The business of building a successful naturopathic practice can be tough. Providing services to your patients, building new relationships, marketing your practice, managing staff, it’s all demanding of your time. Many of the practice building activities must happen outside of your standard practice hours.
As naturopathic doctors you are attracted to practice natural medicine because you are intrinsically motivated to make the world a healthier place. In light of this larger goal, it is easy to let your personal needs get lost in the demanding lifestyle of a growing medical practice.
As leaders in the naturopathic world, you owe it to yourself, your family and your staff to build cultures that allow for the appropriate work-life balance. Sadly, many of you learn this the hard way with a life experience that forces you to learn the prioritization of a home life outside of your practice. Unfortunately, for some, a lifetime of precious personal memories with family and friend are lost when this happens.
Establishing a work-life balance requires thoughtful attention on two fronts: Increasing your productivity during your practice hours and protecting personal time away from the office.
TIP #1 SCHEDULE A NO MEETING DAY
Time spent in scheduled or unscheduled meetings in the office can kill productivity during a workday. To-do lists tend to grow and the time to complete them shrinks. Give yourself and your staff additional time to complete the duties assigned during the work-day by blocking out a day of the week where no meetings can take place. If you are using a time scheduling program in the office send out recurring n0-meeting request on your calendar so that your staff don’t inadvertently interrupt patient time for something that can wait.
TIP #2 LEARN TO SAY “NO” … OR “NOT RIGHT NOW”
The world is full a great ideas. When a staff member, or even a patient, suggest a new task or way to get something done, evaluate the idea against the priorities you have already set for yourself. If this new “great” idea is going to take time away from patient care, or delay the way you work, the saying “no” might be the most important way you can protect you or your staff’s time. As a leader, the additional work that a new idea that you approve may fall on the shoulders of staff. Keep in mind the workload of your staff when you agree to trying something new in the office.
TIP #3 DEFINE A CONSISTENT TIME THAT YOU WILL LEAVE THE OFFICE
Sometimes this lifestyle change may be mandated by family considerations, or the commute from your office to home. By establishing a consistent time to head home, you are giving yourself time in the evening to live your life. You are also communicating to your staff that you respect their time and it’s OK for them to head home in the evenings as well.
TIP #4 TAKE YOUR VACATION TIME
Although this seems like a no-brainer, in a study completed in 2014, 40% of Americans forfeited vacation time. As a private-practice doctor working in natural medicine where your income is solely based on patient visits, sometimes this seems impossible. Stop thinking about how much money you will lose while on vacation and create a strategy to improve your patient hours throughout the year to make up for your perceived loss of income while you are out of the office. Once this is implemented, when you take a vacation, you can do it with the confidence that you have covered the perceived lost revenue.
TIP #5 GUARD YOUR TIME AT HOME
One way to accomplish this tip is to establish ground rules for how and when work may be allowed at home. For some it is as easy as committing that from the minute you get home until a set hour, say you arrive home at 6:00 p.m. then until 8:00 p.m. nothing from the practice that you may want to work on at home is done. This basically translates to a two hour work-free zone in your home where you can focus on dinner and family, spending quality time together.
Creating a work-life balance is important. Once you commit to the practice of personal and family time, you can get involved in non-work related hobbies or activities, or even go on a date. Clearly, it is easier said than done, and as many of us are workaholics, it’s hard to stay away from even simple work tasks like checking emails, but make the commitment and you will find your practice will grow and your commitment to a home life will be recognized by family and friends.