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Are You Really Busy or Busy Making Yourself Busy?

Isn’t it amazing how some days you look at the clock and wonder, “How can it already be time to go home? I still have so much work to do!”

Then other days, you think, “What did I really get done today?”

Do you ever look around your office and wonder how you seem to get a lot accomplished while your co-worker may only complete one or two tasks?

After a while, it’s enough to make you crazy.

Are you really busy or busy making yourself busy?

Recently, I was asked to observe a team to determine why they all looked busy yet kept asking for more help throughout the day.

The doctor stated that production hadn’t increased, and he was curious to know if there was something that he and the team were missing.

My observations revealed that the team was quite diligent in their efforts and worked quite hard to complete their tasks. Their communication had a good flow, and the patients were cared for in a professional manner.

It was joyful to watch the teamwork in full force.

As with any team, there seemed to be a handful that remained more focused than others, to the point that I was almost exhausted just watching them. Their attention to detail was exceptional.

These are the team members that I would classify as being “productively busy”.

The other part of the team included team members that were busy yet didn’t fully complete the tasks that they were assigned.

I decided to focus my attention on those individuals. I wanted to establish why they were “busy making themselves busy.”

In this particular situation, the doctor had taken great steps to ensure that his team was well trained on the software, tools, and systems in the practice. He prides himself with the latest in technology and utilizes every resource available to provide the best inpatient care.

However, all dental offices share one thing that’s hard to teach employees: how to handle distractions.

Strategies on how to handle distractions

In today’s world, our concentration is constantly interrupted by phone calls to answer, paperwork to complete, notes to write, x-rays to take, and questions to answer.

It’s a skill to remain focused on one task and allow others to wait their turn.

There are workers that pride themselves as being exceptional “multi-taskers,” only to realize that the prescription wasn’t called in after all or the note that the doctor’s wife call failed to get on his desk.

When you’re working with individuals who tend to allow interruptions to derail their productivity, my recommendation – which might be a bit “old school” yet very effective – is to get a pen and paper and follow these easy steps:

  • Every time someone answers the phone, write the person’s name down and what they called about. Once that call is over, and any subsequent task has been completed, scratch it out.
  • Keep a list of things that need to be accomplished throughout the day; prioritize the list as the day goes on with a simple 1, 2, 3. You do not have to wait until the end of the day to see how productive you’ve been since you will have a running “report.”
  • When an interruption occurs – the printer stopped working, or someone needs your help – make a note about what you were doing, so you can return to that task. If at all possible, let the co-worker know that you will help as soon as you can.

These may seem like elementary principles. However, they are quite effective in maintaining one’s ability to stay focused on what needs to get done.

Statistics show that people are motivated by marking tasks off their to-do list.

As a goal lover, I have a daily list that grows as the day progresses; it feels GREAT at the end of the day to see the items marked out.

If there are unfinished tasks, I highlight them so that they get my attention the next morning.

Checklists have been around forever, and although we have moved to more digital methods of maintaining standards, pen and paper can still serve us well.

If you find that you continue to run out of time, you may need to delegate or simply ask for help.

How to help your team be more productive

Meet with your dental team to discuss who needs to take ownership of each item, and its priority on the list. Defining what “busy” is seems to be the first step in determining if that also means “productive.”

By keeping up with tasks, prioritizing them, and ultimately completing each one, it will allow the rock star team to truly look at each other with pride, knowing that they are equally, productively busy.

Meet the Author

Carla Collier wearing a black top outside.Carla has spent over 20 years in dentistry working as a dental practice manager and practice management consultant.

She is passionate about helping team members have fun while creating the ultimate patient experience.

Carla can be reached at or 813-928-3622.



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2 comments on “Are You Really Busy or Busy Making Yourself Busy?”
  1. Avatar
    Dawn Lang, CDPMA, FAADOM

    This is a great article! I found it very useful. I have a “department” meeting with my business team tomorrow and am going to put some of your advice to work. Thanks!

  2. Avatar

    Really helpful Carla, ty! Multi-tasking is definitely something that staff may think they are better at than they are. Focusing on one task and checking it off the list is definitely the best way to go, and especially when it involves dealing with patients because they get our full attention rather than a busy body.

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