Between treating patients, completing CEUs, running a business, and managing staff, it’s hard to have a life outside of work; heck, it’s probably difficult to keep your head on straight some days. That all comes with the territory of being a private practice PT. But with so many tasks and people competing for your attention, you might find yourself dealing with a bad case of burnout.
So, how do you wear so many hats—and juggle so many responsibilities—and still save time in your schedule for all the things you love? Two words: time management. Of course, to effectively manage your time, you have to acknowledge your inner time-waster. How would you characterize your time-management bad habits?
To help you answer that question, we’re going to describe a few common “problem personas.” Chances are, you’ll see yourself—or your peers or leaders—in some of these characters. The first step is awareness, though. Because if you can’t see the problem, you can’t fix it.
Problem: Meet the Multitasker
On a small scale, multitasking might not seem like a big deal. Many of us do this every day to the point that we don’t even realize we’re multitasking. At home, that might mean missing half your television show as you scroll through Instagram. At work, however, the consequences of multitasking are much worse:
- Missed deadlines
- Forgotten projects or paperwork
- A lot of added stress
When you try to complete several assignments at once, you’re constantly switching gears as you move from one task to another. And with each jump, your brain needs time to refocus on something new. So, the more you multitask, the more time you need to complete your to-do list.
But it gets worse: a 2009 Stanford University study revealed that chronic multitaskers use their brains less efficiently, even during activities that don’t require multitasking. All the chronic multitaskers in the study performed poorly at switching tasks, filtering out irrelevant information, and using their working memory. Why? Our minds don’t function in a way that facilitates multitasking. According to a 2012 study at a French medical research agency, when people try to focus on two tasks at the same time, the brain splits up the tasks. Plus, our short-term memories can only store five to nine pieces of information at once, so multitasking prevents your brain from retaining knowledge that could come in handy later.
Solution: Group your work—and your days.
The first key to creating efficiency is to get focused! The best way to do that is to pare down your treatment schedule into fewer—but fuller—days rather than multiple shorter days. Your productivity and efficiency will increase because you’re forcing yourself to function “in the zone.” Below is what business coach Jamey Schrier, PT, recommends.
Organize your week by chunking out your workdays for:
- Treatment only
- Admin only
- Marketing only (or in conjunction with admin)
- Free time (that means no work whatsoever)
Problem: Meet the Anti-Delegator
As children, we’re taught to share, but the anti-delegator missed that memo completely. He or she is a hoarder through and through, but instead of collecting a living room full of old egg cartons, VHS tapes, and twenty years’ worth of newspapers, the anti-delegator holds on to tasks. This person is a big reason that, according to a 2007 survey from the Institute for Corporate Productivity, 46% of companies are highly concerned about the delegation skills of their employees.
From a leadership perspective, we can understand the desire to have your hands in all parts of your practice. However, one person can’t be good at everything under the rehab sun, and working beyond your capacity will cause you and your whole team to suffer, because:
- Your people won’t feel trusted or empowered to do their jobs.
- You’ll feel stressed and overwhelmed.
- Tasks won’t get done promptly or properly—or at all, for that matter.
- You’ll have no time to actually lead or focus on business planning, analysis, and strategy.
Anti-delegators can’t relinquish control over tasks—even if those tasks would be better handled by someone else. And as a result, these people become ineffective at their actual jobs, thus bringing down the entire practice.
“Delegation is a 20th-Century term used by corporations,” said Jamey Schrier in a time-management webinar. “I like the term decluttering better!” Always look for ways to declutter your work life by assigning out work. To determine which tasks to delegate, Jamey recommends the following exercise:
The 10/100/1000 Exercise
- Write down all of the activities that you currently do—but have no passion for, don’t like, or are no good at.
- Calculate your per-hour value.
- Create four columns: $10-25, $25-50, $50-100, and >100.
- For each activity on your list, ask yourself: How much would I have to pay someone per hour to do this activity well?
- Place each activity into the appropriate column.
- Choose one activity to take off your plate.
- Pinpoint the smallest action step you can to take to begin removing this activity from your to-do list.
Problem: Meet the Structure Saboteur.
This problem might not seem as obvious as those having to do with work delegation or calendar planning, but who you hire—and how you structure your teams—can affect business efficiencies (not to mention bottom lines) in a big way. Behold: the Structure Saboteur. This person is the ineffective architect who fails to hire top-tier talent and then structures the staff in a way that fails to maximize strength and, therefore, time.
Let’s review how the effects of the Structure Saboteur can add up. From the cost of recruiting, screening, and interviewing to the cost of onboarding and training, hiring is a huge investment for companies. And if you don’t hire the right candidates, it can come at a big expense.
According to a 2012 CareerBuilder poll, 69% of companies surveyed experienced a bad hire that year. Of those companies, 41% said that one bad hire cost them $25,000, while 24% said it cost them more than $50,000. That cost includes recruitment and training, lost productivity and time, and diminished employee morale.
And for private practices, hiring mistakes come with an additional opportunity for lost revenue when you consider your patients. What if patients leave your business because your new hire’s treatment style or personality don’t measure up to your clinic’s standards? Clearly, hiring the right candidate is paramount, but how you organize those you do hire is equally important. Even in the smallest of organizations, structure and role responsibilities can make or break a business. So, ask yourself:
- Are you overburdening your billers with tasks that your front office staff could actually be handling?
- Are your clinicians juggling administrative work in between patient visits?
- Are you using assistants and techs to the fullest extent?
Solution: Hire A-players and structure teams to maximize work.
- Nail down what you want out of a candidate, in terms of both culture fit and job expectations. Before you even post it, write down the qualities and characteristics of the person you will hire.
- Develop a hiring system—and be consistent. Here is one Jamey recommends:
- Short initial call
- In-person interview
- Working interview
- References, background check, etc.
- Get your current A-players involved in finding and hiring top talent.
- Ensure your company culture is all about empowerment.
Problem: Meet the Benchwarmer.
Most employees can see the benefits of an effective boss. In fact, there’s a lot of research out there highlighting the positive effects that good leadership can have on employee morale, customer satisfaction, and revenue. But what about those bosses who take a more passive stance in their leadership roles? Turns out, these “do nothing” bosses—or benchwarmers, as we like to call them—can negatively impact their organizations in a big way.
A recent study by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology found that passive leaders can have serious consequences when it comes to overall organizational effectiveness. Specifically, passive leadership was associated with:
- lower perceived support,
- weaker organizational identity,
- less citizenship behavior, and
- greater workplace incivility.
What does all of that have to do with time? Decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and higher turnover rates, to name a few. Those are some epic timesucks right there.
So, what makes a benchwarmer boss?
This is a leader who takes laissez-faire to the extreme, acting passive and disengaged. Projects don't get finished on time; staff members drift along without direction; and goals are never specified—which means they usually go unmet. He or she fails to ask the right questions and lets small problems fester until disaster strikes. This might explain why a recent Zogby International survey found that 37% of American workers—about 54 million people—say they’ve been bullied at work, while 49% say they’ve witnessed bullying. Managers should be nipping this type of behavior in the bud immediately, and an engaged manager would be far more likely to do so.
Alternatively, this person could simply be overwhelmed by too much work, or be too concerned with being perceived as “nice,” “likeable,” or “friendly” with his or her staff that he or she back-burners all managerial responsibilities.
Lastly, this type of individual could be absent—plain and simple. If you’re the boss, how busy are you? Are you in the office? Are you connecting regularly with your employees? Do you understand what’s happening in your practice day-to-day? If not, do you have other managers in place to take charge of these responsibilities and keep you appropriately informed?
Solution: Get involved—or get out.
Effective leadership is not about titles or ranks. Effective leadership is about action! That means you need to:
- Define, document, and communicate your company vision.
- Build a team that supports that vision.
- Get the right people in the right places—including the owner!
- Ensure that there are mentorship and coaching opportunities.
- Always allow the time necessary to build relationships.
Now that you have identified how you—or those around you—waste time, it’s time to implement the solutions detailed above. Time is money, after all. And if you can better spend your time, you will most likely maximize your dollars.
What time management techniques do you use? Share your advice in the comments below.