How productive you are directly impacts your practice's bottom line. However, staying on task can be challenging for busy dentists who may always feel like they’re being pulled in multiple directions. These tips can help you to stay on track and focused when it counts.
1. Create a List for the Day
If you're like most dental professionals, there's never truly a point you can reach where you'll be "done" with everything you have to do. Rather, the list is ongoing. If you're constantly looking at the big picture, it's easy to become overwhelmed.
Instead, approach each day individually and create a to-do list specifically for that day. Make sure the number of tasks you include and the time allotted for each is reasonable. Prioritize time-sensitive or urgent tasks, and leave easier tasks for the end of the day. Write your list down and put it somewhere you can access it often throughout the workday.
2. Eliminate Distractions
Distractions like smartphones and social media can quickly dampen your productivity. Even if you feel like you just check your phone or your email once or twice throughout the day, chances are you spend more time distracted by it than you think. Take steps to eliminate distractions for yourself and your office staff.
Create a no-phones policy while employees are working to help them stay focused on the task at hand, and be sure to follow it yourself. Install software that restricts access to certain websites on company computers, like Facebook, YouTube, browser games, and other common time-wasting websites.
3. Be Aware of Your Situation and Make Changes as Needed
Situational awareness is often key in a busy dental practice because even when you create a rock-solid plan for the day, circumstances can change. This often requires you to enact a change of plans to accommodate the new status quo. For example, if one of your hygienists calls off, this may place an additional burden on other team members. The increased patient load on fewer employees can slow down your schedule and lengthen patient wait times. In this case, you may want to ask your front desk staff to call patients and ask if they'd be willing to reschedule. Ideally, you're aware of the status quo in your office at all times so you can make quick decisions as needed.
4. Give Yourself Breaks
It may sound counter-intuitive to suggest taking breaks to increase productivity, but overworking yourself leads to reduced efficiency. When you're tired or overwhelmed, it's more difficult to think clearly or work quickly. This may cause your appointments to run long, resulting in patients having to wait longer than usual. Instead, schedule time in your day to take regular breaks.
Get something to eat and drink, stretch your legs, and if the weather is appropriate, get outside for some sunshine and fresh air. Even just ten minutes twice a day staggered with your lunch break can keep you feeling refreshed enough to power through the workday.
5. Reduce Cancellations and No-Shows with Automated Software
Appointment cancellations and no-shows can stop productivity in its tracks. Take action to reduce missed appointments without devoting additional manpower to calling and confirming appointments by using automated dental software.
This increases the likelihood that you'll know ahead of time if a patient is unable to make it to their appointment so the slot can be filled. Patients are less likely to reach back out to your office to cancel their office visit in advance if it requires them to call you back.
6. Allow Enough Time in Between Appointments
One of the biggest challenges for dental practice owners is accurately estimating procedure times. It's difficult to anticipate complications that can extend the length of treatment. Scheduling your patients too close together can result in long wait times for patients and overtime for your employees. On the other hand, scheduling them too far apart leaves your office with too much downtime. Every so often, you should gather data from your past schedules to determine the average appointment length for certain procedures. Keep close to that time when making appointments of that same type, but add a few minutes as a buffer just in case.
7. Delegate When You Can
To save time and energy, it's important that you delegate as much as possible to trustworthy employees who are trained to take on the additional responsibility. While there are many things that you won't be able to pass the buck on, you should be trying to optimize your workload to include only tasks that no other team member would be able to correctly and effectively complete.
Consider hiring a dental associate if your practice is on the cusp of needing another dentist to handle patient volume, and make sure your dental assistants are well-trained to anticipate and provide you with exactly what you need during procedures.
8. Manage Your Team Effectively
While it may seem that you have little time in between patient appointments to focus on the management of your internal affairs, it's often critical that you don't lose sight of where your team is at and what you can do to help them accomplish their daily, monthly, and annual objectives.
Host a short team meeting fifteen minutes before your first appointment to go over priorities and goals for the day. Every week, host a longer team meeting that focuses on the bigger picture versus day-to-day tasks. Give your staff the opportunity to voice questions and concerns, and if it becomes clear that your team needs more support, schedule a separate meeting to discuss any specific matters that need to be handled. Foster a positive work environment and encourage your employees to try to do their best.
Learn More About Keeping Your Dental Practice Productive
Your practice's most valuable asset may be its employees, but they can sometimes be difficult to manage when you're focused on providing patient care. Our free guide to managing people in your office can help you learn successful ways to keep your team on task and maximize your available resources. Download your copy here.
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Treloar & Heisel, Inc. and its divisions do not offer practice management advice. Please consult a professional concerning this topic.