The secret to being a success: The to-do list that never gets done

You’re feeling overwhelmed because your To-Do list just keeps growing. You feel like other dentists have their act together and you should too. I’ve got some news for you:

The To Do list doesn’t go away.

Dr. Wehking

This doesn’t mean that the feeling of being overwhelmed needs to be a lifelong problem for you. The way that you deal with it is what’s going to shape whether you become a crazy person or a dentist that loves the heck out of dentistry.

As a new business owner, the worst feeling was the feeling that there was just SO. MUCH TO. DO. ALL. THE. TIME. I was on my way to becoming a complete basket case since everyone else seemed to be doing great, and I couldn’t figure out a way to get it all done. I’d check one thing off the list just to add three more things!

Our training teaches us that in order to be a success, you’ve got to set goals, figure out your requirements, complete them (i.e. check them off the to do list), and then voila! You’re a success! Right?

While I definitely don’t have all the answers, I do consider myself a success because I am living a life that I feel happy about; I’m making enough money, and I have time to enjoy it with my loves. Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. You’re not that special.
Everyone has a lot to do, not just you. You are not busier or more important than your peers, your spouse or your friends. Stop using the excuse “I’m too busy.” Saying this tells people that your time must be more important than theirs and that they aren’t a priority for you. If you don’t want to do something, fine. Find a way to say no. But please stop telling people that you are too busy.

2. Don’t ignore the list.
In order to continue to be successful, you cannot ignore the things that were important enough for you to write down. What’s going to continue to make you successful are new ideas, new skills to learn and new goals.

3. It’s OK to feel crazy.
When that feeling of overwhelm starts creeping up, I make another list of what’s on my mind so that I can sort it out. Usually you are feeling overwhelmed by things that can be delegated or done quickly.

4. Prioritize.
My to-do list has to-do lists. Literally. Arranging my list like this is what makes me feel like I’ve got my act together.
– Personal: goals, stuff to buy for my house, etc.
– Thank you: a list of people to send thank you notes to.
– Office: this is my longest list. I use the master list to come up with a shorter list of what needs to happen this week. I further break that down by what I will do each day Monday-Friday. Sure, that’s a lot of list making, but trust me, you’ll love feeling like you’ve got it under control. Plus, you’re a dentist. You LOVE lists!

4. Give yourself a freakin break!
I give myself at least one full weekend day to binge watch Netflix, drink beer and do absolutely nothing productive. If I’m out of town and don’t get my day, I make up for it later in the month. Your awesomely successful mind needs a break.

5. Talk about it
I feel really strongly that we would all feel less crazy if we knew that the majority of people were struggling with the things that make us uncomfortable to talk about (money, sex, relationships, stress, overwhelm). Yeah, you’ve got a lot of plates spinning so take your friend out for a drink and put it all out there. I promise they’re going through the same stuff. If you don’t have a friend, get in touch with your local new dentist committee and attend their next meeting.

Now that you’re a success (Yay! Pat yourself on the back, you’ve made it!), you’ve got to understand that your list should never go away, it will only get longer. You should continue to have ideas and inspiration that keep your heart alive and give you something to reach for.

You don’t all of a sudden get better at getting stuff done. You don’t all of a sudden have less stuff to do. The secret is that you just get used to the To-Do list that never gets done, isn’t that a wonderful thing?

Dr. Dawn Wehking graduated from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry in 2010. She is a member of the American Dental Association, Colorado Dental Association and the Boulder/Broomfield County Dental Society. She was awarded Master status with the Academy of General Dentistry, has been published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dentistry, and she serves as visiting faculty at Spear Education. Dr. Wehking is also an ADA Success Speaker, teaching dental students about life after dental school. Dr. Wehking owns a small private practice in Lafayette, Colorado. On her days off, you’ll find her with her furry children, enjoying Colorado’s great outdoors.

3 comments

  • Amazing post! All of us want to get success but we have no such idea for this. You posted here about the secret to being a success that is very easy to understand. I think it will be very helpfull to all of us to reach the top of success.

    Many Many Thanks!

  • This is a great blog. As a dentist who has been in practice for 25 years, I still create to-do lists to stay organized. Dentistry is a fast-paced, hectic profession and your feedback about priorities was especially true. Don’t stop creating and using a to-do list throughout your dental career! Thanks for the ideas, Dr. Wehking!

  • Thank you for Giving such a good advice. your Blog contains all the aspects of being organized. As a Dental Practioner for many years in the profession, We too have the custom to keep to-do lists on a daily base so that we can keep the record of the current progress it makes things easier to manage.

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