Chris Harper shares a few of the books that have helped him become a better dentist

I set myself a New Year’s resolution that I wanted to read more in 2017. So far, I have read (or in some cases listened to the audiobook while commuting) and reflected on more than 20 books since January. Here are my top three books that I would call essential reading for aesthetic dentists, and why.

1. How to be a productivity ninja – Graham Allcott

Do you ever find yourself in awe of dentists that seem like they can achieve everything? They seem to have it all and can do it all. They do a high volume of amazing dentistry, which is documented to a very high standard. They also have other commitments such as mentoring and teaching, possibly even internationally.

They somehow have time to read and review research articles and they also have hobbies outside of dentistry and a full family life. I think a small number of people are in fact superhuman; everyone else (myself included) will have to make do with being mortal and the best we can hope for is training ourselves to become productivity ninjas.

If you would like to learn how to become better at achieving more, then this book really could help. It has definitely helped me. It teaches some simple concepts you can follow to help organise your workflow and your time, and unlike other books I have come across lately, it feels right for the time, particularly in our digital age with a huge number of inputs throwing a lot of data at us.

Proactive for high-level thinking, active for most doing tasks and inactive for basic functions like filing and ordering. A big part of the book is spent discussing CORD – capture data, organise, review, do. It’s a great way of thinking about your examination and treatment planning as well as your overall time planning.

The book also strongly encourages making a daily checklist habit, so that afterwards you don’t have to spend time scrolling up and down the to-do list, but just carry on with your daily list. I have been doing this for a few months now, as well as allocating time once a week to do a review. This allows you to ensure any data/ideas captured are all in one place and your priorities are decided upon to help you focus on what is most important at that time.

One big change I’ve made as a result of reading this book is that I have now scrapped my old to-do list that I have been using for a couple of years. It was a four-page word document with some ideas that had been on there for over a year. Because it wasn’t organised by priority and by the time/energy required, I would often look at it and struggle to know what to do.

Instead I have moved all that data onto an app, Google Keep. It makes it far simpler to give tasks priorities and you can even mark some to be done on a specific day in your five-minute planning session and then click a button to hide all other tasks for the day. I am really finding it to be a great way of organising my tasks. And unlike my old to-do list, it is on all my devices. Organise your time like a productivity ninja and achieve more!

2.How to have a good day – Caroline Webb

In How to have a good day, the author presents and explains her findings over many years of reading and applying scientific research, with the sole aim of experiencing a more pleasant and productive day.

It provides a fantastic summary of these scientific findings and many concepts I have come across in other books this year now have even more meaning, having consumed How to have a good day. Here are a few of the concepts I have already or plan to incorporate into my life:

  1. Setting intentions, whether that is for the day as a whole, for a certain task, or for certain conversations. If you know what your intentions are, it is easy to bring yourself back on track should distractions pop up
  2. Be more mindful of how I plan my day. By being more deliberate with the wording of a task, it makes it quicker and less mentally taxing to actually get the ball rolling on it and far simpler to tick off part of a multi-step project
  3. Learn to give a ‘positive no’. This is when you politely decline an invitation or request but do so in a deliberate scientifically driven way that makes all parties feel okay with it
  4. Learn the art of extreme listening. This can be used to help a colleague to get to the bottom of a problem by themselves rather than just provide a solution for them (and often feel undermined in the process). It can also be used with discussions with patients to really ensure we are meeting their desires from any treatment.

These are just a few examples of the things I have taken away from this book. It has already had a big impact on my stress levels since reading it, and I think it will come into its own since I started my new role as a clinical supervisor in September.

3. Start with why – Simon Sinek

Most people and companies know what they do, but not why they do it. Fixing teeth is my ‘what’ while I am at work, but it isn’t a ‘why’, and it doesn’t explain why I am so happy to get up at 5.30am and spend a lot of time blogging, etc.

Making profit is not a real why. A real why is a much deeper concept and it may take a lot of thought to really get to the bottom of it. Simon Sinek guides you through this process so well and for me at least it has absolutely clarified my why, which I can use to guide everything I do.

I love to help people become better, achieve more, and realise their potential. That is my why. And it has resulted in me adopting a new motto to live by, which I have incorporated into my life: ‘Let me help you become a better version of yourself’.

Knowing your why helps to guide how you should do business, how you should advertise, and treat your staff. It guides everything.


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