You love your career as a dentist, but if you don’t want to burn out, it’s imperative to know how to run a dental practice and keep your personal life in shape.
It’s Friday! Your office is closing up, and everyone is packing it in to enjoy the weekend. Dinner with friends, a play, the big game – the entire office has a life, it seems, except you. You love what you do, but you’re still trying to figure out how to run a dental practice and have a life outside of work.
Like so many small business owners, and most of the dentists you know, there is no shortage of “how to” books on your shelf. Variations on how to run a dental practice or how to succeed as a small business owner are (usually) full of valuable, tested information, although we’re surprised there isn’t one (yet) called “How To Make Your Patients Laugh Without Anesthesia.”
You’re more than a dentist, though. You have a personal life, or at least, you’d like to. But there is always so much that needs to get done, no matter how efficiently you feel like you’re working. The simple fact is, if you want to avoid burnout, you have to figure out how to run a dental practice and have a personal life.
Unless you win the lottery, you aren’t going to walk out of work one Friday evening and suddenly have a different life. But small changes add up over time, and if you take steps, no matter how small, to take care of yourself, it will pay off.
How to run a dental practice and have a personal life in five easy steps
First the disclaimer: these are easy steps to take, but it takes work to stay committed. Once you figure out how to have “you time” and run your dental practice, every imaginable obstacle will appear. Over the long term, though, taking care of yourself is taking care of your business.
1. Set and stick to office hours
As the boss, you’ll be working more hours than anyone else in your practice. That doesn’t mean you should be checking the books at 11:30 in bed. Go in an hour early if you have to, stay an hour late, or schedule three hours on Saturday morning to catch up on any administrative tasks you may have. Whenever you decide to schedule the time, try to stick to it. Most problems that don’t directly involve a patient’s wellbeing are not emergencies. You or one of your staff can deal with the problem during regular office hours.
2. Take a vacation
Go to your calendar and schedule a vacation. Now. If you wait for the right time, you’ll never go anywhere. Close the office for a week in summer, or for a few long weekends throughout the year.
Most of your patients are scheduling months in advance – they won’t mind that you go camping for a weekend, or spend five days sitting on your couch watching movies. In fact, they might even be happy that you took some time off. After all, who do you want rooting around in your mouth with sharp instruments – the dentist who is tired and burned out, or the dentist who is inspired by the architecture of New York or the colors of the southwestern desert?
3. Make a date with yourself
It’s easy to get sucked into the idea that you always need to be working because there is always work to do. For most small business owners there really is always something to do, but that doesn’t mean you always have to do it.
Making a date with yourself is the flip side of sticking to office hours. Making an appointment with yourself ensures that you set aside time to rejuvenate. What this means is entirely up to you. For one dentist, it means playing basketball on Sunday afternoons, for others it may mean pizza and movie night with the family every Friday, and for some, maybe it’s volunteering every Wednesday morning for two hours at a local shelter.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure it is something that feeds you. To remain inspired and dedicated, you have to fill your cup.
4. Forget balance
Balance is what you make it. The idea of work-life balance is different for a business owner. Plus, as a dentist, you probably enjoy your work quite a bit. Remind yourself each day of what you love about your business, whether it’s all the great people you get to meet, the incredible office staff you’ve hired, or the kids that walk in afraid of you and leave with a smile on their faces.
Just don’t mistake this idea with the idea that you can’t also have a personal life.
5. Automate your work
We aren’t quite at the point where a team of robots can perform a root canal. We are, however, at the point where a lot of labor-intensive work can be automated with the right software. Naturally, we believe Umbie is the best on the market for dental practice management software, but there is a reason we think that.
Could you and your office staff spend less time scheduling patients, making reminder calls, and billing? Can you edit treatment plans with a few clicks? You can with Umbie, and with all that extra time, you could have a personal life before you know it!
As a small business owner, what do you know about how to run a dental practice and maintain a personal life? Share with us in the comments.