Overwhelmed by too much work? Welcome to the (very big) club. One of my favorite quotes comes from writer Annie Dillard:
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
If your days consist of constantly jumping from one task to the next, putting out fires, making reactive decisions, procrastinating and avoiding big-picture work because it feels too time consuming—well, guess what? That’s the professional life you’re creating for yourself. And it’s not the foundation for a growing, thriving practice OR a life outside the clinic.
I’ve worked with a lot of time management strategies over the years. There’s one that I’ve found is often ideal for people whose daily routines are jam-packed, and whose scope of responsibilities are broad—in other words, most PT owners. It’s batching.
What is batching? It’s a simple time management system of grouping similar types of work together into blocks. A PT owner who is using a batching system might schedule all her treating for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and reserve Tuesdays and Thursdays exclusively for administrative work.
For overwhelmed, overworked PT owners, batching has several powerful benefits. When you group your tasks into chunks of time, you accomplish more of what you most need to get done, in less time. You’ll feel better: less overwhelmed, more in command of your schedule, more able to devote time to planning the next steps for your business. You’ll also take real steps toward making self operationally irrelevant—the key to truly reclaiming a life outside your clinic.
Why batching works so well for PT owners:
Improves concentration and focus
Batching puts you right in the zone—focused, able to sink into stretches of concentrated work that deliver the most productive results for your time. One key to making the most of your batched time? As much as you can, stick to the high-energy, top-priority tasks that you’ve identified as your most important, rewarding work–and delegate the low-energy stuff to your team.
Multitasking can feel like an essential way of life for busy practice owners. How can you afford not to be working on a few things at once, pretty much all the time? The truth is, multitasking is a real trap for PT owners. Instead of reducing stress, science shows multitasking increases feelings of anxiety and overwhelm.
Every time we switch our attention from one activity to the next, we lose a little bit of time as our brain re-focuses its attention. (One study found that we lose slightly over a minute every time we check email. Think about how many times you check your email in a typical day—those minutes add up!) Keeping multiple tasks going at once puts us in a constant state of distraction—and a distracted mind is significantly less productive. Research shows multitasking may reduce our productivity by 40 percent. Can you afford to lose nearly half of your daily productivity? I don’t know a single PT owner who can.
Another hazard of multitasking for PT owners? Your staff learns to rely on you for a little bit of everything—meaning that almost nothing can get done without your involvement.
Gives a SIMPLE solution
I love the simplicity of batching. It’s easy to grasp and easy to execute. Prioritize your most important work, from strategic, to clinical, to marketing and financial. Carve out the time on your calendar: blocks of time you’ll devote to each type of work. Don’t look back.
It’s a lesson I learn over and over again: the most powerful and effective solutions to PT practice problems are so often the simple ones.
Helps you cut back on treating
This is one of the most powerful benefits of batching for committed clinicians and overwhelmed operators, who are running a business and treating full time, or something close to it. Chunking your time provides you structure in which you can isolate your treating hours. Suddenly, you’re not treating every day—and with other people are stepping in to fill that clinical role, you can spend more time focusing on your business. Cutting back on treating is one of the most challenging—and most important—transitions for PT owners. There’s no other single change in your schedule that has a greater impact on your ability to grow your business.