A dentist’s work is never done — or so it may seem when you're scrambling to see last-minute patients, updating treatment records on Sunday afternoon or texting your spouse to tell them you'll be home late for dinner…again. How can a busy dentist find work-life balance? I don't know if "balance" is possible for any professional — but I do know that the following tips will help you reclaim precious time.
- Keep track of how you spend your personal and work time for an entire week. You can set your phone to remind you every 15 or 30 minutes to jot down what you're doing. While this is time-consuming, it will pay off by revealing areas where you're wasting valuable time.
- Know accurate chair times for procedures. If you find that your appointments are frequently running overtime, make sure you're taking into account the transition time for dental assistants to prep each room for new patients. Do you end up with unexpected downtime between patients? Maybe new technology has shortened chair time for certain treatments that now take 30 minutes instead of 60. Conduct a time audit for one week, tracking total time actually spent on each type of procedure. Be sure to include your time, transition time between patients, and time dental assistants or hygienists spend with the patient.
- Be more hands-off. (No pun intended.) As the owner of your practice, your focus should be on the big picture and on those procedures that require your expertise—not on administrative tasks or procedures that a dental assistant can handle. Trying to do it all drains your time and energy. Instead, train your assistants and hygienists to do as much for patients as state law allows. The more they can handle, the more time you’ll have to focus on your specialties. Your staff will feel more accomplished as employees, too.
- Plan for patient emergencies and cancellations. How can you plan for these things? Try setting aside a standard window of time each day to see emergency patients (for example, between 1 and 2 PM). If a last-minute cancellation comes up, Lighthouse 360’s Fill-In feature automatically contacts patients on the waiting list to fill the slot.
- Take advantage of technology. Use calendaring software for your personal life and practice management/scheduling software for your practice. For example, set up automatic reminders of when patients need to schedule a cleaning, when they have appointments, and when they have follow-up treatments. Lighthouse 360 makes this easy to do, and helps every minute of your workday be profitable.
- Delegate administrative tasks. Too many dentists spend their valuable time bookkeeping, proofreading the email newsletter or micromanaging the front desk staff. Outsource administrative tasks that don't require a full-time employee (such as bookkeeping). Let your front desk staff do their jobs without interference. If you're worried they need direction, try Lighthouse 360—it automatically creates a task list with “smart recommendations” every morning, so your team knows what to focus on.
- Plan time for yourself. Unless you schedule downtime, it often doesn't happen. Treat yourself with the same respect you treat your patients: Block off time each day in your schedule for things that rejuvenate you, like working out, meeting a friend for lunch or spending time with family, and then keep those “appointments” with yourself.