The most common form of stress that dental professionals experience is the feeling of being overwhelmed with far too much to do and having little time to do it. In fact ‘time poverty’ is the biggest single problem facing our profession today.
We simply do not have enough time to fulfil our responsibilities. Because of budget limitations, staff motivation and training, downsizing, patient care and time needed with treatment planning, and then competitive pressures, dental hygienists are forced to take on more and more work, all of which appears to be indispensable to the smooth functioning of the dental practice.
In turn, these pressures often lead to unproductive behaviours, including: procrastination, blaming anyone other than yourself, poor standards, waiting for a better time to do the work, and generally never feeling that you are progressing in any way. These behaviours lead to unfulfilling work and lower profits, not to mention lower standards of care.
This cannot be good for any business, especially in a business like ours where a ‘service with a smile’ is so important to our ultimate professional success.
Ask yourself the following questions:
• How genuine is your smile when you are under stress?
• How effective and productive are you when you are pushed for time?
• How much do you dislike your job when you are under pressure?
• In this mindset are you taking the business forward or are you stagnant?
This tends to come to us in all forms and manners, and is definitely not beneficial to our long-term health. When we are not achieving our goals in life we often tend to procrastinate or just settle down into our comfort zones, which are familiar and bearable. Going outside this zone often leads to undesirable stress.
Stress often comes in three forms – the good, the bad and the ugly! Ugly stress leads to verbal tension and unco-operative behaviour. This is damaging to the entire infrastructure of the business. You will instantly recognise this because it will be the only thing playing on your mind. Get rid of it now!
We then come to the bad stress; this is often the one we do not realise is creeping up on us. This is the stress leading to job dissatisfaction, where we no longer enjoy the practice of dentistry, yet don’t even stop to think about the cause of it. We often blame our patients and unmotivated staff. We tend to end up feeling there is no way out and this is the way it will remain. We go into ‘if only’ mode.
What we need is the good stress, to keep us alert and motivated. It is this that allows us to achieve goals. Good stress is created as a result of reorganising the elements that give us the bad stress.
We need to take a step back and re-evaluate our situations. We need to ask ourselves what we are trying to achieve. We then need to figure out the steps that will take us there. We need to take a good look at the bigger picture of where we are heading.
Becoming an expert
Then all we need is to create solutions. One solution to the problem of work overload is for you to become an expert in time management. There is probably no other skill you can learn that will give you more value per euro spent than to become extremely knowledgeable and experienced in using time management practices.
It is a case of giving more value to your time than your money. In order for you to do this you need to take an ‘inventory’ of yourself and your practice needs. Then you need to prioritise the steps that will lead to your ‘bigger picture’. You need to develop sound leadership qualities in order to establish your operative functions within the practice.
Time management is about doing your job in the most efficient way possible to maximise profits and enjoyment. The two indispensable keys to the practice of time organisation are:
1. The ability to set priorities
2. The ability to concentrate single-mindedly on one thing at a time.
Since there is never enough time to do everything that needs to be done, you must continually prioritise. Perhaps the very best question that you can memorise and repeat, over and over, is, ‘What is the most valuable use of my time right now?’ This question will do more to keep you on track, hour by hour, than any other single act.
Often we are so busy doing the little things that all we achieve is little results! The natural tendency for all of us is to major in minors and to give in to the temptation to clear up small things first. After all, small things are easier and they are often more fun than the big, important things that represent the most valuable use of your time. However, the self-discipline of organising your work and focusing on your highest value tasks is the starting point to getting your time under control and lowering your stress levels.
This principle not only applies to the overall dental business management but also to your time allocation with your patients and their treatment planning. Schedule your patient diary to maximise income yet at the same time to lower your stress levels by deploying the correct time allocation per patient. There is nothing more stressful than a waiting room full of waiting patients!
Set clear priorities each day, week, month and year, and soon you will be realising your potential for further growth and productivity. We can only achieve this if we have taken the time to work out where we want to steer our ship. We need to understand the most valuable use of our time – deciding what to eliminate, what to delegate and what to outsource.
We need to be creative in the procrastination of our responsibilities. What we should do now and what we can leave for later are very important decisions. If we manage our very valuable time to its ultimate potential, we will achieve peak performance and be able to enjoy the benefits.
Correct and efficient time management skills are essential to any dental hygienist, especially if you are ambitious enough to want to enjoy the fruits of your labour, and obtain enjoyment and fulfilment in the practice of dentistry, plus increased productivity!