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Every Physical Therapy practice owner I talk to wants to get more out of their time. They want to be more productive and efficient. They want to spend less time going in circles, procrastinating over tough tasks, and dribbling away time on unimportant, low-energy activities.
They want to work less and at the same time see bigger results for their efforts.
Smart time management practices can get you there. But how many times have you committed to a new, “no-fail” time management plan, only to abandon it after a week or two?
There are some fundamental practices that it helps to have place before you start testing new time-management strategies. With these time-management basics in your toolkit, you can make any number of time-management strategies work to your advantage. Without them, it can be tough to make any time-management tactic successful.
Here are 4 time-management essentials for practice owners:
- Conduct an AUDIT of your TIME
One of the things I’ve learned over many years of both practicing and coaching time management is that we’re not good at estimating where our time goes. The first step to real time management is getting a handle on how you actually spend your time. Remember Pearson’s Law? What’s measured, improves.
I recommend spending a full week tracking how you use your time. Ideally, your tracking would begin when you wake up and end at bedtime, and include all work and non-work activities. But at the very minimum, spend seven days tracking everything you do at work:
- Keep a notebook and pen nearby, or use an Excel sheet, whatever is easiest for you
- Block out your day in 30-minute increments and take moment every half hour to update your time log
- Be honest. Include everything, from the time you spend answering the phone at your clinic to the number of minutes (or hours) you devote to checking your email, or scrolling through social media.
Be prepared for some surprises. As this terrific, recent Harvard Business Review article describes, the reality of where our time goes often is NOT what we expect it to be. But it’s only when you have a full, accurate picture that you can start making objective, strategic decisions about what activities are most worth your time—and how to organize them.
- Plan for plenty of BREAKS
We all know those work days when we’re jumping from one thing to the next without a moment to catch our breaths, much less think about what’s coming our way tomorrow, next week, or next month.
For many Physical Therapy practice owners, those days are the norm. No wonder it’s hard for practice owners to focus on strategic thinking and growth.
Here’s the surprising truth: The most highly productive people don’t just take a lot of breaks—they build breaks into their schedules. A much publicized-recent study by the productivity app DeskTime found that their highest productivity users worked for 52 minutes and then took a 17-minute break.
That’s a lot of break time! And yet, these are the folks who achieved more during their workdays than anyone else. The lesson here isn’t that you must take a 17-minute break every 52 minutes. It’s that taking routine breaks throughout your day will boost your productivity, giving you the time and mental space to work on your business, not just in it, and get time away from work altogether.
- Focus on developing your FOCUS
We live in a distracted world. There’s just no precedent for the sheer number and intensity of distractions that can lure our attention away from our most important work. (I wrote this spring about the ways that technology might be killing productivity in your practice.) We have to work at focusing our attention in a way our parents and grandparents never had to. And it’s easier than ever to confuse being busy with being productive.
Strengthening your focus is an essential skill for the practice owner who wants to build a profitable business and have a life outside of work. These are some basics of focus-building that every practice owner can start using, today:
- Minimize multi-tasking—practice mono-tasking instead
- Set clear, specific goals for what you want to accomplish during focused work sessions
- Keep a running scorecard of the time you spend really focused—it’s a great incentive to do more!
- Set up specific times to check email and social media—otherwise limit your exposure, and avoid during hours you want to be deeply productive
I love these tips for super-charging focus from high-achievers in the worlds of business and technology, collected in a recent article in Entrepreneur. Check them out!
- Commit to balance
Practice owners are high achievers. We also tend to be workaholics. Often, that’s tied to our perfectionism. But it’s also an occupational hazard of small business ownership, and the mistaken belief that to make our practices survive and thrive, we must be willing to work all the time.
The reality couldn’t be further from the truth: its time away from work that will help keep you at the top of your game, and in the best position to build your business. As you prepare to overhaul your time management, commit to balance in how you spend your time. In addition to work, prioritize time for:
- Self-care, including exercise and sleep
- Social and recreational pursuits
- A spiritual life, as it makes sense for you
- Time to read and to think
Want to make better use of your time, but not sure how to set your priorities?
Set up a no-obligation appointment to speak with me. During your free 45-minute call, we’ll strategize about the top priorities for your practice, and how you can meet those goals. Limited times are available.