Almost everyone wishes their practice ran more efficiently. The old adage, “work smarter, not harder” can be accomplished with ease when you make these small changes to your daily routine.
Work smarter, not harder. This popular phrase is easy to talk about but more difficult to adopt in business. Of course, no one actually wants to work harder to achieve the same end result, but how can you pinpoint what it is that you’re spending too much time on? The good news is that breaking inefficient habits and finding smarter alternatives to completing your regular tasks is easier than you might think.
These four tips focus on small changes you can make to your daily routine so that your veterinary practice runs more efficiently and you don’t feel quite so overwhelmed.
1. Give It a Break: When you’ve hit a proverbial brick wall, take it as a sign that it’s time to walk away. Giving your mind — and your patience — a reprieve from a complicated task or problem can actually enhance productivity because when you return, you might be able to view the dilemma from a different vantage point. You may also find that once you stop analyzing a problem, the solution presents itself unexpectedly. The body’s natural ultradian rhythm, which is linked to how long your brain can focus actively, works in 90- to 120-minute cycles, meaning you’re biologically built to take a break.
2. Create an Email Strategy: Constantly checking email is one of the biggest productivity killers. Even if you consider yourself an expert multitasker, you will probably notice a significant uptick in efficiency if you limit the amount of time you spend viewing everything that comes through your inbox.
There are two schools of thought to this technique. Some people find great success by allocating only specific parts of their day for email, such as first thing in the morning, after lunch and a half-hour before leaving for the day. This helps to create a routine for checking email rather than remaining accessible constantly. It also likens the act of checking your email to any other task on your daily to-do list instead of making it habitual.
Others find that they are most productive if they log out of their email accounts (and disable phone notifications) only when they need to focus on a specific task. For instance, if you’re updating your vendor list, make sure you don’t have constant alerts popping up in the corner of your screen each time a new message comes through. The incoming emails, important or not, only serve as relentless interruptions.
Restricting the time spent on email may also come with a beneficial side effect. According to a 2015 study, limiting the frequency of checking email — participants in the study checked emails just three time a day — reduces daily stress.
3. Upgrade Your To-Do List: Creating a to-do list is a rudimentary way to organize your day. But have you ever considered how long it actually takes to check off each item on your list? You might be surprised by the results.
Use your phone to time a variety of tasks and assess how they fit into your day. This is the simple concept behind time-blocking your schedule. Assigning a task to each hour (or block of hours) rather than tackling a long list blindly allows you to focus more effectively. Then, if you know you have a three-hour time period in the morning to dedicate to the administrative side of your practice, you’ll know you can accomplish a single one-hour task and a second task that will take two hours. It can seem a bit like arranging a puzzle at first, but as you start to recognize the positive results, it will become second nature.
4. Pass It On: An important attribute of being a successful business owner is knowing when a responsibility can be handled by someone else. You’ve hired and trained an exemplary staff, and it’s time to put their skills to use. Delegation can be tough at first, particularly if you’re someone who has a hard time saying no, but it’s essential to running a productive business. Even if a task doesn’t get accomplished exactly the way you would have done it, recognize that it’s been completed well and the differences in steps taken didn’t negatively impact the outcome.