Okay, I lied. It’s about my family too. I’ve missed them because I’ve been working too much for a long time. I am very fortunate…what started as just me seeing a few clients a week has grown into a clinic with five clinicians and administrative support. There are many positive things about the growth – that’s undeniable. And, as a lot of small business owners know, there are some downsides. For a long time, I did EVERYTHING – website, marketing, accounting, answering the phone, scheduling, insurance billing…all on top of the full time clinical work each week. It got to be too much. I was thinking about work ALL THE TIME because I had too much of it. When I was hanging with my kids and wife, I was completely distracted, constantly making to-do lists in my mind for work tasks. I knew it wasn’t the way I wanted to live but felt helpless to change it, which is dumb because flexibility and control over scheduling were big reasons I got into private practice in the first place.
It got to be too much. The last year has been a purposeful, gradual shift to do things differently and try to find a little more balance. It’s been super slow, but the changes are finally accelerating over the last couple of months. I’m sharing some of my strategies in hopes that they might work for others and to keep myself accountable to continue them. Some are specific to mental health practices, some are specific to small business owners, and some can apply to anyone. Here we go:
- I changed my schedule to allow big blocks of open time every other week for getting paperwork and administrative tasks done
- I consciously stopped using the word “hurry” with my kids about six months ago
- I stopped scheduling appointments before 9 am so I’m not rushing around and hustling my kids from the moment everyone wakes up (see above item)
- I give myself at least a half hour at the end of every day to wrap up and prepare for the next day instead of just rushing out with things a mess
- I don’t work at home unless it’s something I really enjoy like updating the website or researching technology for our practice
- I’ve delegated nearly all administrative tasks to my – surprise! – administrative team over the last nine months
- I did some therapy to work on my need to control everything in my world
- As emails hit the inbox, I’m slowly unsubscribing from nearly all lists/advertisements/etc. that I’ve signed up for over the years (intentionally or not)
- I spend a little time sitting in the car before heading into the office each morning to get my mind wrapped around the day’s priorities
- Email does not get looked at for at least fifteen minutes in the morning, which lets me do another quality activity that’s way more valuable to start the day
- I use the “One Minute Rule” a lot throughout the day: any task that will literally only take one minute to complete, I just do it right then…it’s amazing how many small things I would look at, decide I’d do “later,” and then not get to them for days or weeks (respond to emails, file something, make a phone call, etc.)
- Pomodoro – or the free web version anyway (tomato-timer.com) – has taken on a major role in my life
- At the repeated suggestion of my inspiring wife, I’ve finally set aside time for “visioning” of the practice and to do things that I enjoy at work (like writing blog posts again!)
Don’t get me wrong – these things look really neat and practical laid out like this, but it’s been a sloooow process. I have days or weeks when things are still completely overwhelming. But they feel a lot more manageable because I’ve made the choice to have agency in my life where I truly have some control.