Ever feel like you’re running around like a headless chicken all day, putting out fires? Or maybe you feel like there are never enough hours in a day to get to the things that you need to do.
As a healthcare practitioner, your primary responsibility is to look after the clients in your care. But, while it is your primary focus, the reality is that there are a lot of other things that need to happen in the day-to-day routines of a private practice to keep it afloat and running smoothly.
In addition to seeing clients, there are always other supporting tasks such as administration, finance, CPD (continuing professional development) and marketing.
You have no doubt discovered that some areas of practice management come easier to you than others, some that play to your strengths and others that have you burying your head in the sand hoping they’ll go away.
Luckily, help is at hand; there are a number of tools, resources and automations that are available to help you improve efficiencies and manage your time more effectively.
Good time management offers two exciting benefits for health practitioners. First, you’ll free up more time to focus on your clients and, second, you’ll find that your practice becomes a calmer, more rewarding place to work.
These are six time management tips that you can start putting in place at no cost for your practice:
1. Calculate your hours of treatment (and be realistic)
In an ideal world, you’d arrive at your desk just as your first client for the day walks in the door. But, in reality, that’s just not feasible. You have paperwork to do, staff to manage and a myriad of other tasks clamouring for your attention.
But, your practice won’t survive if you don’t have at least a minimum number of hours a day allocated to seeing your clients. Work out what income you need to generate from your practice in order to keep the doors open and allocate time slots accordingly. You may also need to make updates to your treatment plans or make notes after each appointment, so remember to allow some time to get this done.
That said, you can’t work flat out without a break, and the admin does still need to happen. So, schedule in breaks and non-client admin time throughout the day.
2. Actively manage your diary
Practice management software can make a science out of managing your diary. With an integrated online diary, you can access your schedule at the click of a button (and your employees and colleagues can too). This is a more collaborative approach that can be further refined with automated appointment reminders, calendar updates and more.
An up-to-date diary will allow you to see at a glance exactly when you can expect to have some time on your hands to get to that ever-lengthening to-do list as well as keeping you on-track with the clients that you have coming up in the day.
3. Plan out a daily routine
A daily routine that you can stick to will revolutionise your practice. While tasks and to-do’s change from day to day, a set routine allows you to set up a schedule that maximises your productivity and gives you space to put in clear boundaries between working time and personal time. Instead of thinking about what you should be doing, having a structure in place makes your life easier and less stressful as you don’t have to constantly worry about whether you’ve forgotten something.
Developing your routines will take some time initially as you work out when it’s best to schedule clients and where there are natural dead times that can be filled productively with admin and paperwork. There are definitely some times that are better suited to certain tasks than others.
4. Keep a to-do list handy
If you’re at work, you want to use the time productively. There are many times when you’ll have periods of available time in between clients, so, if you know what tasks you have outstanding, you can tick off one or two a day and get on top of your admin once and for all.
At the mention of a to-do list, you might suddenly be drawing a blank, and while you know you have a million and one things to do, you probably can’t think of all of them right now.
These are seven different areas you can focus on when you draw up your to-do list:
- Sales and Marketing;
- Accounting and Finance;
- Consumer Care;
- HR & Compliance;
- Practice Management;
- Professional Development & Staff Training;
- Covid-19 Updates.
Once you have a full list written down, don’t give up! The list may be long, but the real work starts now. Divide the list into repeat tasks and once-offs, and assign an importance rating for each (SMART goal setting can help with this).
You need to identify which of the tasks take up the majority of your time and mental space and then come up with a strategy to get through them.
To increase productivity:
- Set a time limit for a task and just get started.
- Eliminate distractions such as your phone, ambient noise and interruptions from staff.
- Work out what can be automated and what can be delegated.
- Have a look at the Pomodoro technique for breaking up your day into manageable segments.
5. Automate processes
When it comes to automating processes, practice management software is your best friend. From accounting to managing your diary, the software can help you streamline processes that are otherwise time-consuming and mentally exhausting.
Even if all you do is implement practice management software, it’s enough to make a real and lasting change to productivity and time management in your business. Almost overnight, you’ll find that you have a better handle on the processes in your business because you have access to accurate reporting and all the information you need at the click of a button. You’ll also spend a LOT less time on billing, treatment notes and client management, and a whole host of other activities that you probably haven’t even thought of yet.
6. Take Time-Out Regularly
It’s just not possible to work a full day without taking a break. Research recommends that you take a break at least every 90 minutes (52 minutes might be better). The benefits of this are multi-faceted. You’ll feel more energised, focused, able to engage with your clients and tackle challenging tasks which means that you’ll be more productive and produce a higher standard of work in every area.
To get the most from your breaks:
- Move around, maybe go for a walk;
- Connect with nature;
- Have a snack or a meal;
- Practice slow, deep breathing;
- Take a power nap.
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There’s no pressure to get everything right at once, as the saying goes, “slowly slowly catch the monkey!” Small changes add up so as you try different things, some will work while others won’t. Embrace the change, recognise the failures and celebrate the successes; they’re all an important part of building a thriving, forward-looking practice.
There are always going to be times when the practice feels completely out of control, but if you write up your to-do list, you’ll immediately feel that things are much more manageable. And, from there, you can go through the process of automating, and delegating to improve your time management and productivity.