Dentist time investmentIn my last article – “The First Step in Creating Dental Practice Success in 2016” – we talked about the concept of “moving in”: making a commitment to a course of action in a totally immersive, no-looking-back way.

But, as a dentist, how do you decide what to move in with? The demands of modern life come at you in a never-ending stream – emails to read and to which you must reply, charts to review, patients to see, team issues, family and personal obligations – and you can’t possibly give every demand on your time equal energy.

Principle 2: Know What Matters

We are all equal in that we all get the same number of hours in day to work with, and yet some people get more from their time than others. Why? Because those top performers have figured out that it’s the return you get from your time investment that matters. Basically there are three kinds of returns on your time:

  • No returns are, as you would expect, results that don’t move you forward. I am in favor of spending some time doing nothing, as a way to re-charge, but endless hours spent watching TV reruns or mindless surfing the Internet actually provides a negative return – it’s time squandered that sets you back. Sometimes, this low-return time is a symptom of bad habits we have let accumulate. We do spring cleaning and have a garage sale because we have allowed clutter to take over our home. We do a semi-annual chart audit because we haven’t implemented or enforced the patient systems to keep charts consistently current. Chart audits can make you feel busy and productive, but you aren’t really getting significant traction doing them.
  • Linear returns provide a consistent and predictable return. It’s about perfecting the routine – optimizing insurance systems, for instance, or fine-tuning financial arrangement policies. Or you can work more hours, and earn more revenue, but even that that has its own limitations. After all, there is a limit to the number of hours you can work in a day. To focus on things like this it to work around the edges of what makes a practice better. To make really significant improvements in the value you get for your time you need to be looking at the third kind of return.
  • Geometric returns come from giving consistent attention to those things that have the greatest chance of making a difference over time. It’s all about playing the long game and playing it smart. We do it when we save for our retirement, knowing that a small amount put aside each month compounds to a greater reward down the road. We do it with our health and fitness too: putting in consistent time at the gym and adopting good eating habits today so we can earn robust health in the months and years to come.

You should have the same approach to your time in your dental practice, always looking for where your efforts can make the biggest impact. This may sound obvious, but I have seen way too many dentists squander way too much time on things that are simply not essential to their long-term success. Often it comes from a misguided sense of wanting to be able to “do it all.” But the wisest use of your energy and focus comes from leveraging your time effectively.

For a dentist, this means you must stop worrying about inventorying cotton balls, delegate more, and spend a disproportionate amount of time on the things that will ultimately make the biggest difference, such as:  

  • Your new patient experience
  • Treatment planning and presentation techniques
  • Getting your team aligned around the “why” of what they do
  • Using your appointment book effectively
  • Implementing patient retention strategies

In addition to the items above, you should also have a realistic economic plan that will ensure you have the right revenue for the things that keep your economic engine thriving – the best technology, best facility and best education agenda you can create. These are the main drivers of your success as a dentist. Train yourself to filter out the noise and give them the attention they deserve.


Commenter's Profile Image Mark F.
January 12th, 2016
This has some great points, not only for dentists but also for team members. I believe ideas from here and the previous article could be beneficial for team meetings!