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8.01.08 Issue #334 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
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Conquer Procrastination

You’ve bought the book An Idiot’s Guide to Eliminating Procrastination but you only read the first chapter. You want to wait until you have the time to really sink your teeth into the information.

Your desk is covered with stacks of journals and paperwork. You say you need to come in some weekend and file everything.

You have a 4:00 PM patient appointment to review a large treatment case but you haven’t had the time to prepare for the presentation. You flip through the chart at 3:55 PM and wing it.

If these examples describe your behavior it’s likely that you are a procrastinator. You’re not alone. Studies suggest that about 40–45% of the population is made up of go-with-the-flow people. These are folks who want to live a spontaneous life with flexibility. They prefer to stay open to new information and possibilities. Casual and open-ended, they appreciate the process of exploration and discovery. They adapt to change easily and they enjoy the variety that accompanies the lack of planning. They value the process as much as achieving the goal.

Procrastination usually happens when we don’t have enough information about what we are trying to do. On the positive side, your style enables you to juggle many balls simultaneously. You aren’t easily rattled. You adjust easily to unexpected events. You take the time to see all sides of an issue. You really may do your best work in the 11th hour.

On the other hand, you start too many projects and finish very few. You may have trouble making decisions. You do things at the last minute; it stresses out people who work with you, and sometimes backs you into a corner.

If procrastination is holding you back from a more productive and profitable dental practice, read on. The goal is not to change who you are. After all, you are successful and you have many admirable skills.

The goal is to improve implementation. In my experience, procrastinators tend to delay action until they “havetime.” However, it is far better to spend a few minutes every day on something than to postpone action until you have a couple of free hours and do nothing until then. It's too difficult to carve out such a big chunk of time. Remember, the journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. Here are some tips to conquer procrastination:

  • Make a list every morning on a 3” x 5” index card. Identify 3–5 priority actions that can be accomplished easily and quickly. Carry the card with you throughout the day and look at it frequently (at least once every couple of hours).

  • Do only one task at a time and fully focus on what you are doing. Consider a 10-minute plan. Set a timer and work on something for just 10 minutes. At the end of 10 minutes, switch to something else if you want. (Chances are you may get so involved you will keep going.) Reset your timer for the next 10 minutes.

  • Keep track of your accomplishments and celebrate your success at the end of the day. (Track your completed tasks on a weekly basis.)

  • Pay attention to the language of your thought processes. Be encouraging rather than self-defeating. Telling yourself, “I’ve got to get more organized so I don’t feel overloaded,” can be restated as, “By being more organized, I will have more free time for golfing and sailing” (or whatever your recreational passion might be).

  • Schedule planning time and write it in your calendar. Keep these time segments small. Start with 10 minutes of uninterrupted thinking time. Use the timer mentioned above.

  • Accept that there is no perfection. Establish deadlines for your “data gathering” time. Most of life’s daily decisions are not matters of life and death. Give yourself a deadline and stick to it. And remember, even if you make a less-than-perfect choice, you are masterful at adapting.

  • Expect some setbacks. If you don’t complete your five priorities for the day, commit to doing better tomorrow.

  • Remember that everything will take longer than you thought. Be realistic and patient.

If you still find yourself getting stuck, it may be time to modify your environment. Enlist the support of your staff to hold you accountable or hire a personal assistant who can organize your files. Strive for progress, not perfection.

Dr. Haller is available to coach you to higher levels of performance in your practice.
Contact her at

Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.

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