Without battle-tested systems, healthy habits, and proven strategies, it’s difficult to grow beyond a certain plateau. To get better, superachievers typically use the following 10 tools, at the very least. Let’s see how they can apply to our profession.
1) An idea-capturing device
You have a brilliant idea. It’s so amazing you’re certain you’ll remember it. After all, it’s going to change lives! Five minutes later, you are wracking your brain and retracing your steps to remember it.
Ideas often come at the most inconvenient time, which means you should have a way to capture them in real time as they come to you. Keep a small notebook on your nightstand or in your pocket. Surely you can download all kinds of apps, although any smartphone or tablet has a “note” function where you can jot down ideas. What about a waterproof marker in your shower? The idea is to avoid walking around with all kinds of mental clutter. Write things down so you can focus on other stuff.
2) Keep a calendar
Many people have multiple calendars: one on the wall, one on their desk, an organizer, and a digital calendar. Some may even have a personal calendar and a professional one. Multiple calendars lead to confusion and missed appointments.
Superachievers should have a single calendar, whether paper or digital. A digital calendar should sync across all your devices. Streamline your schedule to maximize your productivity.
Goals are the lifeblood of superachievers. Unfortunately, they tend to collect them. In fact, doing so can be addictive. This is a problem, as many achievers are “starters,” rather than “finishers.”
A better option might be to focus on only one goal at a time. Pick one, work on it, and get it done. Once you have achieved a goal, take the time to celebrate. Then go to your goals list, and set your sights on the next project.
4) ADD system
No, we are not implying you have a medical condition. Distractions and interruptions in a veterinary practice and in life are nonstop. It makes getting things done difficult if you don’t have an active distraction defense (ADD) system* in place to protect yourself. Without it, team members will constantly knock at your door or interrupt surgery to ask questions or for you to solve their problems.
Your ADD can include:
- a policy explaining when you can and cannot be interrupted;
- the definition of what is urgent and what isn’t;
- a way to block all dings and pings on your phone, one of the major sources of distractions; and
- deciding to turn your cell phone off, even for just one hour.
5) A to-do list
Almost everyone has a to-do list. That said, is yours as efficient as it could be? Most people’s lists are a hodgepodge of things written down. What makes superachievers more successful is they organize their lists into batched tasks.
For example, one list can include things to do at home, one should spell out your to-dos at the practice, another could refer to phone calls or appointments you need to make, and lastly one could comprise errands to run on your way home.
6) Not to-do list
Everyone should have a not to-do list. This is a reminder of things you need to stop doing, both personally and professionally. Your personal not to-do list could include things such as eating after 8 p.m., having self-deprecating thoughts, or dating losers. Your professional list should include items like not working past 7 p.m., to stop skipping lunch, and to refrain from attending irrelevant CE conferences just because there is a free dinner. A list like this can help you systematically eliminate bad habits, toxic influences, and inefficient processes. This not to-do list can also help you formulate new goals. Look at all the things you want to stop doing and turn them into things you want to start doing. Use the time you are granting yourself to invest in other areas of your life.
7) Project list
Project lists are ideal for complex undertakings, such as expanding your practice or planning a trip to Europe. Suppose you want your clinic to become Fear Free-certified. There are multiple steps involved, so only a few of these should appear on your to-do list. A to-do list is likely to change every day, whereas a project list will probably only change every few weeks or months depending on how efficient you are.
8) Find an assistant
There may come a point in your life when you realize you just can’t do it all. Be humble and start delegating so you can actually do your job.
Delegation is not admitting weakness or failure. It’s quite the opposite—it’s becoming aware you should stop doing many small things that could easily be done by someone else.
Who to delegate to is irrelevant—it all depends on what the task is. The point is to free yourself up to do the job only you can do. If someone calls to talk to the practice owner, they shouldn’t be told he is unavailable because he is out getting the mail.
A sad and common situation is doctors doing jobs their nurses should be doing, such as clipping, placing IV catheters, and intubating patients. Step aside, let them do their job and go do the things only you can do.
Of course, if your clinic is short-staffed and you’re jumping in to help, that’s a different story and you will be the hero.
9) Morning ritual
Every superachiever has a morning ritual or routine to set the foundation for the best potential for success. Consider reading, brainstorming new opportunities, exercising to grow muscle or lose weight, or working on your finances. Set aside an hour or more in the morning, and get a head start before anyone else is awake.
10) Evening ritual
Superachievers also have an evening routine to help reflect on the day, victories, and shortcomings, and to destress in preparation for tomorrow. One of the most important things is to stay away from screens. Put your phone down, power off your computer, and do not turn on the television.
Reading a few chapters of a book or some articles in a magazine will help you far more.
Some people find this time is best for journaling, reflecting, learning from failures, and writing down new goals. Take two minutes to think about what you are thankful for. And whatever you do, stay away from mindless snacking!
Bonus 11: Stress management
Another important tool is proper stress management. Veterinary practices can be exhausting, physically and mentally. Carve time to relieve stress, whether it is through yoga, meditation, reading, exercising, or taking a vacation.
Unmanaged stress leads to high blood pressure and heart disease—stress management will help you avoid being overwhelmed, along with experiencing burnout and compassion fatigue, all while retaining the joy and passion in our profession.
Do yourself a favor and make this a priority—you’ll thank yourself (and us) later.
There are many more tricks and strategies you can use, but these 11 tools are a good start to help you achieve meaningful goals and make a difference in the world.
Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and author. His traveling surgery practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his websites at www.DrPhilZeltzman.com and www.VeterinariansInParadise.com. Kat Christman, a certified veterinary technician in Effort, Pa., contributed to this article.
* This expression is borrowed from Darren Hardy, success mentor and author of several best-selling books, such as The Compound Effect.