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Time Management

Time Management Tips for Dental Office Managers

Four basic steps to get back time in your busy schedule.

Posted by Jason Penrod on May 14, 2019

For the busy office manager, the idea of trying new methods of attracting patients like social media or digital ads may feel like a luxury of time that you don’t have. Typically, office managers take on an assortment of roles from administrator to staff manager. These responsibilities can leave little time left in a manager's day for new projects or worse cause them to get home late.

Thankfully, even if your workweek leaves you feeling stretched thin, there’s hope. Here are a few basic steps that you can take to get control of your time and possibly free a few hours for the projects you want to do.

Audit your workweek.

Before you start prioritizing what tasks get your attention, make a point to track how you spend your time in a normal workweek. Using a calendar or notebook, spend a full week  tracking how your time is spent by listing the tasks you worked on each hour.

Once you have a list of all of the tasks you’ve completed during this period, add up how much time you spend on similar tasks (ex. 3 hr/wk calling patients, 7 hr/wk processing claims). This will give you an idea of what tasks fill the bulk of your time.

Be like Ike.

The biggest hurdle in wrangling your weekly schedule is identifying what tasks demand your time. This can be particularly difficult as an office manager when you have so many people and tasks that require your attention.

One of the simpler ways of identifying what should be your priorities is an ABCD or Eisenhower Matrix. Named after the 34th President, the Eisenhower Matrix is a method of dividing your tasks based on priority and urgency:

  1. Important and urgent tasks that should be completed immediately by you personally.
  2. Important tasks that aren’t urgent should be completed by you but given a deadline to be completed in the future.
  3. Unimportant but urgent tasks should be delegated to another member of your staff or outsourced.
  4. Unimportant tasks that aren’t urgent should be dropped entirely.

An easy way to identify which value matches each of your tasks is to start by identifying important versus unimportant. Your important tasks are going to include anything that is essential to the success of your practice (ex. staffing filling the practice’s schedule, getting payment from patients). While necessary for your practice, unimportant task doesn’t always require your personal attention to complete (ex. processing claims, speaking with insurance companies).

Refer back to your list you created when you audited your workweek. Label each task as either important or unimportant, urgent or not, and then use the Eisenhower Matrix to give each hour a grade of an A, B, C, or D. Add up how much time you spend on each letter or grade to get a sense where you can start freeing up hours.

Learning to delegate.

You will find that there are some tasks that are urgent and necessary for your practice’s business but might not require your personal attention. It’s urgent and necessary that someone can answer the phone at your practice, it isn’t important that the office manager is that someone.

In this situation, it is important that you delegate these tasks to another member of your staff. It might feel counterproductive if you know that you can finish the task in less time than others, but remember your goal is to work more efficiently as a team, not as an individual.

Delegating can also mean outsourcing, as some of the tasks you work on could be handled by a third-party or electronic service. For example, you could cut down the number of claim related calls your team makes to insurance companies by switching software that helps keep track of them.

Understanding what’s not important or urgent.

Identifying tasks that are neither important or urgent can be more difficult than it sounds. Many of your weekly tasks will have desired or necessary outcomes (ex. patients making payments, claims getting processed) but the method you use to complete this task may not be necessary.

Using the example of insurance claims, it is important for your practice to submit claims to the insurance company if you want to be paid for a patient’s treatment. However, it isn’t important that you or your staff spend time printing and mailing your claims when you can submit them electronically.

A similar example is storing all your patients’ Explanation of Benefits. While it’s important that you have these records on hand, with Electronic Remittance Advice it may not be necessary for you print and file physical copies. While the result is important, the task isn’t.

The first step in getting more time out of your week is auditing how you spend your time. Once you identify these tasks that don’t require your direct supervision, you’ll have more time to take on more projects or just make it home on time.