How many times do you wish for more hours in a day? Do stacks of paperwork and journals pile up on your desk? Do you have a “to-do” list that somehow never gets shorter?
When I was still in clinical practice, one time I felt so pressured by all I had left undone that I set my alarm to go into the office at 2:30 a.m. so I would have five extra hours to catch up without being interrupted! While I certainly felt much more in control of the chaos when I started my “normal” day at 7:30 a.m., it wasn’t a cure so much as an emergency intervention!
Veterinarians, like most service professionals, have only their time to sell. Those people in the world who sell products or tangible items can sell an increased quantity that is virtually unlimited. Those of us who sell our expertise, our compassion, our clinical experience and our skilled hands really only have a limited number of hours to sell. Because of this, we need to manage our time efficiently in order to maximize our ability to earn a living.
Most veterinarians’ compensation is tied to their ability to produce revenue for the practice, yet many of the tasks that make us the most successful with clients are not directly tied to revenue—communication, kindness, reliability and integrity. The challenge is to find enough hours in the day to do all these things and still get paid. We are more than veterinarians. We are fathers or mothers, sons or daughters, brothers or sisters, friends, community members and neighbors. In order to have full, rich lives, we must leave spaces for things other than our profession. This can be hard to do in the equine veterinary industry, which provides service to folks who often are themselves fully involved with horses 24/7/365. But we must find a way or risk becoming disillusioned, overwhelmed or ill.
One of the most important ways to be more efficient is to take a few moments when you first wake up to identify the most crucial two or three tasks that you must complete that day. These are the things you should concentrate on doing first. Mailing your quarterly tax payment on the 15th? Paying your house insurance premium by the due date? Calling your mother on her birthday?
Your priorities are clear by your actions. Don’t let the craziness of your workday sweep you downstream so that you emerge exhausted at the other end without the energy or time for your priorities.
By learning to say “no,” you can take on only those commitments that you know you have time for and that you truly care about. Think objectively about the time that each task will require before the day begins. Make adjustments that have a basis in reality instead of simply hoping for the best. Mark Twain once said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
Letting go of perfectionism will ease your pressure. While you might be putting off completing tasks because your idea of how they “should” be done exceeds “good enough,” imagine the freedom you could gain from simply being human instead of super-human.
If you can’t email copies of lab results or a pre-purchase report to a client today because you just don’t have the time, share them with a phone call or voicemail made while driving (with a hands-free device, of course). Or if you have staff, delegate this task and offer to answer clients’ questions later if needed. Need to send cupcakes for your child’s classroom? Get them at the bakery!
In short, know your priorities, plan your day to “eat the biggest frog” first, and embrace “good enough” when you need to.