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Episode #602: Change Your Hours, Change Your Life! With Courtney Dalton

Do you like working late hours, missing family time, and not having a life? If your work hours aren’t working for you, it’s time to change it! To help simplify the process, Kirk Behrendt brings back Courtney Dalton, one of ACT’s amazing coaches, to share three steps you can follow for the schedule you’ve always dreamed of. Change your hours, and you will change your life! To start taking control of your schedule, listen to Episode 602 of The Best Practices Show!

Episode Resources:

Main Takeaways:

Time is the new rich!

Prioritize creating a work-life balance.

Set up a scheduling agreement with your team.

Protect your schedule by always sticking to the schedule.

Run with your new schedule. You won’t ever regret changing it!


“You spend so much time with your work family — and it is a family because you spend a significant portion, not even of your day, but of your life, in your practice doing what you love to do, which is great. But there’s a balance that we’re probably missing, and that’s to be able to be present for your family and for your life outside your practice and outside your work obligations. So, it’s really important to strike that balance, and find your “why”, and take the steps to make the change.” (3:03—3:36) -Courtney

“Dentists have been classically misled to believe that they have to expand hours to attract patients to do more dentistry. That is just not true. Maybe when you start, to get it rolling. But eventually, the mark of a truly professional practice is when people come to you because of you during the hours that you work.” (4:21—4:42) -Kirk

“There are other people that will teach you, ‘Expand your hours. Work on Saturdays,’ and all that stuff, to grow your practice and grow your gross production. That is true. It will work because you’ll be seeing a lot of different insurances and all those kinds of things to grow that. What you lend yourself to when you have less desirable hours is less desirable talent. The best people in the world know that they’re good. So, if I’m a great hygienist or a great chairside assistant in your town, I know I’m good, and I’m going to go to a practice that values my contribution and the fact that I want a life. People don’t think about this when they expand their hours. They just think of the financial opportunity. But you also have to staff a practice. When you’re writing off a third, you’ve got to staff a practice that has to produce a third more. And it’s naturally going to put you in some waters that are dangerous out there. So, I think changing your hours to fit your practice life is one of the greatest things you’ll ever do.” (4:46—5:51) -Kirk

“Time is the new rich. I’m going to say it over, and over, and over again. People that have the ability to do what they want with their time are the richest people ever. I don’t care how much dentists produce. Actually, that’s the most boring conversation of all time, how much you produce, because most people are writing off a third — or more — which means you’re working one out of every three days for free. So, that doesn’t tell me anything. I think if you really want to change your life, you have to change your hours. Everybody has 24 hours. What separates the best from the rest is how you use those 24 hours.” (5:56—6:30) -Kirk

“We just had an amazing ACT client post a photo on social media of her three beautiful daughters. The caption said something along the lines of, ‘The gift of time. Isn’t it wonderful to have this gift of time to be present for your family, for your kids?’ I immediately jumped on — and I beat Christina to it — and I said, ‘Time is the new rich. This is what we fight for.’ Getting more hours in your day is the biggest victory because it puts you in such a healthier spot.” (6:35—7:07) -Courtney

“Knock on wood, none [of the practices that changed their hours have crashed] — none of them. No one has ever changed their hours and said, ‘Man, I wish I could work until 7:00 p.m. again. Man, I wish I could come in at 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday in the summer.’ We don’t see that. Maybe it’s because we have really great clients, but I think it’s really because our clients see the value in that shift. And really, you can’t physically be present at work past those 32 hours. For some, that’s actually less, I think. We hit a wall at a certain point in the day, in the week, and we can’t be our best selves. And if you’re giving it all at work, then you don’t have anything left in the bucket to give after those work hours. So, is it hard to do it? Conceptually and physically, no, it’s not. I could almost guarantee that every person listening to this show right now is like, ‘Oh, I would love to do that.’ Maybe where they’re stuck is, ‘How do I get there?’” (7:23—8:27) -Courtney

“When you change your hours and you explain to them why, people will go, ‘Okay.’ Here’s a second thought. Don’t get into the how. Just explain the why. When the why gets clear, the how gets easy. We’ve had so many dentists take photos of little kids that are important to them, put them right on the counter, and say, ‘Mrs. Jones, I’m going to point to this photo, and I’m going to let you know we’re going to be changing our hours, and that’s the reason why. Those gorgeous little faces are the reason we’re changing our hours.’ And people will get it. They will all get it. If they don’t get it, I really wonder if this is somebody you should give up your dinner time for to serve.” (9:06—9:40) -Kirk

“Never tell anybody what you don’t have. You only tell them what you do have. So, when people say, ‘Can you see me at 8:00 at night?’ you don’t go down that road. Say, ‘Mrs. Jones, unfortunately, we cannot. But here’s what we do have. We have early morning hours, and I can see you at 7:00 a.m. Let’s see, I’ve got 7:00 a.m. next Tuesday.’ You see how I didn’t even invite you into the conversation of why I don’t have evening hours? Now, you can point to photos if you want to go down that road. But ultimately, we’re going to stick to the why. When the why gets clear, the how gets easy.” (9:46—10:20) -Kirk

“The first thing that you have to do is make the balance of work, home life, and personal life a priority. You have to decide and commit that this is a change that you want to make and that you’re ready to make. Work is important. It’s always going to be there. So is your family. And although they’ll be there, they’re going to get a little older. Your kids are going to get older. Life moves on. Everything is going to change. So, if you can find the balance between work and home and figure out how to be present for both, that’s part one. And really, before you even get there, you have to decide, ‘I’m ready to do this. This is for me, and I want to do it.’ And I think that you have to choose what that schedule looks like based on what works for you, and maybe even what works for your team. Take a few things into consideration.” (10:26—11:22) -Courtney

“[One practice] decided [to change their hours to] 8:00 to 4:00. Here’s why. They’re a big team. They have four doctors, a lot of wonderful hygienists, a lot of great assistants, admin — great team. Seven to 3:00 didn’t work for them. The doctors are very passionate about family — their own and their teams’ — and they have a lot of parents that are on the team. Something that they thought about in regard to changing hours was, ‘Our team is going to be able to be present for either school drop-off or school pick-up. As a group with some of their team members present and the doctors present, they talked it out. The team members vocalized and said, ‘I think drop-off is going to work out better. I would like to be present at drop-off.’ Done. Eight to 4:00 was agreed. It was presented, it had input from the team, input from the doctors, and they start that change in about four weeks. I’m so excited for them.” (12:00—13:01) -Courtney

“When you said changing the hours isn’t going to be right for all of your patients, I agree. And here’s what happens. In that very same practice, a patient was finishing their hygiene appointment and they were getting scheduled. This particular patient wanted that 6:00 p.m. time slot. They have one day a week where they work until 7:00 at night. This was a patient that wanted the 6:00 timeframe, and this patient did not want to schedule. He didn’t want to hear about the value. He just saw that, ‘I can’t get my 6:00. I’m not going to schedule.’ So, the hygienist walked him up to the front. And, of course, there was still conversation. There was the doctor exam. There was still business as usual. By the time that patient got from the hygiene chair up to the front desk, the hygienist told the team member that was checking the patient out that, ‘He’s decided that our new hours don’t work for him.’ That patient put his hand up and stopped her, and said, ‘You know what? Just give me the last appointment of the day. Give me the 3:00. I’ll make it work.’ Sometimes, they just need to sit on it for a little bit and decide, ‘You know what? I do value your services. You are wonderful. I will make it work.’ I think that’s amazing.” (13:08—14:26) -Courtney

“One of the best things one of my mentors ever said to me was, ‘You only get 16 summers. That’s all you get with your kids.’ My first thought was, ‘That’s terrible. Why would you say that?’ He said, ‘Because it’s true. You get 16. That’s all you get. Make sure you utilize them.’ And what’s so cool, if you’re listening to this podcast, we’re in dentistry — there are no rules. There’s none. You can have whatever hours you want. You can finish whenever you want. And patients don’t want to leave work. You can say, ‘Listen, let’s get you started early in the morning and minimize your time away from work. You could probably be at work by 9:00 or 10:00 a.m.’ All you have to do is believe you can do it, and you’ll find that people will follow you.” (15:06—15:49) -Kirk

“Once you decide that you’re going to make the change, and you do make that change, now, you need to protect it. Protect your schedule. I am a big fan of intentionally blocking your schedule. This does so many things for productivity, for predictability, for balance. It is absolutely the way to go, especially when you’re thinking about adjusting your hours, starting earlier, finishing earlier. Once you’ve set whatever your hours are going to be, carve out your schedule because you want to make sure that we’re going to hit our production numbers — which, side note, you will. You want to make sure the patient flow is still going to work for your practice between the restorative side and hygiene side. So, you really have to protect the hours and stick to what those blocks are going to be in order to ensure predictability and productivity.” (15:54—16:54) -Courtney

“Scheduling agreements are the agreements that you make with your team for how you’re going to treat your schedule. So, where do the emergencies go? What is an emergency? What is this high-production block for? When could we lift it, and what will we fill it with if we have to? [Scheduling agreements are] basic agreements around how your framework, your schedule, is going to be honored by each and every person on your team. So, once you decide you want to make the shift, once you make the shift, once you set the schedule, now we’re going to sit down with your team and really iron out the details. Go back to your why. ‘Why did we do this in the first place? That’s why you can’t move these blocks around. That’s why you have to stay committed to the framework that you implemented.’” (19:42—20:35) -Courtney

“[If you think your schedule is out of control], it probably is out of control because you’re not doing it the right way — and that’s okay. We don’t know what we don’t know. A lot of our doctors are S [personality] styles. They’re caring, they’re compassionate, they’re healers. And that’s wonderful. So, they’re yesers. ‘Yes, we can fit you in. Yes, we can put you there. Yes, that’s okay. I can be in five places at once. Just do it.’ The doctor is usually the saboteur of the whole schedule — but not maliciously. It’s with good intent, and it’s the reason why we need scheduling agreements so that we can remind Dr. Smith, ‘Hey, remember when we sat down, and we said this is the schedule that works for us and for our patients?’ Just give them a little reminder of what that was in the first place. I have several doctors that are guilty of this.” (20:46—21:37) -Courtney

“You have to have scheduling agreements in place. You have to have agreements with your team. You have to put a container around work because if you don’t control it, it controls you. You never say no, and you keep saying yes. And what you do when you say yes to patients is you say no to your family. You say, ‘I’m working so hard for you guys.’ And your family says to you one day, ‘Oh, thank you so much for working so hard for us. We don’t see you.’ Don’t get yourself down that road. Remember, you’re a dentist. You make the rules. It doesn’t have to be super hard. You can put a container around work, and you have people come in your schedule.” (21:49—22:27) -Kirk

“Once you make the balancing of your schedule a priority, protect it, set up your agreements, now, run. Don’t walk. Don’t ever look back. Be super excited that you’re never going to regret making this change. There will never come a day when you say, ‘Boy, I wish I work till 7:00 on a Tuesday and I could miss T-ball, or I could miss volleyball, or I could miss the school concert.’ There will never be a day when you look back and regret making this change.” (22:33—23:07) -Courtney

“Dentists think in terms of exceptions. If you’re a dentist listening to this, here’s what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, ‘There’s one team member this is not going to work for,’ or, ‘There are four patients this is not going to work for,’ and you stop your life because of the exceptions. Trust me, the exceptions will follow you, in most cases. This is called leadership, and you have to lead your practice where you want to go so you have a life.” (24:44—25:09) -Kirk

“If you’re even mildly considering doing this, do it. Make the shift. Make the change. I had a team that made the shift from their normal 8:00 to 5:00. They pushed to 7:00 to 3:00 for a week because they were down a team member. It worked better for their schedule. By Wednesday, they decided they loved it, and they redid their entire schedule following that. Now, I’m not saying to do that all the time. But it’s amazing. Kirk, to your point, you only get 16 summers. You only have so much time. Don’t wish it away. Don’t bury yourself in what you have because you feel like you can’t get out of it — you can. We can help you. We can absolutely help get that balance and get the change for you so that you can have, as we love to say, a better practice and a better life.” (25:47—26:40) -Courtney

“When you change your hours, 7:00 to 3:00 or 8:00 to 4:00, you have a whole day after your day is done! People tell themselves, ‘I don’t have any time. I don’t have any time. I don’t have any time.’ That’s one of the biggest lies we can ever tell ourselves, is we don’t have any time. When you change your hours, you change your life, and you truly have a better practice and a better life.” (26:59—27:18) -Kirk


0:00 Introduction.

2:05 Courtney’s background.

2:52 Why it’s important to change your hours.

5:52 Time is the new rich.

7:08 Do practices that change their hours crash?

8:30 Don’t subscribe to self-imposed limitations.

10:20 Prioritize balancing work life and home life.

11:23 One way changing hours can benefit your practice.

13:01 Sometimes, patients need a little time to think.

14:30 You only get 16 summers.

15:50 Protect your schedule.

19:35 Scheduling agreements, explained.

20:35 Why your schedule is out of control.

22:28 Run with your new schedule.

23:07 Don’t overthink.

25:38 Last thoughts on changing your hours.

Courtney Dalton, BS, RDH Bio:

Courtney Dalton is a Lead Practice Coach who focuses on establishing a solid foundation in order for a practice to thrive. With over 15 years of experience in the dental industry, she is as passionate about patient care as she is about those who are providing it.

Courtney has an A.S. in Dental Hygiene from Manor College and a B.S. in Exercise Physiology from West Virginia University. Outside of coaching, she enjoys teaching group exercise classes and spending time with her husband, Dan, and children, Lola and Levi. 

Kirk Behrendt

Kirk Behrendt is a renowned consultant and speaker in the dental industry, known for his expertise in helping dentists create better practices and better lives. With over 30 years of experience in the field, Kirk has dedicated his professional life to optimizing the best systems and practices in dentistry. Kirk has been a featured speaker at every major dental meeting in the United States. His company, ACT Dental, has consistently been ranked as one of the top dental consultants in Dentistry Today's annual rankings for the past 10 years. In addition, ACT Dental was named one of the fastest-growing companies in the United States by Inc Magazine, appearing on their Inc 5000 list. Kirk's motivational skills are widely recognized in the dental industry. Dr. Peter Dawson of The Dawson Academy has referred to Kirk as "THE best motivator I have ever heard." Kirk has also assembled a trusted team of advisor experts who work with dentists to customize individual solutions that meet their unique needs. When he's not motivating dentists and their teams, Kirk enjoys coaching his children's sports teams and spending time with his amazing wife, Sarah, and their four children, Kinzie, Lily, Zoe, and Bo.