4 ways to stop being a perfectionist veterinarian


Sometimes just getting something done is much more important than getting it done flawlessly.

One of the common complaints we hear from many practice owners is that they simply don't have enough time to get done all they have on their plates. We're working on expanding the days for our clients to 30 hours, but we don't have it perfected yet. So what else can we offer as educators? Time management tips for getting more done each day, and more importantly, getting more done that you should be getting done.

Steven Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, points out that most of us spend our time working on urgent and (hopefully) important issues, but we should actually be concentrating on non-urgent important things. How do we make that happen?

It doesn't need 100 percent. Veterinarians tend to be perfectionists. Many believe anything worth doing must be done at 100 percent. Well, I'm here to tell you that unless you're landing airplanes or doing surgery, 80 percent is usually good enough. Now, I'm not suggesting that you practice substandard medical care. But many times, we take our high standards and apply them to areas where completing the task is much more important than giving it 100 percent. If we're always striving for perfection, nothing ever gets done.

Don't wait for the "perfect" time. In one of our hospitals, a doctor wanted to wait until he had all of the protocols written, the full complement of team members in place and the receptionist team fully trained before he turned over a new procedure that didn't require his involvement. In a perfect world, it would be nice to be able to wait for all the necessary elements to come together. But today's world requires that the doctor free up at least an hour in his schedule at least once a week, hopefully twice a week, so he can get on with his lengthy to-do list.

Learn to delegate. We beat up our staff because they hoard information from their fellow teammates, making themselves indispensable. But Docs, what kind of an example are you setting? "I have to do it myself, and when I fully understand how a procedure should be done, I'll teach you how to do it." Guess what? It's never going to happen. This a problem in practices where a "trusted" employee has helped himself or herself to some of the funds. The owners take over the bookkeeping and decide if they do it, it won't happen again. Problem is, most doctors are lousy bookkeepers; they have too many demands on their time and refuse to learn some simple tools to reduce instances of embezzlement happening again.

Stop "got-a-minute?" interruptions. When you have so much on your mind, getting constantly interrupted with things that don't require your immediate attention is distracting. Teach people to write down those questions, put them in a particular place and let them know you'll deal with them on your time.

By following these simple tips, you'll be well on your way to enjoying your extra time.

Elise M. Lacher, CPA, is a consultant with Strategic Veterinary Consulting in Seminole, Fla. She wrote this piece originally for CareCredit.

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