Dr. Sharp: Hello, everyone. Welcome to The Testing Psychologist podcast, the podcast where we talk all about the business and practice of psychological and neuropsychological assessment. I’m your host, Dr. Jeremy Sharp, licensed psychologist, group practice owner, and private practice coach.
This episode is brought to you by PAR. PAR has recently released the Feifer Assessment of Childhood Trauma or the FACT, the first and only comprehensive instrument measuring how stress and trauma can impact children in a school-based setting. You can learn more or purchase the FACT teacher form by visiting parinc.com\fact_teacher.
Hey everyone, welcome back. Today is the first episode in a series of episodes that I’m calling Holiday Hopes. The Holiday Hopes is going to be a seven-part series that is meant to carry you through the next several weeks, leading up to and spanning several holidays. Each episode is going to focus on one aspect of your practice that you might aspire or hope to change in the new year. And by the end of the series, if you have taken action on even just a few of these items, you could be looking at a much more streamlined and hopefully more fulfilling practice by the new year or soon thereafter.
So today is the first episode. And the first episode in the series is all about scheduling. I will be talking about different ways to adjust your schedule, why it’s important to pay very close attention to your schedule, and why your schedule just drives really everything else in your practice, at least the way that I think of it. So if that sounds interesting to you, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, if you would like to get your schedule under control, then listen on.
Now, at the time that this goes out, I might still have one spot left in both my intermediate practice mastermind and my beginner practice mastermind. These are group coaching experiences for testing psychologists practice owners who’d like to get some support and accountability as they build their practices. So if that sounds interesting, jump on it. Time is of the essence. One of the groups has already started. The next is starting within a week. So you can go to thetestingpsychologist.com/consulting and book a pre-group call with me to talk about whether the group would be a good fit.
Okay. Let’s get to talking about scheduling.
Okay, here we are. Now, these Holiday Hopes episodes are meant to be pretty quick, pretty simple, really just hitting on some high points of some topics that I have covered in the past in greater detail, but just trying to pull it all together and create almost like a sprint over the next 6 to 7 weeks for you to engage in and maybe put some things into play for the new year.
Today we’re talking about scheduling. For me, a schedule drives everything. What I mean by that is if you know how many hours a week you are available to work, it drives how many referrals you can take, which drives how much you need to charge to make the amount of money you need. It drives the way that you write your reports and it also helps to create a seamless predictable flow of referrals. And that leads to what I think are positive client experiences. So scheduling drives a lot.
I have talked about scheduling in many previous episodes. Those are linked in the show notes, but I’m going to hit the high points here.
Just starting big picture. Now’s a good time. We’re in mid-November. So, now’s a good time to look ahead a month and a half, two months, three months, and walk through what I call the ideal scheduling exercise. The way that you do this exercise is you flip ahead to whatever point in your calendar is wide open however long that takes. Now, that might be a long time for some of us. It might be a shorter time for others but flip ahead to your calendar, whether it’s paper or digital, to find the first point where you have a completely open week.
What I want you to do first is go in and block off, literally create appointments or pencil in, however you do it, all the time that you need for your personal life. This could be working out in the morning. This could be time to sit and drink coffee. This could be taking your kids to school or to sports or activities after school. This could be date nights. These could be date days. My wife and I do a date day every Friday where we get together for two hours in the middle of the day while our kids are at school. It could be anything. It could be full days that you want to take off. The idea is that you put in all of your personal time first.
Next, I want you to look at how much time is left when you’ve put in all the personal activities that you would like to attend to each week. And whatever time is left is the time that you have to work. That’s the exercise. Now you have your number of work hours. Maybe that’s less than you expected. For many of us, I think it usually is less than we are currently working.
So now, what I would like for you to do is go in and delineate all the boundaries if you haven’t already. Delineate all the boundaries that you would like to keep as far as work. So not working after X time or only starting at X time or not working on the weekends, whatever it is. So if there are any times on your calendar that aren’t blocked off for personal stuff, make sure that those are all tightened up.
So the time that you have right now is truly the amount of time that you have to dedicate to work. And now, you get to work backward and say, how do I fit the work that I have into those hours? So let’s say you have 25 hours available. Well, for me, that would be two evaluations a week, let’s say. If you’re doing therapy, obviously that would be a little different, but you get the idea. It gives you the number of hours that you are able to work. And that’s important.
Now, you can use that to determine how many clinical hours you’re going to do each week, which helps you determine how many referrals you can take, which helps you determine how much time you’re going to spend on each of your evaluations. There’s the ideal scheduling exercise, in a nutshell.
The key point from this is knowing that your personal time goes first, and then you put your work time in there, and then you can work backward to determine how much you need to make from each of those clinical hours to reach your income goals.
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.
Another big picture item. You can look at your calendar a year out. If you want to start on January 1st, that’s great, and go through the entire year of 2022. And I would love for you to block out at least one full day each quarter that you’re going to use to reflect and vision for your practice. So, this is the time where you will just work on the business not in the business, by which I mean, you’re not going to be doing reports. This is not meant to be catch-up time for emails. This is meant to be reflection time, big picture visioning, planning projects ahead of time, deciding on major changes in your practice.
If you can block out two days every quarter, that’s fantastic. But if you can only do one, let’s start there. I’ve gotten to the point now where I do two full days every quarter at least once a year. I’m trying to do it twice a year in 2022. I’m going to take a full week off. So, I’ll have two full weeks and two days in the other quarters to just reflect on the practice and plan for future changes, upgrades, and things like that.
All right. Now let’s talk about your week-to-week schedule a little bit. Anyone who has listened to the podcast knows that I’m a big fan of two concepts that help streamline your schedule. One is day theming, which means doing the same thing throughout the day and not task switching back and forth. The other is time blocking, which means that when you are engaged in a task throughout the day, you only do that task and you set up your day so that it’s a series of blocks where you’re working on one thing at a time. The danger here is that we often get lured into task switching and bouncing back and forth, “multitasking” which doesn’t actually exist, at least in a productivity sense. And we get distracted.
There’s a term, I don’t know if Cal Newport coined the term or if it came from somewhere else, but it’s called attention residue. What that means is that every time we task switch, for example, if we’re writing a report and we switch over just to answer that quick email or that messenger ping or whatever it is, there is a time period where we are not as focused as we were before we switched. And it’s pretty remarkable how long that attention residue actually lasts. It is pretty disruptive. So, that’s where this is coming from.
So with day theming, for example, I might have one day a week when I am only doing clinical interviews. Another day during the week when I’m only doing feedback. Or another day during the week when I’m only doing testing and scoring. Another day during the week when I’m only writing reports. You get the idea. That’s a little more of a macro-micro concept is day theming.
Then time-blocking is really taking it down to the smallest level where you only do one thing at a time during your day. So, for example, even on days that I have themed, I have little time blocks where at the beginning of the day I will spend 30 minutes on email, and at the end of the day, I’ll spend another 30 minutes on the email just to wrap up. Now that might be voicemail. That might be collateral phone calls. It might be social media. You can block time for those things. The idea is that you do block the time and during that time you only do that thing.
For some of us, this means you have to close all your other tabs, turn on do not disturb, or whatever to make this happen, but again is just another step to keep you from switching back and forth and losing focus on the tasks that you’re working on.
If these concepts are interesting to you, there is a lot written about these concepts. I mentioned Cal Newport. He wrote the books: Deep Work, A World Without Email, and one other one that I can’t remember right now, but I will put a link to his work in the show notes as well. I have taken a lot from his writing.
So again, this is just a quick overview prompt to start thinking about your schedule. I like the natural break of the new year to start new habits. If you’re curious by the way about starting habits, the book Atomic Habits by James Clear is fantastic. I’ll put that in the show notes as well, but if you’re looking to start new habits, the new year is a good time to do it. And I think your schedule is a great place to begin.
I hope you found this helpful. Like I said at the beginning, if you’d like more structured support, you can get in touch with me about joining one of the mastermind groups where we go pretty deep into topics like this and many others in the hopes of helping you build a practice that really works for you instead of the other way around. So you can go to thetestingpsychologist.com/consulting, and get more info if you would like.
All right, y’all. I hope you’re doing well. Take care.
The information contained in this podcast and on The Testing Psychologist 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.
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