Never enough time: Six ways to improve management, organization

The month of September brought together a few of my passions to a head. We celebrated the first birthday of the New Dentist Business Study Club, I started a part-time leadership and academic program in neurodevelopmental disabilities at the University of Washington, and I began a treasured mentor-mentee relationship with my owner doc at my three-day a week associateship.

Photo of Dr. Deshpande

Dr. Deshpande

Suddenly, there were a lot of expectations for me, from all sides. I realized quickly that if I didn’t get organized, I would let things slip and disappoint myself.

The realization led me to get help from a few women mentors, who while caring for their kids, spouse and dogs, manage multiple businesses, teach at schools and still carve time to stay fit. One of these mentors was my mom, who while managing a successful software business, also makes time for friends and family, practices her passion in theatre and is taking a rigorous e-course at Harvard University, all during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Consequently, I got help in planning and organizing my schedule better. If you’ve just started school or work and are managing a bunch of projects on the side, I hope you get some value out of this. If you have feedback or more tips to share, I’d love to hear it!

1. “If everything is important, nothing is important.” -Patrick Lencioni in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

We hear this often: Prioritize. One of the first things you want to do is list down all the activities you are interested in partaking this quarter. Then start prioritizing them based on your interest level and its urgency. Always focus on the stuff at the top of the list, stay disciplined about it.

2. “Perfection is the enemy of done.” -Voltaire

Nobody cares about how shiny your kitchen countertop is (other than you!). This is a fact. I visited a friend’s home earlier in the year and casually remarked how well turned out their home was. Her response: “We have professional help around the house every two weeks, and yesterday was the first time in a long time that my husband and I cleaned the house to prepare for you guys. It’s not always like this!”

3. “Make your partner an equal partner.” -Sheryl Sandberg in Lean In

I wouldn’t be able to do half the things I do if it weren’t for my husband. I used to say this with a matter of pride in our first year of marriage. It was only during the pandemic that I realized he was just doing what all partners should have been doing all along: doing the dishes, putting away the laundry and cooking food twice a week. Whether or not your partner has a job, managing your home and personal affairs should always be a collaborative effort.

4. “Delegate and elevate.” -Gino Wickman in Traction

When my colleague and friend, Dr. Isabella Amar, volunteered to take on the leadership role of vice president and run the back-end of our Study Club, I understood for the first time what the term “elevate” in the above quote meant. Not only did she manage more than half of the things I was previously doing, she did them much better than me. We went from eight to 16 members within a week, came up with a bulletproof budget and marketing plan, and began to develop inherently scalable systems. How incredible would life for practice owners be if they had someone like Isabella work with them at their practice, like partners?

“Getting the right people on the bus in the right seats” is important. We can’t just delegate tasks to anyone and expect them to do it well. This becomes even more critical when running a nonprofit, like our Study Club, when there are no clear financial incentives.

5. “Health is wealth.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The truth is that when you haven’t had a good night’s sleep, a homecooked meal and enough time for recreation, your mind is not going to be at its best. True health is an embodiment of various aspects — physical, mental, social and spiritual. Try to account for enough time to practice journaling or meditation, take that bike ride along the lake with your spouse, and cook yourself a yummy meal. When will you find the time to do all this? Start by waking up an hour earlier than you usually do. That’ll open up some space in your schedule and quickly become your favorite time of the day!

6. “Be vulnerable.” -Brene Brown in The Power of Vulnerability

A couple months ago I took on an added responsibility of teaching a Practice Evaluation Series, a four-part e-course to new dentists and dental students who know virtually nothing about practice acquisitions. This was not part of the New Dentist Business Study Club schedule and was before we had a vice president at the club. I was organizing sometimes two lectures a week while managing work and other projects. One day it became too much, and I realized I just needed to spend the evening doing nothing. My husband suggested I be honest with my team at the club, and so I was. I told them I’m exhausted, need a break and suggested postponing the next day’s lecture to a week out. Club members appreciated the honesty! A few of them even said they trusted me more because I came forward with the truth and didn’t act like I’ve got it all figured out.

A big part of leadership is honesty and communication. I do believe most of the bigger problems in a dental office or any business arise from miscommunication and a resultant lack of trust. When you say something, and do something else, people lose trust and are tempted to leave.

Do you have any tips on time management? I think I say this for all new dentists, that we would love to learn!

Dr. Sampada Deshpande is a general dentist based in Seattle. A foreign trained dentist from India, Sampada earned her DDS from the University of Washington in 2018, where she is also a current LEND trainee. Outside of clinical dentistry, she enjoys hosting the New Dentist Business Study Club, going on hikes with her husband, and reading books on Finance & Management. You can reach her directly at @dr.deshpande on Instagram or visit her website www.sampadadeshpandedds.com for more information.

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