Time management is essential for any dental office. Balancing clients while maintaining the business side of things can be tricky when you’re trying to manage your time as a doctor and business owner.
You’re probably on top of your time management as a dentist, but maybe you’re having difficulty with the balance of running your clinic. Don’t worry—you’re not alone. Every business owner struggles with time management at one point or another.
Think of this article as a guide for you to identify your strengths and edges for time management in your practice.
If you think, “yes, we’re totally on top of that,” then it’s one of your strengths, and you should keep doing what you’re doing. But if you look at a section and think, “oooh, we could use some work here,” then it’s an edge, and hopefully, we can provide some guidance for moving forward.
The first step toward effectively managing your practice is to choose a planning system that works for you and your staff. Whether you create a binder that details your daily, weekly, and monthly task breakdowns or you use a digital system, having a system that keeps you accountable can make a huge difference in your clinic’s time management.
But the keyword here is that it works for you. Your friend can swear up and down that their digital system works for them, but if you prefer a whiteboard wall calendar or another method, then stick with that.
Your planning system should be easy to read, update, and follow. Part of your system should be developing habits associated with maintaining your schedule.
If you don’t have a planning system, you can talk to your office members about what would work best for them. Then you can try out a couple of methods to see how it works for everyone.
If you already have a planning system in place, you should evaluate its effectiveness and consider whether it’s time for an upgrade.
At some point, you probably set your monthly and yearly goals for your practice. A great way to manage your time is to plan steps to take to achieve your goals.
Once you have your primary goal set, you can start creating tasks that work toward that goal and create smaller jobs that work toward the bigger tasks. Beginning with your goal and working backward for long-term projects helps you see the big picture.
Planning forward is good for short-term projects, but planning backward creates more results-driven tasks and helps you develop a structure for long-term growth.
On a day-to-day basis, you’ll have plenty of things to check off your list. At the top of each day, it’s helpful to create a to-do list that gives you a prioritized order of taking care of your jobs.
Creating a list that helps you prioritize your daily tasks gives you a clear direction so when you have time to tick something off, you don’t have to wonder about what to do next.
Your top priorities should be things that you need to get done by the end of the day, and farther down the list are things you want to accomplish. Be realistic about your time. If necessary, you can delegate some of the essential tasks (but more on that in a bit).
We want to start by clarifying that it is still crucial for you to take breaks. Working all through the day would be draining, and you need to be your best self when treating patients.
You can take advantage of the time you don’t have with patients to accomplish your non-clinical tasks. Or you can set aside a half-hour to an hour block of time each workday to focus on administrative tasks.
While you may hesitate to take that much time away from your patients each day, taking some time every day can keep the administrative tasks from piling up. Remember that taking care of your practice is just as important as caring for your patients because you can’t properly take care of your patients if you fall behind on your administrative work.
Of course, you shouldn’t have to do everything on your own. Yes, you run the practice, but you have a team of people who are all on your side.
Delegating non-clinical tasks to other staff members can help you get through everything you need to accomplish in a workday.
You can either rotate assignments among staff members or include a list of tasks each person is responsible for in their job description. This helps you ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.
We understand if you identify as a perfectionist and want to take care of everything on your own. But you can accomplish so much more in your day if you spread the tasks out among your entire staff rather than trying to tackle your to-dos yourself.
Part of feeling comfortable when delegating tasks is giving your employees the tools they need to take care of everything. Cross-training is the process of providing all of your employees basic instruction in multiple areas of office operation. This way, more than one person can carry out administrative tasks.
If your employees are cross-trained, you don’t have to worry about people taking a vacation or calling in sick. When one person is out or occupied, another staff member can step in and take care of their responsibilities.
Identify potential areas for overlap, then take the time to train your crew in these different areas.
Time studies are evaluating how much time is spent on various parts of running your office. Time studies effectively identify potential areas for growth to save time for your team and your patients.
Dental offices should perform time studies at least once a year. As you move forward, you can compare your time management year-to-year to analyze what’s helped you maximize your efficiency.
For example, you may realize that patients spend a lot of time in the waiting room because they have to complete paperwork. To limit the amount of time they’re in the waiting room, you can send out their paperwork in advance so they can complete it before their appointment.
Now that you have a system for planning, it’s crucial to have strategies for taking care of your paperwork, emails, and files.
Dental offices have a plethora of paperwork, and you have to know how to take care of it before it piles up. Time management experts often suggest that it’s best to complete tasks immediately if they can be taken care of within a couple of minutes when it comes to paperwork. We get that procrastination can be tempting when you have a busy day, but getting it done immediately gets it off your plate.
Now that emails are an essential part of conducting business, you need to have a system for managing and answering emails. Decide who is in charge of managing the primary clinic email, and let them be the person who checks it throughout the day and responds accordingly.
And last but not least, you have to create a system for filing your paperwork that makes everything easily accessible. You can have different files for different aspects of the business, such as current patients, bills, and ideas. If you’ve streamlined your filing cabinet system, then keep working with it. But if you have trouble finding the papers you need, it may be time to adopt a cloud-based filing application to digitize your files.
This may sound counterintuitive to time management in the office, but it’s essential to put your work aside when the workday is done.
Having a strict cut-off time keeps you from getting burned out when burning the candle at both ends. When you’re not at the office, you should be doing things that make you happy. That way, when you enter the office to work, you’ll feel refreshed and more productive.
The best part of living in the modern world is that technology can help us manage our time better. Automating tasks can help you accomplish more in your day.
For example, you can employ a software to set up automated compliance tasks and maintenance events for your medical devices. This helps you take care of your expensive equipment and monitor for any potential issues without taking out any extra time in your busy day.
UptimeHealth has everything you need to make your office more efficient by streamlining some of your processes through automation. Learn more about our solutions or start your free demo.