Business coach and author Alan Adams discusses how to successfully prioritise tasks in an aesthetic clinic and details ways to manage your time efficiently
Let me start by saying that there is no such thing as ‘time saving’. We cannot store time and, generally speaking, nor do we have any more or less than anyone in a day. The amount of time we have in a day is not negotiable, and an increased demand in your time does not mean increased supply.
In this article, I share guidance on how to best manage your clinic’s workload to avoid you and your team feeling overwhelmed, so that you get the very most from the time you have available and reap the rewards of a business that’s running effectively and, ultimately, more profitably.
People are inherently prone to distractions. In a thriving clinic with a fast-paced environment, which can require you to take phone calls, manage emails and social media, and deal with unexpected patient visits, it’s easier than ever to have your mind and focus taken off elsewhere.
An observational study by Professor of Informatics, Gloria Mark, from the University of California found that a typical office worker is interrupted every 11 minutes, while it takes a subsequent 25 minutes to get back into the flow of their work.1,2
A total of 48 subjects participated and were asked to take part in an email task in which they would be faced with interruptions every two minutes. The results showed that any interruption introduced a change in work pattern and is not necessarily related to the context.
It is possible to do more than one job at a time of course, but I believe it’s not effective for getting through your workload and making the business run more smoothly. One of my favourite studies that showcases just how ineffective multitasking is was undertaken amongst 1,100 workers by the University of London’s Institute of Psychiatry and found that doing many things at once caused a greater decrease in IQ than smoking marijuana or having a poor night’s sleep.. Remember, it takes you much longer to do the job when you’re distracted by other things, and you’ll always feel ‘busy’ by responding to urgent but non-important work.
The sweet spot for any clinic owner is to work on things that are not urgent, but are really important. For example, setting aside time to create compelling and engaging marketing content that can then be distributed across multiple channels can be hugely valuable to any clinic owner in ensuring that he or she has a consistent and continual flow of communications being shared with both prospective, and existing, patients. Nigel Botterill, a British entrepreneur who has built eight separate million-pound companies, uses a very unique technique to make sure he isn’t distracted and focuses on the important tasks. He is extremely protective of his first 90 minutes of the day; in fact, he has a ‘Do Not Disturb Unless There’s a Fire’ sign on his door and his team know not to bother him during this time.
Putting this into context, if, as a clinic owner, you spend this first 90 minutes of the day, developing a process that could save you nine minutes a day, whether that be automating an element of your practice or refining a set system, after just 10 days this can really start having an impact on your time. Many clinics I speak to struggle with the marketing of their business, and so another way to use this precious 90 minutes is to solely focus on a particular area for that allocated time.
So creating content such as advice and guidance pieces, top tips guides, developing video showreels, and undertaking online courses that cover the varying sales and marketing methods and tools available, can ultimately help you to drive your business forward. In any business, it’s important to remember to work on your business and not be engrossed with what’s going on in it. That’s why, in order to grow and flourish, I believe your time as a clinic owner needs to be spent wisely, and you need to consider your time to be absolutely sacrosanct.
Of course, everyone is different, but you might find yourself to be one of many business owners who procrastinate. Either because you know a certain job will take up a large amount of your time, you know it’s going to be hard work, or you simply just don’t like doing it. My advice with tasks such as these would be to break each one of them down into smaller chunks, making them far less daunting and much more manageable.
Procrastination and distractions are two of the biggest time wasters. So, if you fall into one or both of these, what’s the solution? You could outsource. For example, if you manage your own accounts and dread that time of the month which sees you having to number-crunch, really re-evaluate how valuable you are to your business and whether undertaking this particular task is the best use of your time. Are you really doing yourself justice by using time you could be spending with patients and providing profitable treatments, just to save spending £100 once a month on a bookkeeper?
If, like many people, you struggle to let go of certain jobs because you believe that no one else can do it, ask yourself this, ‘If my business was turning over £10,000,000, would I really be doing this? And if the answer is no, then it’s certainly something you should be outsourcing. If your financial situation negates you from outsourcing the big things, then look at some of the smaller tasks that you currently undertake and consider training someone else in the team to do them.
I would advise that you make a list of every single job that you currently do and identify every one of those that you personally don’t need to; it can be anything from taking clinic phone calls to creating a PR plan. Remember, your business is ultimately a commercial and profitable enterprise that should operate even when you’re not there. Make your time the most productive by outsourcing, so that you have the freedom to focus on what really matters.
A growing to-do list can make you feel like you’re not making any progress, no matter how hard you’ve worked. Be sure to do the work that will make the biggest impact. Think about the Pareto Principle2 which encompasses the 80/20 divide. This applies to task prioritising and scheduling. The rule suggests that 20% of your activities will account for 80% of your results. For example, if you have a list of 10 tasks, it’s likely two them will be worth more than the other eight items put together.
The ideal patients will typically pay more and take up less of your time, whilst those who continually try to knock you down on price and complain the most will subsequently take up more of your time, energy, and head space. So, focus your efforts on identifying and securing the great patients, and freeing those patients who aren’t worthy of your time. At the start of each week or even each day, write the list of things you need to do in order, and be realistic. This helps to clear things out of your mind so that you can focus on the job at hand even more effectively. If you have one job that just isn’t getting done, think about whether someone else in your team can do it.
Delegation is very helpful in getting more done and helping you to feel less like it’s all on you. Depending on the size of your clinic, simply tracking what your team is spending its time doing can also be critical. You may be using one of the industry-specific time management tools or even a paper-based one, but if you’ve not really started tracking exactly where your clinic’s overall time is being spent, start now. Your CRM system should be able to identify just what it is your team members are spending their time on, but there are also specialist time-tracking software programmes (which are often free), such as Toggl, which can support you and your staff.
It’s always a good idea to think about planning out your perfect week; when you’re seeing patients, when you’re working on the development of the business, and how you’re coordinating marketing and sales. And if you stick to your schedule, you go home each day feeling like you’ve accomplished exactly what you set out to, instead of thinking about the 101 things you haven’t done, which only exacerbates the problem of procrastination and stress. In this specialty, patients are hugely important; but, what’s urgent to them is not necessarily what’s urgent to you.
Plus, if your patients think that they should be able to get hold of you at any time they call, email or text it shows that you’ve been too easily interruptible for too long. Of course, you should be there for your patients. But I believe that in order to manage your workload efficiently, there has to be boundaries and limits, and very rarely do issues or enquiries need your immediate response.
For example, has anyone ever emailed you to say there’s a fire in the building and you should probably escape? As long as you’ve reverted back to the patient in the same day or even within a few hours, you’re doing great – and are much more in control of your own time. For example, you could block out one hour in the morning, one at midday, and one in the afternoon to solely respond to your phone calls and emails, closing the applications down outside of this time so you can plan your time effectively.
I would say that one of the things you have to really get good at when it comes to maximising your time is planning. It’s about understanding what really matters to your business’s growth and its end goal and focusing on that each and every day. The really important tasks that need sorting urgently are always around, and you’ll know when you’ve had one of those days because you’ll look back and feel like you’ve achieved nothing. That isn’t the case – you’ve just been busy ‘doing’ the doing within your business like the day-to-day operations of the business like answering the phone and filling out paperwork.
Goal setting is also hugely powerful in any business. Many clinic owners I work with have set up their business with their own end destination in mind. Whether that’s having financial security to achieve their personal goals, to grow their business so that it no longer needs them to work in it full time, or to simply not work for someone else.
Whatever their reason may be, many of them have found that their end goal feels like a lifetime away and feel disillusioned because they aren’t getting any closer to achieving it. As a result, they lose their sense of direction and purpose, and they fall out of love with the job they’re doing because it’s not yielding the return they’d hoped for. It is important to rekindle your passion for the reason you set up in the first place by focusing again on your aspirations and goals.
I would advise setting your goals for one, three, five and 10 years’ time and then work backwards from this so that you end up at today. What things do you need to achieve today, this week, this month, and this quarter that will take you even closer to your goal? It’ll soon become clear again why you’re doing what you’re doing. From there, you can make a plan. List out your weekly, monthly, and yearly action priorities. Getting into this practice will soon become habit, and something you’ll need to get your team involved in too so that they understand what’s important and why you or they are doing it.
Ultimately, make sure that you’re still doing what you love – and remember why you started out in the first place – reminding yourself that it’s all about the journey. If you’re doing this for your family, arrange to spend more time with them so that they’re always at the forefront of your mind (and business objectives).
One of the easiest ways to experience burn-out and fall out of love for what you’re doing is by focusing on all the wrong things. Workloads can feel ever-growing and ever-urgent, but if you really do practice the art of prioritising, planning, and delegating or outsourcing where it’s warranted, a lot of your time can be freed up to focus on what’s really important to you and your clinic. None of us have an unlimited amount of time, but the most successful people in any business know how valuable their time is and are hugely precious about how they use it.
1. The New York Times, Brain Interrupted, 2013 <https://www. nytimes.com/2013/05/05/opinion/sunday/a-focus-on-distraction. html>
2. Research Gate, The cost of interrupted work: More speed and stress, 2008 <https://www.researchgate.net/ publication/221518077_The_cost_of_interrupted_work_More_ speed_and_stress>
3. Forbes, Why Multitasking is Worse Than Marijuana <https://www. forbes.com/sites/vanessaloder/2014/06/11/why-multi-tasking-is-worse-than-marijuana-for-your-iq/#556afbdf7c11>
4. WhatIs.com, Pareto Principle <https://whatis.techtarget.com/ definition/Pareto-principle>