Have you ever wondered, “How are all these other dentists taking so many vacations!?” while you feel stuck at the office so you can make ends meet? It may feel like adding more days and more hours is the only way to increase your production and achieve success, but remember what Kirk says: “At the end of the day, it’s still about life.” Production isn’t everything—you need to think about your time outside of work and make sure you’re giving yourself a life. It may seem as if this means you need to sacrifice your production to take time off, but the truth is that you can produce more while actually giving yourself more time back. The key is working smarter, not harder.
Think About Your Goals
I see so many practices think about their goals as their yearly goal divided into 12 months. Then when a doctor plans to be gone for a couple weeks next month, they just plan on not hitting that goal and instead trying to work extra hard this month to make up for it. My suggestion to these practices is to think about their goals in smaller terms, be it per week, day, or even hour. That gives them much more flexibility when it comes to working around absences.
Something that we use at ACT is a 90-Day Score Card. We do everything on a 13-week interval because it’s an amount of time that everyone can manage. And what you need to consider is there’s a certain amount of revenue that makes your practice work in those 13 weeks, so you need to hit that number if you want to stay successful. But as you become better, you’ll find that you’ll be able to take a week off and only work 12 weeks in that period, and slowly you’ll see yourself being able to free up more and more time while still hitting that goal. It’s just a matter of thinking better about your goals and planning out your time.
Plan Your Year
If you want to give yourself time away without sacrificing your production, it’s important to make a plan for the year so you can get your life in place and still hit your goal. When you plan your year out in advance, it makes you think strategically about building a schedule. Start by sitting down with a calendar and marking off all the days you’ll be gone for family vacations, holidays, or CE, and use that as the foundation for your schedule. It’s also important to do the same with your team members, as it will help you determine areas where you’re light on coverage, giving you the opportunity to mitigate any issues before they come up. You’ll find that the whole year runs more smoothly when you plan in advance, as you’re not trying to make up time or hit your summer goals later on in the year.
Bear in mind that creating this schedule doesn’t etch it in stone; you need to remain flexible because as we’ve seen over the last couple of years, there are always unforeseen events that complicate your plans. You may need to adjust your daily goal or work a day you originally thought you’d have off, but when you have countermeasures in place, it reduces the chance of completely ruining your planned vacation.
Trust Your Team
There’s a simple truth that many don’t seem to understand: dentists can go away, and the practice still does well. If you’ve trained your team well, they’ll be able to handle your absence. A lot of the offices I work with will use team members from other departments to provide coverage when there’s an absence, and it really gives the doctor the ability to check out for a bit. I also see practices utilize part team people to help fill any gaps, such as a hygienist who only works two days per week. You put pressure on the business when you’re short-staffed, so it’s vital to have contingencies in place to cover yours or a team member’s absence.
The average general practitioner works 209 days, so think about how much you want to work. Most dentists spend more time planning their vacations than they do their lives, but planning out your life enables you to take more vacations. And even though you’re taking more time for yourself, you’re still producing more! If you want to work smarter, you need to put in the work, so sit down with a calendar, think about the time you want, write it down, and plan accordingly. Like Kirk says, “Dentistry is a great profession, but you have to control it. You can’t let it control you.” Let the ACT team help you control your practice by working with you to set your goals and make sure you have enough time to live your life. When you think smarter, it unlocks your ability to have a Better Practice, and a Better Life!
Angela Heathman is a Lead Practice Coach at ACT.