Go for your goals was previously published in The Pulse – Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors, Fall 2014, Issue 75.
Working hard on whatever comes through the door isn’t the same as going for your goals. So, if that’s what you’ve been doing, you can’t really say that you’ve been failing to meet them… can you? And while it may be taxing enough to run a naturopathic practice let alone to find the time for additional managerial activities, consider this:
Goal setting and planning may be the best investment you’ll ever make in time management.
Before we dig too deeply into this topic, let’s debunk some myths. Does goal setting and planning sound like a really rigid and formal exercise? A good idea for big business but not so transferable to your practice? It doesn’t need to be. You can be creative about how you plan – when and where, what’s in or out of scope, whether you take big steps or small ones… You don’t necessarily need to embark on a comprehensive strategic, business or marketing plan to make progress. As long as you regularly carve out some space for planning in a manner that supports the way you work, you’ll be moving forward.
Let’s get out of theory mode and outline a few concrete ways to approach this.
Start with the big picture. Even if, on an ongoing basis, you’re only going to spend short bursts of time action planning, you’ll need to get things started with a big picture planning session. Use this time to outline the gaps between where your practice is today and your ideal vision. And revisit this big picture viewpoint on an annual basis to assess how you’re doing, consider what’s changed and update your objectives.
Don’t get too far ahead of yourself. While the big picture planning necessarily begins with your vision for the next 3-5 years, in this fast paced environment it can be futile to get too specific about any plans that are more than 1-2 years out. Limit action plans to that timeframe.
Talk about it and write it down. Thinking about something isn’t planning. If you’re not writing it down, you’re not committed. Similarly, if all your planning conversations take place in your own head, they’re less likely to evolve, expand and result in actions aligned with your goals. Work with a coach, a consultant, a mentor or a peer. Someone objective, experienced and easy for you to open up to. Someone who brings a new perspective and knows how to ask the right questions.
Focus on your priorities. Your goals may involve any area of the clinic – client service, staff or partners, dispensary, products, treatments, marketing, operations, interior design, profit… By way of example, consider your desired growth market. What type of work do you want to attract? Where is the bulk of your business coming from today? Can the new business be redirected? What about your point of difference? Has it been developed? Is it coming through in practice? In marketing? In conversation?…
Decide how to take action. The objective of planning is to arrive at an action plan aligned with your goals. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you own the resulting action plan. Once the actions have been itemized and prioritized, you need to decide how it gets implemented. Who owns which steps? What are your deadlines? Milestones? Budget? How will you measure success?
Protect your time, vigilantly. After you’ve decided what you’ll say yes to, decide what you’ll say no to. What takes you away from your priorities – in work and in life? Is it disorganization? Distractions? Doing work you should be delegating? Taking on extras just to be nice? It may seem harmless to spend a few minutes or even hours here and there. But over weeks, months and years they can eat up your time and energy. So, what are you going to start saying no to?
Keep things on track. Book calendar appointments for status meetings and time to implement the action plan, just as you would for a patient. Otherwise, it won’t be there when you need it. In terms of how much time to allow for this work, there is no magic number but it should reflect the size of your steps.
Successful people take the time to set goals and develop them. That’s how they achieve more with less.
You’re a naturopath. But you’re a business owner too. Start thinking of yourself that way. Articulate a vision for your practice and develop a plan to make it happen. Then bring reasonable expectations to the table so that you know when to stay the course and when to adjust. Clinically, you don’t normally expect results from trying something once. So, apply that pearl of wisdom to running your practice too. Tweak as necessary but stay committed.