Dr. Christina Blatchford is CEO of Blatchford Solutions, America’s dental Coaching Program for practice management where dentists work less days, increase their net return and have more joy for their profession. Dr. Blatchford, with her father, Dr. Bill Blatchford, have written No Nonsense Transitions and Playing Your ‘A’ Game 2.0. Check out www.blatchford.com, (888) 977-4600.

Chasing and Finding Balance

I want to have it all! How can I balance a professional life, my family and my friends to have any personal time for me, my health and happiness? Men and women struggle the same, and this is the biggest challenge, finding the right life balance.

With a little work and discipline, you can have it all. But first, you must define “all.” What areas are most important to you? What does practice success look like? What is the depth and quality of family time you desire? What are your goals for health and spiritual life? Map them all out and put some numbers, hours and goals behind your list.

In 2017, personally, what do you want to accomplish? Write it down and break it up into workable parts. Saying you want to “spend more time with the family” is lovely, but what does that mean on a weekly and daily basis. What are you willing to do to make that happen?

As a professional person, to make more time for your family, you may want to make more money in less amount of time, which is definitely attainable. To have meaningful time for your family, you might consider having a person grocery shop, make dinner and clean up on the days you work. Would that provide you with some of the family time you want, or would you end up answering emails and reading dental blogs?

Since your work is how you make a living, let’s reach a degree of satisfaction in your practice. A better balance will occur when the engine running your life is operating successfully. Define success in your practice. Is your take-home what you expected? Is your team performing with your leadership? Is there passion present? Are you using effective scheduling? Is your team cross-trained and willing to fully participate? Are they selling dentistry?

Finding balance between your professional and personal lives becomes messy and frustration when you try to mix the two. The division of your practice life and personal life will be more successful if you create barriers and guidelines to separate the two.

According to Strategic Coach, define your days as focus days, buffer days and free days … and don’t mix those days. This requires discipline and balance. In your practice, define focus days as patient contact days or “hands in the mouth.” You are scheduled to goal, your team is accountable for their results and there are no interruptions of non-work details. You can totally focus on patient care.

Buffer days are preparation for work days, and this is when you network in the community, cross train your team, work on sales conversations, create solid systems, study numbers, make big decisions, communicate and read. There are no patients. You need one day or half-day to fully prepare for focus or work days.

Free days are the most difficult to discipline. Free is free. There are no work phone calls or emails, no paper work, and no visits to the accountant. This is free time to take for yourself, your family and your friends. Many times we hear from doctors who say, “I want to get back to the person I used to be—relaxed, crazy fun with my friends and interesting.” This is the real you doing what you enjoy. Plan these days. Let your family know your parameters and they will help you keep your time free.

In these changing times, some dentists’ first impulse is to spend more time at the office to bring in more income. Unless you are turning people away and simply can’t treat them, spending more time at the office is a fallacy. Blatchford Block Booking is team-working with a goal and repeating every focus day. Especially during challenging times, we need balance to be refreshed and ready for a full day of patient care.

We are caught up in the electronic age, never really having a full vacation or taking time for an original thought. If we allow it, someone can reach us every minute. We love it, we hate it and we can’t seem to escape it. We use our work to remain so involved. Achieving balance requires discipline. Do you want balance enough to separate yourself from your devices? At work, can you check your emails at noon?

What do we really accomplish by being a slave to the Internet? Are we real or becoming robots or automatons?

How do we live in today’s world and keep it balanced? There needs to be motivation to make a change to better balance. We are in control of our time. We make the choices. Some people say, “I wouldn’t know what to do with a free time,” or, “I need to be more successful so I can take time off,” or, “I don’t feel comfortable unless I am working,” or, “I feel guilty taking time off.” We actually sabotage ourselves from being balanced. We are choosing to work instead out of guilt, fear or the unknown. We are choosing imbalance.

Choose balance by creating a practice where you are in charge and not a slave to your work. Most dentists have daily schedules with a silent goal or no goal. Having solid goals and communicating them allows team members to participate in your excitement. If you could produce the same amount of work in one less day a week and pay your team as they are now being paid, what would be the reaction of your team?

It takes impassioned leadership, communication, mastering sales skills and having solid systems (scheduling, financial arrangements, patient care) in place so there is consistency and fool proof care. This is a focus day, and everything is organized and on point. There is calm and joy because everyone is cross-trained and can make decisions based on the leader’s vision. The dentist is totally focused on patient care and does major work during the morning blocks.

I also think it is important to balance your whole life. Are you on a path to work very hard for 25 years and then retire completely? Not everyone adjusts well to this abruptness. Another option is to practice well three days a week throughout your practice life, taking six to eight weeks off a year and be balanced in home and practice. This style of practice will allow you to continue practicing at your own pace for as long as you want. We call this “Retire As You Go.”

Besides controlling your Internet time, other aspects of creating balance is learning to decline to everything you find superficial or non-essential, things that don’t add value to your life. Watch your health and take all the tests available as well as the vaccinations. Learn to sleep well. Get rid of toxic people who can surround you and usurp your energies. These include whiners, negative energizers and drama persons. Choose successful people instead. Fight for alone time for meditation, read, yoga and growth.

Improve quality time with your family. Turn off the television and talk. How about outsourcing your errands like grocery shopping, lawn mowing, and dry cleaning? Treat yourself well with massages and pedicures. Take a new route to work. Try walking or biking. Take a class for your own enjoyment like photography or cooking. Learn to laugh hard and often. You need some belly laughs.

Dentistry is the best profession for making your life happen well. As an owner, you have flexibility to lead in the direction you choose, and your practice can support those choices. Many dentists rate the practice as No. 1 and rarely have any time or money left over for their life. Blatchford Solutions can help you make your life your top priority and make the practice support that with more time and net return.