How Block Scheduling Increases Productivity for Dental Managers
Do you ever hear the rumble of your workday coming to an end and think:
“Surely it can’t be 5:00 already! Where did the time go? Did I accomplish ANYTHING? What actually did happen today?”
Welcome to THE CLUB!
Over the past few years, I’ve been through a real-life transformation.
I’ve found myself morphing from the girl at the front desk type of dental office manager in a single doctor practice to a DSO administrator maneuvering between clinics and a centralized billing/operations center.
The shift was challenging yet exciting because I enjoy a fast-paced work environment and changing tasks frequently. But what I didn’t do initially was properly schedule myself so that I controlled my day rather than my day controlling me.
As dental office managers, we’ll inevitably encounter numerous interruptions throughout our day. Whether it’s endless emails, meetings with doctors, technology failures, or a team member needing to “chat,” our personal productivity wanes as the hours go by.
In my initial position at the smaller practice, I had a mental checklist of all tasks that needed completing daily, weekly, and monthly. It was a tangible list… morning huddle, print reports, make the deposit, submit insurance, etc.
Even though my job seemed easier to manage with a checklist, I would find myself working late and on weekends to complete it all.
I discovered that while checklists are useful at times, they do not account for our time. The ability to manage my time had spiraled out of control… even at the smaller practice.
The realization of this downfall led me to the question:
“How can I stay in control of my productivity rather than feeling defeated at the end of the workday?”
Not sure where to start, I contacted my longtime friend and practice management consultant, Sharon Tiger, to assist me in untangling the intricate web and get me back on track (and in control).
After a lengthy brainstorming session, together we devised a plan to keep me on task throughout the day:
Block scheduling… the same method that we use to frame our doctor’s daily schedule.
What is block scheduling?
The practice of planning each minute of your day in advance and dedicating “blocks” of time for certain tasks and responsibilities.
4 steps to effective block scheduling
Step 1: Brain dump
Using the old-fashioned pen and paper method, the notes app on your phone, or any note-taking app, start by making a list of everything you do daily.
Step 2: Categorize
Label tasks: C, D, S
- Commitments (things such as meetings, appointments, projects with due dates, etc.)
- Deep thinking tasks (the things that require your complete attention and focus)
- Shallow thinking tasks (tasks that you could pick right back up if interrupted)
Step 3: Create a template
- Block off time for commitments – anything with a time, date, or deadline attached to it.
- Create blocks for “deep thinking” tasks. Plan these items for the times of day that are the least demanding on you and that you’re most productive. Times that you’re able to put a “do not disturb” sign on your door (probably not at the very beginning or end of the workday). You should only be interrupted with “true” emergencies.
- Create blocks for “shallow thinking” tasks. Encourage your team to hold calls and questions during this time, but you can be a little more flexible than with “deep thinking” blocks.
- Email, phone calls, and social media. We need to be mindful of how much time we spend on these tasks each day. They’re necessary but should not be allowed to infiltrate our entire day.
Step 4: Fill in your blocks
Make time in your schedule to map out your day for tomorrow so that when you leave the office, you’re FREE to spend time with your family and can take much-needed downtime rather than worrying about how tomorrow will flow.
Tips for block scheduling
- Communicate what you’re doing with your doctors and team. Help them understand this is important for your productivity, and you need their help in following your schedule. They should adhere to your new schedule and the times that you’ve blocked off as available.
- In the beginning, overestimate the time each task will take. We’re typically overachievers causing us to think we can accomplish more than is realistically possible. It’ll create frustration if we are not hitting our goals.
- Schedule buffers and breaks between your tasks, giving your brain time to transition from one to the next, as well as a couple of breaks to regroup throughout the day.
- REVISE as needed! Don’t get overwhelmed. It’ll take trial and error to work out a schedule that works the best for you. Know from the start that your original schedule will probably change… that is OKAY… that is NORMAL!
Meet the Author
After 21 years in the floral industry, Monica found her true passion when she made the change to dentistry in 2012.
She is a practice administrator for a multi-location practice, Lifetime Dental, PLLC… This text opens a new tab to the practice’s website… in the Mississippi Delta.
In addition to managing the clinics, in 2018, she and her doctors started Surety Dental Solutions… This text opens a new tab to the company’s website…, where they provide team-building and consulting services, as well as file dental and medical insurance for other dental practices.