Do you often find that you spend your days being incredibly busy you hardly have time to eat, yet your to-do list doesn’t get any shorter? Or that you’re often overwhelmed by the number of things you have to complete that you end up not starting any of them? Or, do you simply find it hard to complete your daily/weekly tasks?

If so, you might need to work on increasing productivity in your daily working life in your private practice.

We all know that time is money. In an ideal world, all your working hours would be billable (i.e., client-facing hours) so that you can gain revenue for every hour that you work. However, that’s simply not possible as a private practice owner, as you often have to wear many different hats. One minute you’re a practitioner, and the next you’re a marketer, a bookkeeper, a receptionist or a salesperson.

This means that your non-billable hours need to be spent wisely so that you can maximise your billable hours or facilitate maximum efficiency and productivity for the operations of your practice and practitioners.

It takes simple changes in your daily operations to make big changes to the overall productivity of your practice. Implement the 8 habits below and see how your days can be more structured and efficient!

 

#1. Document everything. Accurately.

So many business owners are guilty of not having a documentation system. There’s nothing special to it; Simply document everything (in your own words) and pick a central place (preferably digital) to save the documentation.

This is a good habit for any business as it helps you to leave a trail of written notes for everything you do, which can be used as reference or even evidence. Having documentation of your business tasks also means you can afford to be forgetful as you’ll always have your notes as backup. This will increase productivity as you’ll be less likely to make mistakes or needlessly repeat tasks.

As allied health practitioners, you’re already used to writing case notes and having written evidence of any client-related communication. Apply this logic and habit to your business tasks as well.

 

#2. Use the documentation to create internal processes.

Another reason documenting everything is a great habit for private practice owners is that you get to use the documentation to create processes in your practice.

How many times have you had to type out the same email over and over again? Or spend time searching for the sent email so you can copy and paste? How much time could you save if you knew exactly who to contact for every task or issue that arise in your practice?

And the final test: If you had to pass on an internal task (e.g., setting up a new practitioner, publishing a blog, creating a new email address, etc) to another person, is there a well-documented guide they can use?

If your answer is no, then your practice is extremely vulnerable to your ability to work. Should an emergency arise in your personal life, your practice would halt and most tasks will not get done until your return.

Having internal process documents can help increase productivity in your practice by:

  • Knowing exactly what to do for any task, thus saving time going back and forth, and
  • Allowing you to delegate tasks in your absence.
See here for a list of recommended internal processes and policies.

 

#3. Create and use checklists.

In a similar sense to the previous points, checklists are a simple way to increase productivity and efficiency in your private practice.

While internal process documents are important to have, if you regularly repeat the same procedure, it will quickly become more labour-intensive to have to read through a process document every time. Instead, create a short checklist for internal processes and simply tick off each item as you go.

This will save you time as well as increase accuracy as you’re less likely to miss information by skimming past it.

It’s recommended that checklists are created for any repetitive tasks that you may now find yourself doing on auto-pilot. A lot of the times, as we get used to our own routines, we don’t realise we’re performing important tasks and may not even be able to recall the action. This is how we miss critical steps in new staff training or task delegation.

Start with our free standard daily and weekly business checklists!

 

#4. Ask, “Could this be automated?” for any task that takes longer than 30 minutes to complete.

Make a habit of regularly taking a step back and asking if an internal process or task can be improved.

As technology advances and new software and applications pop up every second, there is almost always a better way to handle a task.

For example, instead of copying and pasting a standard email, you could add the email as a template in your email application and simply select the template when you need. Or if you find yourself answering a lot of the same email enquiries, you could set up an automatic reply that answers the frequently asked questions. You’ll still personally reply to the enquiry but this way, you won’t be under pressure to get to it as soon as possible as it will have been answered already.

Pay attention to the amount of time you spend on repetitive and simple tasks and ask yourself whether or not there is a better way. A simple Google search will most likely give you plenty of options to improve your systems.

The other side to this “systems improvement” problem is the type of business owner who gets swept up by the overwhelming options to choose from. While there are the practice owners who don’t think to change their processes, there are also those who are so eager to have the most efficient systems that they indubitably destroy their productivity. You could lose yourself trying to automate every task and, more often than not, you’ll find that once you master a new system there’s a newer and better system in the market already.

Find the right balance between being open to new systems to improve workflow and being distracted by new things. I find that it’s easy to overcome FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) of new and shiny programs if I set myself a strict timeline. Once I do the research and find a system that works for me, I stick to it for a minimum of 6 months before I review its usefulness and perhaps look elsewhere. Find the process that works for your practice and your own working style.

 

#5. Measure and you shall reveal.

In the previous point, we talked about improving processes for tasks that take too much of your time. While it’s great to have a habit of asking whether or not something can be improved, it’s no use if you don’t actually know what you’re spending time on.

Measuring time spent on admin and other business tasks can reveal a whole lot about your working style and where things can be improved. Keep a habit of writing down the time each time you start a new task or actually timing yourself.

But admin time is not the only thing you can measure to improve efficiency in your private practice. Data is everywhere you want it to be. Just by measuring things that might seem pointless, you’ll be able to answer the questions that you never even thought to ask. There are endless things you can measure in your private practice to make informed business decisions, including:

  • Time spent on admin and business tasks (Productivity)
  • Difference in time spent on admin depending on other variables (Productivity)
  • Average waiting time for client appointments (Process Improvement)
  • Reasons for cancellation (Feedback and Process Improvement)
  • Average time taken to book an appointment online (Process Improvement)
  • Average time taken for clients to fill out new client intake forms (Process Improvement)

Data collection is a habit that can be developed gradually. Implementing the measurement of all possible data at once will likely have an adverse effect to productivity. Instead, take it slow and gradually add to the collection of data that you measure over time.

 

#6. Work to your strengths and delegate tasks appropriately.

Some of us are night owls while others are early birds. Everyone works differently, and altering your work schedule to accommodate your working style can increase productivity by making it easier and much enjoyable to work. It can also make it easier for you to focus and keep to a routine.

Schedule your appointments earlier in the day if you enjoy working uninterrupted in the afternoon. If you prefer to run errands in the day and work until late, then schedule your appointments in the afternoons and evenings. If you find it difficult to focus on one thing for long periods of time, structure your admin time in between appointments.

As a business owner, you make up your own hours and you’re in charge of your schedule. So, test out different daily structures and find one that works for you.

Additionally, when you come across tasks that you find difficult to complete to a high standard no matter how hard you try, delegate! Pay your team members an hourly rate to take on ad hoc tasks, include them in their contract from the start, or hire someone to carry out certain tasks that you struggle with.

 

#7. Communicate with your team and ask for feedback.

In private practice, your team is the best resource you have. Making a habit of communicating with your team members, giving them feedback and asking for feedback can significantly increase productivity in your practice.

Your team can tell you what works and what doesn’t, provide suggestions on how certain processes can be improved, and even share how other private practices have done the same tasks if they have worked elsewhere (and if appropriate).

Remember to practice RESPECT when it comes to team communication:

  • R: Regular and Routine – Make it daily, weekly or monthly
  • E: Expected – Schedule it in advance
  • S: Specific – When asking for feedback, make your questions specific, not vague
  • P: Perspective – Use perspective when receiving and giving feedback
  • E: Efficient – Make team meetings efficient and productive
  • C: Consistent – Keep your communication and tone consistent
  • T: Transparent – Be, and encourage your team to be, transparent

 

#8. Instead of navigating blindly, ask for advice.

The last habit to implement in your private practice is reaching out for advice when the need arises. Too many private practice owners (and business owners in general) navigate through their business decisions blindly all the while second-guessing themselves and feeling isolated and anxious.

Sometimes it’s difficult for even the most seasoned entrepreneur to look at the big picture and keep focused. Especially when things don’t seem to be going right, it can be challenging to keep a positive mindset or know what to do.

There are plenty of options for private practice owners feeling the pressure.

  • Ask your colleagues. If you have any colleagues or friends in private practice, reach out to them for advice. Chances are, they’re going through the same or they’ve come out the other end and have some wisdom to offer.
  • Join forums and ask other private practice owners. Find appropriate online and/or offline platforms where private practice owners can share their challenges and advice.
  • Reach out to a consultant. Private practice business coaches like myself have most likely already seen the issue you’re dealing with, and helped another practice owner overcome it. You won’t know until you reach out!

Asking for advice is a habit that comes more easily to some than others. But once you get used to asking questions, you’ll find that people are a lot more willing to share their successes with you than you might have thought, and that you can save a lot of time that you would have spent agonising over small details. Imagine, something that could take you weeks to sort through alone can be solved in minutes if you just reach out!

 

The 8 habits to increase productivity in your private practice are easy to implement if approached gradually and with patience. Take it one day and one task at a time, and before you know it, they will have become a habit that you don’t even notice anymore.