The Best-Kept Secret in Dentistry
When you consider some of the most well-known businesses in the world, such as Amazon, Netflix and Apple, it’s clear that their success is defined by an essential product they are all selling: time.
Amazon can get a package to your door in just a couple days, Netflix allows you to browse thousands of titles in seconds. Apple offers high-tech products that enable you to connect with your friends, family and the world around you in an instant. The most successful products are the ones that help you maximize your time. In the same way, the most successful people are those who maximize their own time.
We all have the same number of hours in a day to work with, but the most successful people are intentional about how they use it. The real secret of successful dentists lies in how they manage their time. Increasing your success doesn’t mean that you have to increase the time you spend working. In fact, the real key might be to take more time off for your own rest and relaxation. The highest-producing dentists in the country don’t work more. They work less, but they’ve learned how to become more efficient and effective.
Time away strengthens you and your practice
It’s not just about being intentional with the time you spend working—it’s about being intentional with the time you spend away from your practice. Establishing a profitable, consistent practice does not mean that you have to spend every waking moment of your life at the office. By increasing the impact of the time you spend working and investing time into your own relaxation and recovery, you can cultivate a successful practice and a fulfilling personal and family life.
The key is to cultivate a schedule that reflects your specific goals, values and circumstances. A young dentist might have enough energy to work all the time without a lot of time off, but older dentists need that extra time to rest and recharge. As you age, you have to be honest with yourself about what recovery is.
Recovery is a requirement for success, not a reward for success. The best athletes in the world build recovery into their training schedules because it improves their performance and allows them to come back stronger. This same principle applies to dentists—you need time to recover so that you can come back to your practice stronger.
Intentionality is key
When I go on vacation, I need time to unwind before I can even start to recharge. I know that it takes me a full day just to calm down before I can really start to enjoy my time away. As a dentist, you should think of your vacation as an essential part of your work, not as an afterthought. Working until you are burned out, taking an abrupt break and then going straight back to the grind will not give you the sense of rest and recovery that intentional, planned vacations will. Most dentists are taking six to eight weeks of vacation anyway—they’re just taking them in 15-minute increments.
One of the biggest concerns dentists have when I present the concept of intentional time off is that the office needs coverage. The truth is that a dental practice does not need to run 52 weeks a year to be successful. As you begin to take time off, you will train the practice to function while you are away. You don’t have to be present every waking minute to have a successful and profitable office. Be clear and transparent about the time your office will be closed, and you’ll find that your patients will accommodate to the schedule of your practice.
Before you can start blocking off vacation time in your calendar, you have to know how many days you want to work. Excluding weekends and holidays, there are 261 working days in the 2019 calendar year. The average dentist works 204 days a year, but the highest-producing dentists work less than the average because they are intentional with their time.
Consider how many days you worked last year and try to cut that number down. Your goal should be to produce more without working as often. Even cutting back on the time you spend at work by a couple days is a great starting point to help you regain a more balanced and intentional life.
You should create your vacation schedule around the important dates and events happening in your life. If you have a special event or an anniversary coming up, block out time around that date so that you can celebrate and enjoy yourself. The wonderful thing about being a dentist is that you get to choose when you work. You don’t have a boss who is forcing you to follow a certain schedule.
Next year, you should try to take more time off than you did this year. As time goes by, you will learn how to improve your production when you are working and recharge during the time when you are out. At the same time, your practice will learn how to function successfully when you are not there.
The ACT Dental Proactive Life Calendar
To help dentists pursue a more productive practice while spending less time working, I’ve developed the ACT Dental Proactive Life Calendar. This calendar uses color-coded cells to help you block out your time and tally the precise number of days you spend working, as well as the time you spend out of the office. Your goal every year should be to reduce the days you spend working, little by little. Ultimately, you want your practice to be sustainable even when you are not there. The more time you can spend away from your practice, the more valuable your practice becomes and the more freedom you will have to balance your work life and your personal life.