Do you ever feel like you’re on a hamster wheel at work, running fast but getting nowhere? At the end of every workday, you’re exhausted. On the weekend, your time off goes by far too fast without delivering the relaxation and respite you hoped for. No matter how hard you work, your to-do list never seems to get any shorter. No wonder a recent survey of dental office managers found that their number-one career concern is burnout.
This isn’t what you hoped your dental office career would be—but it’s what often happens when we let the "swing of things" drive our days instead of taking charge ourselves. The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way. You can create and activate a strategy to transform your dream career—and life—into your reality. Here’s how.
Step 1: Decide what you want
What would you need from your career and your personal life to feel fulfilled? Create a list of the most important things. That might be a promotion, feeling valued at work, learning new skills or achieving professional goals. Maybe you want to join a professional association, such as the American Association of Dental Office Management, so you can meet and learn from others who share your career goals and challenges.
In your personal life, fulfillment might mean having more time to spend with family or friends, the opportunity to travel, getting your finances in order, or having more time to exercise and improve your health.
Dream big! Make both lists as long as you want; then number the items in order of importance.
Step 2: Decide what you don’t want
What would you like less of in your life? Think of what bothers you most about your job and personal life. At work, you may be spending too much time on routine front desk tasks. Perhaps you spend hours playing phone tag with patients or laboriously emailing patients one by one. Maybe there are processes that don’t run smoothly, like when a last-minute cancellation happens and you have to drop everything to fill the slot.
In your personal life, you might be spending too much money on fast food because you don’t have time to cook healthy meals, arguing with your kids about their chores, or mindlessly scrolling social media instead of spending time with your spouse.
Once your lists are done, number them in order of the ones you most want to eliminate from your life.
Step 3: Set your priorities
What we say we value in life and what we actually make time for are often two different things. Does your calendar reflect the priorities you identified in Step 1 and the things you want to eliminate in Step 2? Probably not, or you’d already have that perfect career and life you dream of!
If you want to achieve your priorities, you need to “schedule for success.” For example, suppose you want to stop buying fast food for the family, but you’re staying late at work every evening calling patients to confirm appointments. You’ll drive home in rush with no time to cook a healthy dinner…and you’ll keep on going through the drive-thru line.
With your list of priorities in hand, grab your calendar and design the way you want your days to look. This may require some tough decisions and trade-offs. You might not achieve all of your priorities at once, but you can definitely tackle the most important ones.
Scheduling for success applies to your job, too. How can you maximize your office’s productivity, giving you more time to achieve your personal and professional dreams and goals? Work smarter, not harder, by implementing systems and processes like a daily huddle and task lists. The right technology can help. For example, Lighthouse 360 saves your team time by automating repetitive tasks. Send patient recall, appointment confirmation and appointment reminder notices automatically by text, phone or email. Got a last-minute cancellation? No need to jump on the phone—Lighthouse’s Fill-In feature automatically detects cancellations and contacts patients who are most likely to be interested in taking the appointment.
Lighthouse 360 helps your schedule stay on track by generating a daily Front Desk Task List that’s emailed to you first thing every morning. Each night, Lighthouse checks each patient on the next day’s schedule for over 20 issues, such as missing contact info or family members past due for recall, so you’ll know what to expect when they arrive. Lighthouse also prepares an Automated Accountability Report that recaps the previous day’s activity for the office manager, calling out successes and highlighting areas where staff may need more focus or training to improve performance.
The paperless patient registration feature of Lighthouse is another time-saver that eliminates the need to re-input patient data from paper forms, while helping reduce the spread of germs and keep your office healthy.
Step 4: Stick to it
Once you’ve put systems and tools in place, the key to success is actually using them. This may take some getting used to, but stay on track, follow your schedule and watch your life improve.
If you decide following your schedule isn’t worth it, you’re deciding that your dream life isn't worth it, either. You’ll continue in your course on the hamster wheel, dreaming of the day your life can be everything you want.
If you do commit to a schedule that prioritizes your goals and dreams, those dreams will become a reality—and that’s really something worth celebrating.