Mastering Your Time Management Skills

Navigating the delicate balance between a bustling clinic schedule and the persistent administrative demands that extend into after-hours can be an all too familiar struggle. As the weekend unfolds, the scenario of grappling with overdue doctors’ letters, patient notes, and follow-up emails, resource development, marketing and so forth casts a shadow over what should be a moment of respite.

Yet, what if we could transform this seemingly endless administrative juggle into a powerful ally for our professional journey?

Allow me to unveil a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how I navigate this intricate dance with my top time management tips for dietitians and nutritionists in business for themselves, working as contractors, sole traders, companies and responsible for being the person wearing a million hats in their business. I want you to be able to maximise your efficiency, enhance productivity, and contribute to a healthier work-life balance.

It’s Saturday night, and instead of winding down, you find yourself tackling overdue doctors’ letters, finishing patient notes/charts and sending follow up emails – it’s the juggle of maximising clinic time and leaving administrative tasks for after-hours, because I pay a day fee for my clinic… So, I cram in as many patients as I can, to make the most of the time I have in the room, which often means all my admin is left for outside my clinic hours. Does this feel a little too familiar to you?

There are essentially two key roles you have in your business where you spend your time. First, it’s the patients you see and all the work that goes into them and secondly, it’s marketing your business, so you do have patients to see. Let’s break these two areas down to fully understand how you can be most effective with your time when in either of those roles.

Patient Care: Doctors Letters & Charting

The dreaded doctors’ letters often surface in our conversations. They seem like the bane of our existence, yet there’s a way to transform this chore into one of our most potent marketing tools!

Let’s reframe this: Doctors’ letters aren’t just paperwork; they’re channels to communicate expertise, fostering trust with referrers and they’re opportunities to showcase clinical prowess, not just mere administrative burdens.

Now, let me peel back the curtain on how I manage this better.

I make sure my assessment is completed and “published” while the client is in the room. I do my quick core food group checklists, education checkboxes, and duplicate their goals into my forms and highlight when reviewing them, this all becomes part of the routine. I’m still honing my skills in crafting PESS statements – an ongoing goal for me.

Seeking ways to streamline this further, I stumbled upon a valuable webinar by Nicole Senior on time management in clinical settings. It’s a resource worth exploring for anyone seeking efficient strategies in this area – you can find it here

Sharing insights with a mentee recently, prompted me to share a few key tips with you:

Embrace Electronic Records: This is a game-changer for efficiency. There are a lot of platforms available to allied health at low cost. Some we are familiar with are: Halaxy, Practice Better, Kalix, Cliniko, Simple Practice.

Set up as much as you can to make your life easier: I have templates for assessment forms, doctors’ letters, food frequency questionnaires, team care arrangement agreements, reminders, privacy policy, refund policy, cancellation policy.

Finish Forms Promptly: Wrap up assessments during the consultation itself because after 14 patients at the end of the day, you are unlikely to remember all the details you need too. So, I make sure I always finish my notes for one patient before I see the next.

Develop Condition -Specific Letter Templates: Tailor letters for weight loss, diabetes, FODMAPS etc

Utilise Dynamic Terms: Populate fields automatically wherever possible such as patients first name, surname, DOB, dr’s name and address.

Time Tracking: Monitor letter-writing time; aim to trim it down incrementally.

Implementing these tools aims to free up more time for client interaction and personal life, alleviating the burden of administrative tasks that often crowd our schedules.

Marketing and working ON your business

Running your own business doesn’t just mean you see clients that come to you, but it often incorporates a number of business driven activities that help you to generate the referrals and clients you want to see. It can be easy to go down a rabbit hole that you never thought you would or get caught up in something you found was exciting, but it may not be income producing activities you are focusing on. In order to manage your time, the best you can when working on your business, here are my tips for you:

Prioritise your work tasks: can you use a traffic light system to identify your highest priority tasks?

Set Clear Goals: have you spent time sitting down to fully understand what you are working towards? What are the short term and long-term goals you have for your business and how are you going to achieve them? What do you need to do on a quarterly basis, monthly basis, weekly basis and daily basis to get that bigger project sorted? By breaking it down into larger goals, they become less overwhelming and a little more actionable.

Delegate where possible: is there any tasks that can be handled by someone else who is less specialised as you or has a lower hourly rate than you so your time can be spent on the income producing activities aka seeing clients, developing relationships with referrers etc.  I tend to look at it this way, I can earn $150 an hour and see a patient, or I can not see the patient and do the admin work. Or I can spend $30/hr for an admin assistant to do the work and I earn $150/hr and I’m still up $120 for the hour and haven’t had to do some of the tasks that just don’t bring me joy. Win win!

What do you need to say no too? I’m all too familiar with the overcommitting that is probably a weakness of mine. Like me, can you learn to politely decline tasks or projects, or even clients, that don’t align with your business goals?

I also find that if I do similar activities together, I can do them at a faster pace so I will often group together similar tasks which also helps my brain with transitions.

Here’s to a week where we spend more time doing what we love – helping clients – and less on paperwork! Wishing you a productive and fulfilling week ahead!

Managing a thriving dietitian business, where clinic responsibilities intertwine with after-hours administrative demands, the pursuit of an efficient and balanced workflow is super important. It can however be a juggling act as we try to balance patient care and business development.

Doctors’ letters, once perceived as burdensome paperwork, can be harnessed as potent marketing tools. Beyond being mere administrative burdens, these letters become channels to communicate expertise, fostering trust with referrers and showcasing clinical prowess.

Prioritising tasks, setting clear goals, and delegating where possible emerge as crucial strategies for those wearing multiple hats in their business. Recognising the power of saying no to tasks that don’t align with business goals becomes a liberating force.

My hope is that as you enter each work week ahead of you, there is a vision painted where you have time to devote to your passion of helping clients, where paperwork and admin is minimised.

May your business give you a blend of passion, purpose, productivity and these time management tips guide you to being a fulfilled self-employed dietitian or nutritionist.   

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