By Kim McGuire.
Do you find yourself saying things such as:
"There are not enough hours in the day!
I don’t have enough time!”
“Where did the time go - it’s almost summer?”
Many people seem to be “crunched for time.” Getting to a place of calm and peace around our time seems to be an impossible challenge for most of us.
Those of us working in the Dental field can feel that crunch often. The whole day is scheduled with patients one after another. Sometimes it feels as though there ‘just isn’t enough time’ to get all our projects done.
There is a lot of emphasis about what I call the “buzz phrase” of Life Balance in our culture. Think about it - why do you believe you need life balance? Is there anyone telling you that you need Life Balance? Many of our beliefs around this subject come from our culture and the people around us. Our friends and family are all well intended; however what one person wants in life is very different from another. Yet, we compare and emphasize how our life might look different than those around us and judge ourselves on it.
I believe the concept of Life Balance is a myth. The more our culture focuses on this concept, the more those of us who 'don’t have life balance’ feel unfulfilled and inferior. The truth is there is no magic formula and for each person there is a different definition. I would rather you focus more on your definition of success and what having a full, rich life means to you, not your neighbor!
To me, Life Balance is a state of mind. It’s a way of thinking and believing rather than what you’re doing from day to day. What do you believe you want from life? Not what others say you should have, but what you want. For each person this will be different. Believe that you can and will move towards that definition of success in all areas of your life. If you can believe it - you can achieve it.
Whether you’re a hygienist in Seattle, a Dentist in Miami or an Office Manager in Chicago, we all get the same precious 24 hours in a day. It is what you do with those hours that make a difference for you and only you.
Acknowledge the choices around how to spend your time. We all get to make choices every moment of every day on how we are going to spend our time. Be responsible for the choices you make and know that external factors do not control how we spend our time, we do! At different times in our life, we will spend different amounts of time on different areas. For example, when you are single without children, your weekends might be filled with biking trips with friends or spending brunch pouring through the New York Times. Once you have children, your weekends might be filled with soccer games, going to the playground and cooking dinner at home. All of these activities will be fulfilling at different times in your life. Knowing what your priorities are and making choices in accordance to those priorities will have you feel satisfied. If getting in shape is a priority, you may have to get up in the 5 o'clock hour and go to bed earlier. This is a simple choice in winding down earlier the evening before and perhaps not going out or watching TV after 9pm.
Focus on outcomes and goals in all areas of your life. Take some time to write down exactly what your outcomes are for each area of your life by taking a look at the Life Wheel. Some areas to focus on are health, career, finance, relationships, spirituality/contribution and your emotional life. What would a “10” look like in all these areas? Declare one first step to make in all of these areas to move closer to that 10. Most importantly, write down why this outcome or goal is so important; the why drives you to achieve the outcome. I have a philosophy that one of the reasons people are unhappy or unfulfilled is because they don’t take a look at all these areas and create meaningful purpose in their life. What a shame to not take the time to list your passions and what you want out of life!
Then when going through life, if you find that you’re moving towards your outcomes and your goals, you’ll feel like it’s more balanced. Taking a look at practical goals as well as what you’re most passionate about is essential.
Notice on the Life Wheel that ‘career’ is only one slice of your life. The Dental practice may be where you spend the most physical time, yet it is not the only important area. Fulfillment in the other areas will help you be a better clinician and team member allowing you to deliver a higher level of service.
A good question to ask is “am I getting the outcome I want in this area of my life,” or “am I moving towards the outcome that I want in this area?” Typically when the answer is yes, it not only makes you feel satisfied, it gives you more motivation to make that area a priority.
Take on growing your leadership skills. What does that have to do with life balance? By fostering a vision, inspiring others and delegating tasks, you can free your mind to focus on being who you need to be - a great dentist to your patients. If you’re the Dentist or Office Manager and you are “doing” everything, you may feel disempowered and victimized. Creating department heads and ‘source people’ who can take on tasks will both empower your team and give you more time and energy to focus on more important projects that actually move your practice forward.
One popular model, popularized by Stephen Covey, is the Eisenhower Box. On it, you see that one axis has Urgent and Not Urgent. The other axis has Important and Not Important. The tasks in Not Urgent and Important are the projects, planning and thoughtful work that typically gets put to the back burner. Yet these tasks are the ones that will make most of the difference in your practice and your life. Tasks in the other boxes can be delegated or not completed at all. Examples of Not Urgent and Important tasks: creating a marketing plan, developing job descriptions, planning goals for next year, personal financial planning and exercising. These types of tasks are what make our life rich and fulfilled. I find that for myself and the people that I work with, focusing on these tasks is the most challenging yet the most important in reaching goals.
With patients coming in every hour of every day when you’re at the office, you will have to look at your schedule and decide where you can carve out time. It may creep into evening hours or a day you do not see patients. The important thing to remember is the most successful people somehow find time to get these things done - and you can to!
Lastly, I’d like to emphasize one of my favorite words, discipline. Discipline is what you must cultivate in your life to have the life you want. Discipline with what’s most precious - your time, money, relationships, health...etc. Make choices each and every day as to where you spend your time, use discipline to keep focused on your outcomes in each area and have a belief that you can do it!