This episode is brought to you by PAR. The TSCC and TSCYC screening forms allow you to quickly screen children for symptoms of trauma. Both forms are now available through PARiConnect-PAR’s online assessment platform. You can learn more at parinc.com.
All right, y’all welcome back. Today, I am talking all about having a healthy schedule and keeping healthy boundaries. Does that sound familiar for anybody? I know that I spent years working at night and on the weekends, taking time for my family, for my self-care. [00:01:00] And I hear similar stories from a lot of the folks that I work with in my consulting practice.
What is the deal here? Why are we so willing to sacrifice our boundaries and our self-care and our health?
It’s a great question. So this episode is all about exploring that question a bit. And I’ll also share with you some of the things that I found helpful to keep your schedule under control and really help your schedule work for you instead of against you.
Speaking of healthy schedule, healthy boundaries.
If you’re a group practice owner, sorry, an advanced practice owner. I always get those mixed up. If you’re an advanced practice owner, that could mean you’re a group practice owner but not necessarily. If you’re an advanced practice owner who’s moved past those beginning stages, you’ve got your income and your referrals dialed in, and now you’re looking to take your practice to the next level. I would invite you to consider the advanced practice [00:02:00] mastermind group. This is a group coaching experience with other advanced practice owners who are looking to streamline their systems and processes maybe higher or higher again, stop trading time for money, and really take your practice to the next level. If that sounds interesting to you, you can check it out at thetestingpsychologist.com/advanced. At the time of this recording, we have two spots left. I would love to chat with you and see if it could be a good fit.
All right. Let’s jump to this discussion on helping your schedule work for you.
Okay, y’all, like I said in the introduction, I am talking today all about how [00:03:00] to help your schedule work for you instead of against you and trying to explore some of the reasons why we are so willing to sacrifice our personal time and family time and self-care in the name of work.
So as I’ve talked about on the podcast before, this was me for a long time. I started my practice in 2009 and I can safely say that I was working more than I wanted to until easily 2016. You might notice that there’s a little bit of a coincidence there. I was starting the podcast. I think that is… actually, that is not a coincidence. I started to work really hard around then on figuring this out for myself and dialing back my work or fitting my work into a schedule that actually worked for my life instead of the other way [00:04:00] around.
So the question for me is, why do we do this?
We are intelligent. We have doctoral degrees. We have most of the time, at least when I talk with folks, we have a good idea of what we would rather be doing, but yet it is really, really hard to do that. So for me, in my own work and through working with others on this topic, I found that oftentimes when we sacrifice our self-care or our boundaries, there is some underlying fear. Does that ring true for any of you right in this moment? When you really think about it, when you ask yourself, why am I willing to schedule more work than I know I can handle? Or why am I writing this report at 10:00 PM at night when I want to be watching something on Netflix or [00:05:00] sleeping?
When you dig down underneath that, I mean, I could say that there are all kinds of other “reasons”. Maybe you feel like you have to, to make money, maybe you feel like you have to work that much to reach some kind of standard of performance or show that you’re competent. But at least for myself, when I really dig down underneath it is all about fear. It’s all about fear. It’s the fear of not making enough money and being financially secure. It is the fear of disappointing people who call and “need” an appointment and me not being able to schedule them. It’s fear of failure as a practice owner that the business might go under if you don’t take that referral. The [00:06:00] fear of being seen as lazy or incompetent or something along those lines if you’re not turning your workaround on time.
So, I wonder if that resonates with any of you?
Fear is a powerful emotion. And it can be a powerful motivator, right? I’m not going to lie. I have often been motivated by fear. It got the job done for quite a while. Certainly worked through grad school and college and anything where academic performance was the measure. So I just want to invite you to consider that and take a few moments to reflect on what sort of fears might be driving your willingness to bend your boundaries in your practice.
And if it’s not fear, that’s totally [00:07:00] okay. I would love to hear from some of you about other reasons you’re willing to bend your boundaries when you really get down to it. And if there are other reasons, shoot me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org, post it in the Facebook group under this podcast post when that comes out, be really curious what else is driving people to compromise their boundaries?
And maybe there are some of you out there who are saying, Hey, I work this much because I want to. I really enjoy it. I love it. There’s nothing wrong with that. So, I just want to repeat that. That’s totally okay. For those of you who are working 60, 70, maybe 80 hours a week, loving it, and that’s what fits it’s in your lifestyle right now, that is absolutely okay. Continue on and thrive if that is your style. [00:08:00] That did not work for me for very long. It just wasn’t sustainable. But if that’s you, you can do that.
So this is for all of you who may not want to do that, who feel a little bit out of control with your schedule and feel like it is kind of dominating your time and hard to get your hands around.
Now, the other component which is a lot simpler I think is that we don’t do a good job getting a handle on the time it takes to do what we do. This is one of those places that we are truly at a disadvantage compared to therapists who see one person per hour and it’s very easy to block those hours on a calendar.
My wife, I’ve mentioned before is a therapist in private practice. She knows that if she has 17 clients in a week, she’s going to work about 17 hours. Maybe one or two more, if she’s returning emails or phone calls or what have you. [00:09:00] But we have this trap where around half of the work that we do, half of the billable hours that we put in, don’t really go on our schedules. They are not face-to-face appointments. And that is such a trap that plays on so many of our psychological weaknesses. It plays on a sense of optimism, so kind of underestimate or overestimating our efficiency and our ability to get the work done. It plays on whatever principle, the out of sight out of mind the idea is where if it’s not on our schedule, we’re not going to account for it in our brain.
So we have to be really, really careful. The people that I work with that really struggle with this, and this is the case for me as well in the past is that it’s very easy to fill our schedules with face-to-face appointments, like [00:10:00] intakes and feedbacks and testing appointments. And we just don’t leave time for report writing.
And I know many of you have seen these discussions in the Facebook group. Report writing is the continued bane of our existence, right? So my question though, is what would it be like… Could I challenge you? What would it be like to put that time into your schedule from the outset and then make everything else work around that? Here’s what I mean. So this is where I want to transition to at least a partial solution to this problem of being overworked and bending our boundaries.
Let’s take a quick break to hear from our featured partner.
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All right, let’s get back to the podcast.
I was working with a consulting [00:12:00] client the other day, and we were working on this very problem. And the exercise that I led her through is something that I have done with a lot of folks and have never really operationalized or written down. So that’s where I’d like for us to start today as far as a solution for the scheduling problem.
So the exercise that I led her through was basically working backward from your ideal schedule.
So what I mean by that is right… Well, you don’t have to do it right now. If you’re driving or exercising, just bookmark this one, set a reminder with Siri to come back and do this in an hour. But what I’d like you to do when you get five minutes is, go however far out on your calendar that you have to go to find a completely open week. So for me, this might be, I don’t know, six months. For some [00:13:00] of you, it might be two months, you know, whatever. You get the idea? Just go into your EHR or heaven forbid if you’re using a paper calendar, go to the next open week on your paper calendar, and like I said, just find the first time when you have a 100% completely open week.
What I’d like for you to do next is block out or put everything on your schedule that you want or need to do for your personal life. Everything. So this means sleep, meals, exercise, family time, kids activities, reading, painting, whatever it might be. I want you to put everything on that weekly schedule that you want or need to do for your personal life.
And remember, this is creating your ideal schedule. So as much as you can just put it out of your mind. Just put reality out of your [00:14:00] mind for a second. So don’t let all those thoughts creep in like, “Okay, I’m going to have to see this many people and I need to save time for that. And I’m going to have to do this report or do this work.” So just try to suspend reality for a little bit and really just allow yourself to focus on your personal life and put your personal needs and wants into your calendar, okay? So this should take you again just 5 or 10 minutes. This is ideal. Don’t overthink it, but put in the things that you want.
So for me, this means, I know that on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I am taking my kids to school and there is absolutely no way I will be doing any kind of work until at least 9:00 AM. I also know that I typically run five mornings a week. And I have a pretty set schedule when I do that. So I know that on those [00:15:00] days, again, there’s no way I’m getting any work done until at least 9:00 AM, really 10:00 AM if I’m being honest. So those are just examples. And then of course, if you pick your kids up from school or you want to get to that yoga class or you want to connect with friends for a weekly happy hour, whatever it may be, put all those things onto your calendar.
Now, what I’d like for you to do is look at the time that you have left during that week. You should have maybe, I guess, some of you may not have very much open time at all. And if that’s the case, then maybe we have a bigger discussion down the road about how you’re living your life and your values and whether you need to be working as much.
Let’s just say, I mean, I’m anticipating the most of you are going to have a pretty good amount of time left during the week. You should have [00:16:00] some open blocks. So what I’d like for you to do next is go into your calendar and put in the time that you are going to need to write reports, okay?
So anticipate however many evaluations you tend to do, whether that’s that’s one per week or one per month or six per week or whatever it might be. I know the volume varies greatly depending on where you’re at in your practice and the types of evaluations you do and so forth. But what I’d like for you to do is go in and put in the time that you will need each week to write the reports for the evals you do. And make sure to put in enough time. I would overestimate. I would probably overestimate by at least 25% unless you just have it completely dialed in.
So go in and put in the time that it takes to write your reports. Now that might [00:17:00] be one day blocked out completely. That might be two days. That might be three, three-hour blocks. You’ll know from listening to past podcasts that I’m a big fan of time blocking and day blocking or day theming. So I tend to lean in that direction.
But you can do whatever you want. I just know that I can’t get in the zone with writing reports unless I have a good 2 to 3-hour chunk at least. So go into your calendar and put in the time you need to write the reports that you’re going to have to.
After you do that, I want you to go in and put in the time that you need to do the testing, the face-to-face testing. Again, I’m a big fan of time blocking or day theming here, but you get the idea. And then the last thing that I want you to do is put in the time that you need for intakes and feedbacks.[00:18:00] So you can see through this exercise that we’re taking a little bit of a shortcut and we’re prioritizing the time that tends to get away from us.
Everybody’s writing reports at home. So you work backward like this, put the report writing time in first, then that should be pretty telling. And that should give you a good idea of whether you are maybe taking on too many evals or not enough, perhaps.
So once you have all of these appointments in there, then you to try to think about the incidentals. So this might be returning phone calls, returning emails, collateral phone calls, things like that. Those are pretty easy things that I think you can time block in smaller chunks. So those are like 30-minute chunk kind of things and you can kind of squeeze them in here and there.
So at this [00:19:00] point, you are probably having one of a few different experiences. One, you might be saying, “Okay, this looks great. I like having this organization. Now I have the time to write my reports and I feel relieved that my schedule looks the way that I want it to look.” And if that’s the case, that is awesome. Your assignment now is just to stick to that schedule. Make each of those times weekly recurring appointments and don’t be tempted to squeeze in more intakes. Then you have the time to write the reports.
Another experience you might be having though is the experience of finding that you don’t have enough time to do the number of evals you need to make the money that you want. Okay. So you might be looking at your schedule and say, ah, if I only do three evaluations a week with all this report writing time [00:20:00] accounted for, that’s not going to be enough money. Well, if that’s the case, then you got two options. You can increase your rates somehow. If you’re private pay, this was relatively easy. You raise your rates and bring them up to a point where they match your income needs and you can make the income you need doing fewer evaluations. That’s the hope. If you take a lot of insurance, it’s not as easy, but it is still somewhat doable. So you can ask the insurance company for raises. You can also make it a priority to get off the lower-paying panels and then try to take more private pay clients.
Another choice that you have though if you don’t have the time to do the number of evals you want is you can reprioritize your spending a little bit. So you kind of come at it from the other side. Instead of trying to make more money, you [00:21:00] spend less money. So look at your business side and re-evaluate whether maybe your rent is too high or you’re spending too much on incidentals, office, supplies, things like that, software, if you have any luxuries that you might want to cut out, testing materials- make sure that you’re not overspending there. And then of course you also have the personal side, right? So you can rework your family budget and figure out if that trade-off is worth it. So is it worth it to make a little less money so that you have a lot more sanity? That seems to be the trade-off for most people here.
Now, I will say that at least with folks that I have worked with, that’s not a huge trade-off. We often find that they can make just a fine amount of money and maybe even more with working less, but that [00:22:00] may be a choice to think through and talk with your family if you need to. But really think about is that trade-off of money for sanity worth it for you. And that could fluctuate depending on where you are in your life.
So after you’ve gone through this exercise and you’ve thought through some of these things, the hope is that you can settle on sort of a happy medium.
So if you can’t have your ideal schedule right off the bat, you have something to work with. So before you change things, what I want you to do is take a screenshot of that week in your EHR, that ideal week, take a screenshot of your ideal week, or you can just take a picture of your paper planner. So take a picture with your phone or whatever and make sure to save it.
So save that ideal week so that even if you have to alter it a little bit, like, maybe you [00:23:00] can’t do yoga five times a week, but you could do two times a week to start out or maybe your kids have to do aftercare three days a week to start, but maybe in six months, you’ll be able to work it back down to two days or no days. So it can be a work in progress. But I want you to save the ideal week so that you know what you’re working toward.
And once you settle on the happy medium on the schedule that actually works, that bridges the gap, that makes that compromise between time and sanity, do your best to have that be consistent. So set those appointments as recurring appointments, block them out each week. And the key is to resist that temptation to squeeze in extra intakes. Extra intakes are our downfall because with intakes, come testing appointments, come feedback appointments, come reports to write.
So really [00:24:00] the intake appointment is kind of the gatekeeper. So if you have only blocked out two intake appointments per week, don’t take more intake appointments. That’s all I’ll say about that. And if you have trouble sticking to that, which some people do, I would encourage you to try to find a North star of some sort that will keep you on track. And when I say a North star, I mean like, what is, it’s that thing that motivates you or keeps you dialed into that ideal schedule? Why is that important?
So that might be a picture of your family to remind you that you’re trying to have more family time. It could be a picture of the outside of your gym. It could be a picture of someone sleeping soundly. It could be like healthy meals. Whatever it takes. Some sort of visual reminder to keep you on track, to let you know, Hey, this is what I am working toward.
This is why I’m doing this. And the idea [00:25:00] is that you find yourself being challenged, if you find yourself on the phone with a parent and they are struggling and their kid is struggling, or this adult was a family member just needs this evaluation, or this attorney is pushing they need this evaluation by next, next month, can you squeeze this person there? You can look at that picture and hopefully get a reminder and say, Hey, I made a choice a while back that my family, my time, my sanity are more important than any of these other reasons that might compel me to squeeze extra people in, right?
And you can reframe your behavior, not as disappointing other people or as a failure, or as being seen as lazy or letting people down or whatever it might be.
But flip it around and say something like, this is how I keep myself at my [00:26:00] best to live my best life for myself, for my family, for the work. I am a better clinician when I stick to these boundaries because I can give each client the attention they need. So that’s the hope here.
Short little episode. Part planning, part cognitive-behavioral work, and part visioning, I suppose.
But the hope is that you might walk away just rethinking your schedule, rethinking those fears that might be driving you to sacrifice your boundaries a bit, and thinking about some ways to flip all of that around to keep yourself sane.
So thanks as always for listening. I really appreciate it. [00:27:00] This was one that is near and dear to my heart and something that I’m continually working on. I’m at this very moment working with a coach on dialing in the ideal schedule even more. So hope you found this helpful.
Like I said at the beginning, if you’re an advanced practice owner and you are wrestling with where to take your practice next, there’s a group coaching experience where you would be in a group with five other psychologists all trying to take their practices to the next level, all keeping each other accountable. And I would love to talk with you to see if that would be a good fit for you. So you can find out more at thetestingpsychologists.com/advanced and schedule a call to chat with me for a bit.
All right. I appreciate all of you. I hope you’re all doing well. I’ll be back with you next Monday with a [00:28:00] clinical episode. Take care in the meantime.
The information contained in this podcast and on The Testing Psychologists website is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing in this podcast or on the website is intended to be a substitute for professional, psychological, psychiatric, or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please note that no doctor-patient relationship is formed here. And similarly, no supervisory or consultative relationship is formed between the host or guests of this podcast and listeners of this podcast. If you need the qualified advice of any mental health [00:29:00] practitioner or medical provider, please seek one in your area. Similarly, if you need supervision on clinical matters, please find a supervisor with expertise that fits your needs.