Five things to focus your precious time on today - Veterinary Practice
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Five things to focus your precious time on today

Paul Green continues his series with a look at the value of time in a veterinary practice, suggesting a range of activities that can help to condition a mindset of not wasting time on fruitless tasks.

TIME. It’s our most precious resource, and ironically the one we are most likely to squander.

When it comes to growing your practice, you’ve got three resources at your disposal. Time is one, your personal energy is another, and cash is the third.

One of them is infinite (it never runs out) and the other two are highly finite … when they’re gone you can’t get them back.

Cash is the infinite one … there’s plenty of cash out there; it’s just you don’t have enough of it yet!

The finite resources are personal energy and time.

Your energy levels deplete each day and are topped up by lovely sleep (an extra hour’s sleep a day will change your life in the most wonderful way). But as you get older those energy levels run down. It means you can’t achieve so much in the same time.

And time is the resource you will miss the most at the end of your life. A wasted day can never be repeated. You can’t re-live yesterday. It’s impossible to have a go at 2013 again.

Yet day in, day out, practice owners waste their time on stuff that really doesn’t matter. Things that don’t help them achieve the goals they have set for their lives and businesses.

And of course, we’re all running out of time. Right now, according to World Health Organisation figures, the average UK person lives to the age of about 79. To make that seem more urgent to you, it’s an average of 953 months.

Let’s put that in context. If you’re 30, you only have 593 months left. At 40, you only have 473 months left. At 50, you only have 353 months left. And at 60, you only have 233 months left.

Scared? Good! Because if there’s a short amount of time left, shouldn’t you make the most of what you’ve got? I promise you: you’re not going to lie on your deathbed wishing you’d spent more time worrying about meeting payroll, or obsessing over your website.

Instead you’re going to lie there wishing you’d spent more time with your wonderful family and your friends. You’ll wish you’d taken more risks and done more.

My team and I work with just under 40 practice owners helping them grow their business. And a large part of what we do is working on their mindset as well as practical help like doing their marketing for them.

So, assuming you want to grow your practice to give you a more robust business that enables the lifestyle you want – but knowing that time is running out – what should you be spending your time on?

Here are five things to do today that will be a valuable investment of your precious time.

1. Remember your purpose and goal

The most successful people in life are those who have a clear goal and remind themselves of it every morning. Yes, even vets can act this way. You did it when you were young – you had a goal to be a vet and pursued it through good times and bad. But now, as a practice owner, the chances are high that you don’t have a formal goal for the business or your life.

So set a goal. Make it simple and SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound – it has a deadline).

Think of your mind like a satnav. It can get you anywhere, but only if it knows where to send you. A satnav without a destination offers no help. Your mind is the same.

People with goals achieve them, sooner or later. People without goals don’t.

2. Plan your day

Just because you’ve spent your career responding to emergencies doesn’t mean you have to live this way every day. Even if you have daily clinical duties, you can still plan other parts of your day. Successful practice owners know what they want to achieve and formally find time each day to work on those things.

3. Say “no” more often

As the practice owner it’s your inclination to take on a task or problem. Trouble is that every time you do this, you train your staff to push problems up, rather than attempt to tackle them.

If you find it hard to say no, then try vanishing now and again. Nothing trains staff to deal with problems than a practice owner who is not as available as he or she used to be.

4. DOA

I don’t mean dead on arrival. I mean Delegate, Outsource and Automate. There’s no rule book that says you have to do everything just because you own the business.

Pass more tasks on. Find more trusted partners to do stuff for you.

Automate tasks (and yes this can mean using software other than your PMS if it’s rubbish at data analysis and marketing – as most of them are).

5. Go home

Or go to the gym. Or the golf course, or water skiing, or whatever oats your boat. But get away from work. You work too many hours. Apart from start-up practices in the first couple of years, there is little correlation between hours worked and results achieved. For a mature business you don’t have to work all the time to achieve the best results.

There are better things you can invest your time into. Your partner would like more of your time. So would your children; and even your dog. If your business can’t thrive without you, then do something about that today. And make it a priority to spend more of your time on things that really matter by next summer.

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