“Time is life. It is irreversible and irreplaceable. To waste your time is to waste your life, but to master your time is to master your life and make the most of it.”
Alan Lakein, How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life
Setting the Bar
As every dentist knows, in the learned professions, “mastery” is a tall order. It is also true that among our gifts, the gift of time is something very personal we can give ourselves. How, then, can we apply ourselves in a way that will work for us, and move us toward becoming “masters of our time”? First comes an understanding that time is a resource. Then we can make the commitment to protect this gift as an ever-precious resource, treating it as we would any resource we want to protect. With that as our goal, we can begin with these simple rules.
Rule #1: Prioritize
In general, people will make time for what is truly important to them. For most of us, life’s priorities are family first, followed by faith, then friendship, and down the list is earning a living and influencing other people’s lives. Research has told us that the time spent with family does not have to be a great extended period of time. Just a few minutes with no distractions and pure focus on one another can be very beneficial. It is amazing what can happen in these moments. Addressing these priorities individually, with focused attention and meaningful care, we find we can actually save time. Try it. As you will discover, a priority can be addressed in just a few minutes. This is where our ability to manage, then control, our time begins.
Rule #2: Organize
Not as simple nor as obvious as it may sound, Rule #2 directs us to decide what it is that we want to do and how we need to allocate our time to make that happen. Make a list: Place duties/activities in order of importance. Write down goals, and do it every day, because when written down, they will become realities.
Rule #3: Do Not Procrastinate
This is perhaps the greatest obstacle we face. Just looking at the piles of journals, charts, and paperwork on our desks could be a big sign telling us we need help with this monster. Try developing a routine of tackling the issue at P R A C T I C E Management hand … now. The old saying holds true: “Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?”
Rule #4: Acquire Motivators
Dentists are independent folk, which can work against us at times. How do we get past that? It begins by learning, then accepting, that we can allow, help, others to help us. This help can come from our families, staff, or just about anyone who cares about us. Most people have an idea of what they want to do, even how they want to do it, but need motivation to make the commitment to move forward with it. We need that personal “accountability partner” to help us get off Square One and track our progress all the way to followthrough. Don’t feel bad asking for help. It would be a rare occurrence to hear someone say no.
Rule #5: Take a Break
This is another step we have to see as a positive, as opposed to a cop-out. Do this, really: Take a day off from your distractions, especially your smart phone. Just try it. This is a fast-paced world, and it seems to be getting faster every day. If we slow down for a moment and listen, we may actually enjoy more. So that we can …
Rule #6: Smell the Roses
Go on a walk; think about nothing but what you are thankful for in your life. Be appreciative for all that you have. Reflect on the positive impact that our great profession of dentistry has had not only in your life, but the lives of your loved ones and especially in the lives of the patients in your care. Choose to be happy, and remember that time is more precious than money, so it should be treated as such!
The Time It Takes
Start today by looking for reasons to act on what may be your priorities. Don’t look for excuses to tell that little voice inside you why you can’t — whatever it is — make something so worthwhile a reality. Excuses are just a way to absolve us from taking the action that will change our lives, change them in a way that will, when we look back, let us realize, without regret, that we have, indeed, mastered our time.
*Dr. Henrichsen is a general dentist in private practice in Rochester, Minnesota. Email is firstname.lastname@example.org