Divide and Conquer Your YearDec 23, 2022
It may sound great to have a massive plan of all your goals for the year, but the truth is you just can’t stay organized and on target when you’re looking at such a large picture. There are too many goals to keep track of, so the practice becomes a mess, you lose your focus, and mistakes start to happen. I like to say, “Drink from a garden hose, not a fire hose,” because the more pressure there is, the more difficult it will be. Instead of looking at the year as one unit with a bunch of priorities, break it into four 90-day segments, because, according to Kirk, “Human beings can only really focus for a maximum of 13 weeks.” More than that and they tend to lose steam and get distracted by other things.
Make Time for Planning
The key to planning strategically is intentionally pausing. Give yourself the time and space to talk about the previous quarter—what worked, what didn’t, and what needs to change—and start building new plans for the future. At ACT, this takes form in our Team Week, which is coming up in January. Once every quarter we shut down the business for a week and get together to work on a plan for the next quarter. Before the entire team shows up, the leadership team comes together for an entire day just to work on alignment, which helps the planning process go much more smoothly. When we do plan, we plan hard, spending a full day coming up with our priorities for the next 13 weeks, and celebrating our hard work at the end of the day. I think it’s important to celebrate, because not only have we put in some incredible work, but we’re also getting to see people we don’t normally get to see. It’s a shot in the arm that truly re-energizes us.
Less is More
When we allow ourselves to fully plan out what we’re going to do for the next 13 weeks, it lets us achieve success in a way that we never did before. Instead of drinking from that fire hose, focus on only a few priorities for the next quarter—no more than five. During one recent Team Week, we came up with two goals for our current quarter, and after about three weeks, one of them is almost done. Too many tasks will drive your team crazy, because one of the quickest ways to kill motivation is to never complete things, and when you have a giant list of goals without a real plan, it’s a certainty that something isn’t getting finished.
Focus on what’s most important—what’s going to make everyone’s lives better—and create a plan to execute those priorities over the next 13 weeks. I’m going to challenge you to go even further: plan to accomplish those goals in 10 weeks instead of 13. You never know what’s going to happen, so it’s smart to give yourself a buffer so you don’t end up behind on the last day due to some unforeseen event—you can’t say you didn’t get it done because of other things going on.
Watch it Work
The beauty of this tool is its simplicity—it’s a scorecard that you can rinse and repeat every 13 weeks. Imagine you’re a young dentist with 30-40 years of practice ahead of you…that’s an incredible amount of time where you’re already ahead of the game with an organized and predictable practice. You can use it over and over, and the more you lean into this, the more confident your team will become; they’ll see that you can actually follow through on a plan and accomplish your goals.
Carve out some prime time once per quarter, even if it’s just one day. Shut down the practice, use that day to make a statement that you’re going to make a great plan for the next quarter, and then do something fun afterwards to celebrate. Shutting down for a day may seem frightening, but the organization and predictability you’re going to get is worth more than the dollars from production. Like Kirk says, “When we fix the airplane while it’s on the ground, it flies better,” because you need time without patient distractions to truly work on the practice. Not to mention, your team will love having time when they’re not working in patients’ mouths! Landing the airplane and working on it as a team makes a huge statement that the team comes first. You hear people say all the time, “My team comes first,” but few people put their money or their time where their mouth is.
When you have a long, elaborate plan for the year, you’re going to have to change your plans based on the energy in the practice or any shiny objects that pop up from week to week. Breaking up the year into 90-day chunks with their own sets of goals is, as Gino Wickman writes in Traction, a system for managing human energy and keeping people focused. We simply don’t have the attention spans or the energy to stay focused for longer than 13 weeks, so don’t try to take on too much.
When you’re only focused on what’s happening in the next 13 weeks, it’s so much easier to get everyone aligned around a couple priorities and then achieve them. You don’t have to do this on your own, so schedule a call with the ACT coaches today! They’ll help you find your focus and give your best effort to the things that really matter so you can build a Better Practice and a Better Life!
Jenni Poulos is a Lead Practice Coach at ACT Dental