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A clever formula for increased productivity

by
01 September 2015, at 1:00am

PAUL GREEN argues that most practices find themselves struggling to implement changes because owners find themselves too busy to Get Things Done – and offers some advice on how to change that

YOU know that the UK’s most successful practice owners aren’t those who know what to do to grow a business, right? Knowing what to do is only half the battle.

No, the most successful practice owners are those who actually Get Things Done (GTD). Taking action – changing things, tweaking stuff, implementing growth ideas – is always going to beat good intentions alone. This means having the right focus, the right plan, and finding ways to consistently implement change within the practice.

But if you’re like most practice owners, there is a problem. And the problem is that you are too busy. You’re spending the bulk of your time working in the business, rather than working on it.

I genuinely believe that inadequate implementation of change is one of the most serious challenges facing any independent practice today.

You see, it’s far too easy for life to get in the way. When I present my free vet marketing seminars up and down the country, I meet plenty of practice owners who have the best intentions for change. Yet I know that stuff will get in the way of them doing what really matters to change and improve the business.

Clients who need attention. Staff who have problems. Reps who want to sell things. Admin that needs doing. All of these things get in the way of the critical task of growing the practice.

And there’s nothing more demotivating than getting to this stage of the year, pausing for breath, and realising in horror that you are hopelessly far away from completing your goals for the year. Again.

The fact is, GTD is great for your mental health. Teresa Amabile, a Harvard Business School professor, said: “Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.”

So how do you do it? I’ve put together a “just for fun” formula for increased productivity. Here it is: [(G + TsP + GS) T] / D = RP

G stands for goal: You can’t go somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going. Your brain is a powerful computer that will help you achieve virtually anything, so long as you give it clear direction. Think of it like a sat-nav. You have to give it a destination in order for it to plot a route.

The best goals are SMART goals. That means something that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound. And your goals have to be in front of you every day.

The first five minutes of each morning, I review my goals. Not just what I want to achieve in the next few years, but for this year, this month, this week and today.

Some days I have to force myself to do this, because nothing has changed from the day before. But it’s always worth it, as it reminds my brain what I want to achieve. And that means it can better prioritise what’s important and dismiss what isn’t important.

TsP stands for Tiny Steps Plan: Have you ever heard the expression “how do you eat an elephant?” The answer is “one bite at a time”. If a project facing you is too big, you are unlikely to get started on it or make meaningful progress. So the trick is to break it down into the smallest possible parts. Turning one big thing into 100 tiny tasks makes it dramatically more likely you will achieve it.

GS stands for Get Started: You can fool your brain into achieving more using something called the Zeigarnik effect. Bluma Zeigarnik was a Lithuanian psychologist in the 1920s, who noticed in a restaurant one day that waiters were able to remember complex orders right up until the point the order had been fulfilled. That’s because the brain is focused on tasks that have been started and not yet completed. It quickly forgets completed tasks.

Once you get started, the incompleted tasks will nag at your brain. So start something. In fact, start on the worst task first. Get that done and everything else feels easier.

T stands for Time: No matter how busy you are doing clinical work, you need to find adequate time every day to work on the business. Quality amounts of time can multiply results. For most people, this means finding 60 minutes a weekday. And I recommend you find them at the start of the day, rather than the end. Why? Because by the end of the day, your scarce cognitive resources will be depleted. I mean, you’ll be mentally exhausted. An hour at the beginning of the day is worth up to three hours at the end of the day.

If that means getting up an hour earlier every day, so be it. The shortterm pain will contribute significantly to a better life.

That daily time should be invested only into activities that grow the practice: getting you more new clients; getting clients to visit you more often; and getting them to spend more every time they buy from you.

D stands for discipline: Do this every weekday, until it becomes a powerful lifetime habit. The weaker your discipline, the weaker the outcome. It dilutes your results. And vice versa.

RP stands for Rapid Progress: An outcome every practice owner desires.