with the following:
  1. Planning and goal setting
  2. Prioritisation
  3. Managing distractions
  4. Avoiding procrastination

1: Planning and goal setting – for the day and week ahead

“Either you run the day or the day runs you” – Jim Rohan Imagine that every patient turns up late and his or her allocated appointment takes double the length of time you had scheduled. Your practice would be chaos. You therefore need to take control of your day and ensure that tasks that are set in stone, for example, patient appointments, are managed according to allocated time and then where you have gaps in your diary you can fill these with other tasks according to priority.

The jam jar test

Think of your day as a jam jar where space available represents time available. 1) At the start of your day fill the jam jar with a ROCK for every scheduled task – ROCKS represent tasks that are required, important and typically either fee earning or driving the business forward in another way. 2) The space left in the jar can then be filled with SAND for all the smaller tasks – SAND represents tasks that would be good to tick off the list but are perhaps not so important for that day. Too many ROCKS and they won’t fit into the jar in the first place – so don’t over commit. Too much SAND and it is likely that your day is not being filled with tasks that are “worthwhile”.

2: Prioritisation – Urgent V Important

“There is never enough time to do everything, but there is time to do the most important thing.” Brian Tracy Prioritisation, the process of choosing which task is more important than another, is one of the hardest parts of time management. Consider all tasks in your working day and place them in one of the above boxes. Download your Time Management Prioritisation template here. Don’t forget to share it with your team to use too! 1) Urgent and Important – strictly speaking these should be high priority tasks – your ROCKS. However, working on any “urgent” tasks creates a stressful situation so it doesn’t benefit to have all tasks in this box. 2) Important but not urgent – time needs to be planned in the diary for these tasks else eventually they will become urgent. This in fact, whilst not urgent, is the optimum box to be working in. Tasks are “important” so probably related to fee earning or business development but are not “urgent” so can be worked on strategically and systematically. 3) Urgent but not important – this is a dangerous box for tasks to be in. Because of the perceived “urgency” they often replace tasks in box 2, which are actually important. Often these are tasks that are delegated or set up by other people, for whom they may be “important”. It is OK to have a few tasks falling here but keep an eye on the level. 4) Not urgent and not important – if a task falls into Box 4 then assess if it needs to be done at all, probably not. If you start to use this mindset on a daily and weekly basis you will be surprised how much difference it can make to your productivity, which typically has a knock on effect on your profit.

3: Managing distractions

“By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination” Christopher Columbus Distractions are everywhere and it does take some efforts to remain focused. Becoming aware of distractions is a good starting point to being able to avoid them. One tip is to work out what time of day you are most focused and productive and plan important tasks that require thinking power for those times. Of course, patient appointments are likely to be scheduled all day but even these there can be some care taken in the diary to not book at say 8am if you are not a morning person. Why not discuss this with your team at the next weekly meeting and discuss ideas to assist with managing distractions within the practice?

4: Avoiding procrastination

“I think I still have some unfinished procrastination to do from yesterday!” Procrastination is a killer for effective time management as hours are wasted actually avoiding a task that may only take 20 minutes. Again knowing and understanding the tasks get continually put to one side is the first step to making a change. Perhaps within your team people can “trade” tasks – if someone dislikes one task, it may be right up the street of someone else. Another good tip here is to do the task you dislike the most, first. Then your mind is free to work enjoyably through the day or week without constantly having a nag that there is that other thing yet to do. Figurit are specialist accountants to the dental and medical professions. Time management is a frequent grind for many of our clients so we offer plenty of systems and templates to make your life as easy as possible. Don’t forget to download the Time Management Prioritisation Grid here and share it with your team. T: 020 7376 9333 E: info@lansdellrose.co.uk

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