You must be wondering, "What's the big deal about time management? All I have to do is schedule patients, treat them with acupuncture, provide herbs and supplements, collect payment, reschedule, and start all over again. No problem." You did 99% of this during your internship, so you probably figure things shouldn't be much different as a practitioner, right?
Wrong. As an acupuncturist, small business owner, solo-entrepreneur, and provider of services you will be called upon to manage many more tasks in a day, week, and month than "simply" seeing patients, scheduling them, and checking them in and out.
If you do not have effective time management strategies in place then you can easily waste time that could otherwise be spent building a loyal customer base and treating patients.
Let me put it more bluntly: Time is money. If you are not managing your time effectively, you are losing money.
Acupuncture practice management courses taught in acupuncture schools do not provide the tools for dealing with the day-in and day-out challenges of starting and running a successful acupuncture practice. From experience I can tell you unequivocally, effective time management IS practice management.
The Best Time Management Tips and Strategies for Common Daily Distractions
As I stated, if you are a solo-practitioner, in addition to seeing your patients, checking them in and out, and rescheduling them, you will be called upon to deal with many other situations in any given day.
If it is at all possible to have a receptionist, or to trade front desk duties with another practitioner, I highly recommend it. This arrangement will allow you to focus on your patients. Even with a receptionist, however, there will be days when your time is taken up by things other than providing acupuncture.
Here are some time management tips and strategies to help you PREPARE for some of the most common distractions.
2. Your mail: Organize Your Bills, Correspondence, Notices, and Trash.
3. Emergency Calls: Prioritize Call Backs.
4. The Cash Box: Make Sure You Have Change in all the Right Denominations.
5. Patient Records: Be Prompt and Know How and What to Charge Lawyers and Insurance Companies.
6. Patient Education Materials: Make them Easily Accessible and Full of Valuable Information.
7. Herbal Formulas: Develop a System for Preparation, Patient Instructions, Refill Information, and Cost.
8. Bills: Pay Them! On Time and In Full.
9. Office Consumables: Stock Extra Light Bulbs, Batteries, Credit Card Machine Tape, Copy Paper, Printer Toner/Ink, Paper Cups, Water, Toiletries, and Food.
10. Acupuncture Treatment Side Effects: From Bruising to Patients in Crisis.
11. Sidewalk, Driveway, and Parking Lot Safety: Keep Your Patients Safe.
12. Patient Car Trouble: Plan For the Occasional Dead Battery in Your Parking Lot.
13. Meet with Walk-Ins: Your Street Sign is Working! Now What?
14. Insurance Companies: Develop a Strategy to Receive Timely Payments / Reimbursements.
15. Emails, Communications, Questions, and Requests: People Want Your Valuable Information. Be Prompt and Efficient.
16. Restroom Supplies: My Nemesis.
17. Plumbing Issues: My Husband's Nemesis.
In my acupuncture practice I have had to deal with every single one of these issues in one way or another. If you are a solo-practitioner you must be as prepared as possible for the things on this list so that you can handle the occasional situation not on this list.
It is impossible to do every thing that needs to be done all by yourself. Learn when to hire out and when to "do it yourself".
An interesting national organization called DoMyStuff.com! has recently started making headlines. It is kind of like a Craig's List, but instead of listing things for sale, you list jobs that you need done (like painting, cleaning, lawn care, et cetera) and people bid to do the job. You select who you want to perform the job and pay Do My Stuff. They hold the money until the job is done. The money is released to the person who completed the job only after you have indicated that it was done to your satisfaction.
For the person on-the-go and on a budget it sounds like a good solution, and a way to free up your time for more important things. Like seeing patients or spending time with your family. Check them out.