Blank Space? Fill Your Calendar with the Right Things

One of the most daunting things about starting your own health practice is staring at a blank calendar and not knowing the best things to do to efficiently grow your practice. Sure, providing care to your clients is is one of the most important things you can do, but there are a whole host of other tasks that are critical for your business, and other ones which may seem important, but might not be worth the time they can eat up.

Now that your time is your own, the most important thing to remember is that time really is your most precious asset. In addition to your expertise, time is what your clients pay you for— and it’s something you have to manage successfully to really grow your practice.

Here are some ideas on putting together your most effective schedule.

How much time do you really have?

Even though there are 168 hours in the week, that doesn’t mean that just one hour is a miniscule amount of time. Even though there may be an hour free on your calendar doesn’t mean that there’s an hour available for work. You have to balance all the other commitments you have (family, friends, other interests) so that you don’t feel like your work has crowded out all of your freedom. If you let work overwhelm your life, you could start to regret your choices and lose perspective on where you want to go with your business.

It seems trivial to say but try to schedule a buffer around your important items. You need transition time between appointments and if you are out and about think about your  travel time and try to schedule that in. Even though running from one thing to the next might make you feel like you are getting a lot done, you might just be mistaking action for progress. (More on this later.)

Understand how to ask this question.

I said it before in this post developing a plan for your business can keep you on track when deciding what to spend your valuable time doing.

Now that you are your own boss, you should identify what’s a work activity and what’s not. You have to decide if something is worth doing by mentally asking yourself, “Based on my plan, is this getting me closer to my goal?” Coming back to that thought helps you become more protective of your time because now you can quantify an outcome.

Now the more you read, especially online, the more you are confronted with sometimes contradictory activities. Should I network more? Increase my Instagram post schedule? Work on my website? I am a big fan of thinking about the “Annuity Effect”. I look at the activity in contrast to my plan and try to see if I spend X hours now, can I have this activity continue to pay off in the future. In terms of automating certain tasks, even though it might take somewhat longer to automate my calendar, when its running smoothly, I can get back somewhere between 8-12 hours a month, which is worth over $1000 a month or $12,000 a year in time I can devote to activities that grow the business. Now that’s a dividend!

Look after the big rocks first.

Sometimes it’s hard to see what a high priority activity is when we are surrounded with so many demands on our time. With Facebook, Twitter it seems like responding quickly is a high priority, but you have to decide if that is actually the case in the overall context of growing your business. Especially when you are first starting out it’s important to schedule the highest priorities first. The author Steven Covey explains how to schedule things effectively in one of his signature talks.

As much as possible, the activities of your life should be classified by level of importance. Your highest priorities are big rocks (e.g., family and friends, career, community service), less important activities are pebbles, and filler activities (like mindlessly scrolling through your Facebook feed) are sand.

As the first image shows, if you don’t put in the big rocks first, the pebbles and sand push out the very important big rocks. I know for me this really brought home what I should be focusing on and it enabled me to be far more protective of my time.

Think about where you want to be with your busisess in 6 months, a year, 5 years? What are your big rocks? Budget enoght time so you can do these activities right and chances are you will be well on your way to achieving your goals.

 The myth of multitasking.

I know its easy to say concentrate on one thing, but distractions are everywhere. But multitasking (i.e  checking email, writing a blog post, listening to a podcast) has been proven to be massively unproductive. According to Psychology Today,

“Much recent neuroscience research tells us that the brain doesn’t really do tasks simultaneously, as we thought (hoped) it might. In fact, we just switch tasks quickly. Each time we move from hearing music to writing a text or talking to someone, there is a stop/start process that goes on in the brain.

That start/stop/start process is rough on us: rather than saving time, it costs time (even very small micro seconds), it’s less efficient, we make more mistakes, and over time it can be energy sapping. “

To counteract the urge to multitask, schedule blocks of time to complete tasks and “chunk” your time by type. If you are writing, keep on writing. It helps you get in a rhythm and keep on track.

Obviously, you need time to take a break. But if you have trouble getting started and feel that urge to step away from a task, try saying to yourself, “Just give me 5 more minutes and I will take a break.” What will likely happen is you will get more focused as your mind anticipates the break (reward) for the work you are about to do.  Then when you do take a break, make it a set time. That will help you get back to work and get focused more quickly.

Crisis, what crisis? 

I used to work with someone who had a poster on the wall which said, “Lack of Planning on Your Part, Doesn’t Constitute an Emergency on My Part.” Crises are unfortunately unavoidable but what makes something truly, imperatively critical? Often when it’s somebody else’s problem, you’re expected to feel the same sense of urgency. Not so fast…

First, you’re not responsible for somebody else’s crisis. Friends, colleagues, or family members often feel entitled to your help, without considering that it may put you in a bind. But, it’s not just others –  I have often done it to myself. I get an idea of something I need to do and drop everything to do it. With predictable results.

My calendar, with time blocked off for the big rocks, is now in shambles. But was it truly a crisis that needed to be managed immediately? Was it really life or death (literally or figuratively for my family, friends, or clients)? When I look back on it at the end of the day or week, I realize that most of the time it really wasn’t.

If you feel the “crisis” energy come over you, close your eyes, take a breath and figure out if it can wait. Perhaps you can schedule time later to handle it or you can delegate it to someone else. Will it totally take over your plans for the day (and potentially longer)? Consider these questions before you leap in to take it on.

See progress and congratulate yourself.

There are millions of things you could do every day. How do you know when it is enough?

If you have prioritized your top tasks that support your plan in an efficient way to achieve high quality work, that should be enough for one day.

But how do you determine what is enough?

  • The Ivy Lee Technique. I like to use the Ivy Lee technique.
    • At the end of each day I write on a piece of paper or journal (this is important – you have to write it ) the top five things I need to do the next day (don’t write any more than that).
    • When I sit down in the morning I finish the first task, then cross it off the list.
    • Then I move to the next on the list. If there are any tasks left over, they move to the next day.
    • It works because it is simple – no computers or day timers. When you put the task on paper it eliminates thinking about how to do it – you just write it down. It is also extremely satisfying to cross something off the list. You fee a real sense of progress!
    • It also forces you to prioritize only 5 things for the entire day and do that once so you don’t have to constantly weigh incoming distractions against your list. It also makes you focus (see above) so you can get in a rhythm.
    • And it removes the hurdle of starting your day. Your list is already done and on your desk – just sit down and get to work.
  • Don’t keep doing. I get my best work done in the morning and by 5:30 am pretty much out of gas. Sure, I sometimes have to work later, but instead of making busy work or starting a new task I see if I should put it on the list to start tomorrow.
  • Congratulate yourself each day on what you accomplished. Take a look at your list with the tasks crossed out and reflect on how well you did. This helps you feel good about starting the next day.

Maybe in some ways its easier when your boss hands you a schedule and says, “Do this.” But I look at the time I have each day as a way to create my own future. And as a fellow entrepreneur, you have the same opportunity as well.

 

Are there any techniques you use to help focus on the right things to achieve your goals? Let us know in the comments below!

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