Article Date: 2/1/2005

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Making Time for Happiness
It's easy to get pulled under the current of work. Here's how to plan an escape.
Gary Gerber, O.D.

Last month, we discussed recording your practice's New Year's resolutions. How are you doing so far? Hopefully you did record them and are on your way to reaching your goals. No doubt you centered many of them on practice growth and profitability. But there's another category of goals to discuss.

A fine line

If it hasn't happened to you, you've certainly heard stories of people who experience a life-changing event that gives them "a new perspective on life." For such individuals, "stopping to smell the roses" becomes a personal epiphany after a close call in a serious car accident or after a family tragedy. So while last month I wrote about business resolutions and setting goals for your business, I now want to discuss an aspect of our professional lives that largely goes unspoken. Namely, why we work so hard and how we find a balance between optometry being our career and being our life.

When clients sign up with my company, we ask them to complete a practice profile. Beyond the obvious business demographic and financial metrics, we ask clients about their goals -- both personal and professional.

ILLUSTRATION BY SIMON SHAW

Clients record comments such as, "My practice is controlling me and I want to get my life back," or, "I want to spend more time: with my kids/playing golf/sailing/(substitute your favorite fun thing to do here)" as commonly on these client profiles as, "Increase sales of plano sunglasses." Clearly, as an industry, we're working hard and having difficulty enjoying the fruits of our labors. More hours, more patients, more management worries and less pay is slowly becoming the optometric business norm. But it doesn't have to be this way.

Happiness is possible?

As I explained last month, you too can start to get your life back by recording a plan to help you enjoy the benefits of your hard work. For example, a personal goal might be, "I want to close earlier on Thursday evenings and not lose any income." Once written down, you can now start to strategize on a plan to make this "dream" a reality. Perhaps condensing scheduling somewhere else in the week might help. Maybe taking a close look at a managed care plan's profitability (or lack of it) and deciding to drop it might help. While you can't make time to do everything, you can certainly use the time you have more effectively.

As with business goals, make sure your personal goals are attainable and realistic, but not too easily attainable. Stretch a bit in your thinking and challenge yourself to expand a bit further. Instead of, "I'd like to take an extra three days vacation this summer" stretch that to, "And while I'm on vacation, I plan on not calling the office."

Think about how this will impact your management style. A simple goal of not calling the office will force you to hone in on a larger management goal of getting an office that runs well when you're not there.

Plan your enjoyment

It may seem odd to give cognitive energy to a concept as basic as "Enjoy life and don't work so hard," but today's busy times demand that many of us consciously and proactively plan our lives the same way that we plan our practices. So now that you're done reading this article, start recording what you want from your practice and how you plan on enjoying it!

Dr. Gerber is the president of the Power Practice, a company specializing in making optometrists more profitable.  Learn more at www.powerpractice.com or call Dr. Gerber at (800) 867-9303.


Optometric Management, Issue: February 2005