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[00:00:00] 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 in part by TherapyNotes

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This episode is brought to you by PAR.

The new PAR Training Platform is now available and is the new home for PARtalks webinars, as well as on-demand learning and product training. Learn more at parinc.com\resources\par-training.

Hey everyone, we are back [00:01:00] and we have started another calendar year. We are in 2024. What that means is, for some of us, evaluation of where we’re at and maybe revising our schedules or priorities. So that’s what I’m talking about today.

I was emailing with one of my former consultant clients the other day and they said, “2024 is going to rock. I can feel it in my bones.” I love that.

Even though you can technically make changes at any point in your life or during the year, people love New Year’s because of the clear demarcation of old versus new. So, to that end, let’s talk about ideas for moving forward and prioritizing what matters most over the coming months.

[00:02:00] All right, folks, let’s bust right into it.

I suppose you could categorize this post under New Year’s resolutions, but I don’t like to take that framework. I subscribe to the idea that you can make changes at any point in time, but there is something nice about having such a clear starting point.

And so, as I started to think about this episode and put it together, I was initially going to treat it as another reminder to redo your schedule. Y’all have Lord knows, probably heard me talk about redoing your schedule many times on the podcast. That’s initially where I started, but I think that it runs deeper than that hence the title change to prioritizing what [00:03:00] matters.

For me, my schedule holds a lot of information. That is the primary vehicle that I am using here. It’s a reflection of not just how I spend my time, but I think it goes deeper and it really encompasses a reflection of what I prioritize and thereby what my values are or what I prioritize and how they do not reflect my values. And so, yes, we’re going to be talking about your schedule, but it goes deeper. It’s about prioritizing what matters for you and trying to get closer and closer to the idea of values alignment with your work.

So as I said, I tend to look at my schedule to figure out what I enjoy and what I don’t enjoy. And I think there’s a lot of power in updating [00:04:00] your calendar to reflect the things that you truly enjoy.

Now, a few years ago, I stumbled upon the fact that this dovetails well with an approach that Tim Ferriss uses. Tim Ferriss, as many of you probably know, is a, what is Tim Ferriss, Angel investor, and productivity guru for lack of a better word. He’s in that ballpark, tech bro world of optimizing human potential. I think over the last few years, he’s moved into what I would call a pretty important role as an advocate for mental health and the use of psychedelics in treating mental health issues. I appreciate the direction he’s going, but I digress.

The part of his approach that I like, and that dovetails with this discussion is what he calls a [00:05:00] past-year review. So this is his way of discerning what activities, tasks, and engagements are worth keeping and what are not worth keeping. So I’m just going to do a little summary of his approach because I’ve essentially mirrored this approach in my own end-of-year review for the past probably 3 to 4 years and I found it works well. It’s pretty simple and it’s very action-driven.

What he describes is this practice of essentially grabbing a notepad, you create two columns, one is positive, one is negative, and then you simply go through your calendar from the past year week to week. So I literally, will go back to January 1st, 2023, look at the [00:06:00] calendar, and look at the events that I have on my calendar each week.

What you do as you look at each week is you write down in those columns any people or activities or commitments that according to Tim “triggered peak positive or negative emotions for that month,” and you put them in the right columns. So any people activities or commitments that triggered peak positive emotions, you put them in the positive column, and people activities or commitments that triggered peak negative emotions, you put them in the negative column.

So you go through the whole year. You don’t do any editing. You just follow that guideline, peak positive versus peak negative. And then once you’ve gone through the entire year, which might sound like a lot, but I’ll be honest, it takes [00:07:00] maybe 30 to 60 minutes. Once you get in the groove, if you’re like me, you have a lot of recurring events each week or meetings or activities, and if not each week, then certainly each month. And so it’s not like you’re combing through 40 to 60 hours of unique material every week.

Once you’ve gone through the past year, you look at your columns on the piece of paper, the document, and just ask what 20% of each column produced the most “reliable or powerful peaks”. Essentially, you boil it down to the top 20% of positive experiences and the bottom 20% or the 20% of the most negative experiences. [00:08:00] And then based on whatever you identify, you take some action on it.

Whatever was in your top 20% for positive experiences, you schedule more of those in the new year. Just go ahead. If you can, get them on your calendar, and if you can’t, then at least try to block out some time as a placeholder, but putting it on your calendar is huge. So anything you can act on that’s in that positive column, go ahead and do it. Prepay for things. Book vacations. Set aside time for friends. Whatever it might be, go ahead and do it, as much as you can.

The second step is to create a not-to-do list. And that’s where you put the 20% of peak negative experiences. So these are the things that essentially, [00:09:00] you know are going to make you miserable and you want to keep a reminder to yourself that you do not want these things on your calendar because the moment will come, and this has happened to me, I’ll talk about my own experience in a minute, but the time will come when you’re confronted with the possibility or the opportunity to engage in some of those peak negative experiences again. And it will be compelling because of feeling like an obligation or that you should do it or FOMO or whatever. Imposter syndrome. There are many things that can drive us to say yes to activities we don’t truly enjoy. And so keeping a list. If you need to, post that list on your monitor, on your phone, or whatever, just to keep you grounded and reminded of the things you do not want to engage in. That’s it. That’s the exercise.

I’ve heard [00:10:00] other people frame this in different ways. I think I mentioned Scott Galloway on the podcast before. I enjoy his work as well. He frames it in a slightly different way. He says that when you’re running a business, there are things that you have to do, things that you want to do, and things you should do.

In his perspective, when you get to a certain point of economic security, you get to forego that third option, the things you should do. I don’t know that I’m there necessarily. My fear and insecurity still pull me to say yes to lots of things, but it’s worth working on. So that’s just a slightly different way to conceptualize the same exercise.

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All right, let’s get back to the podcast.

How has this worked for me?

Here’s some examples of things that I have kept on the calendar and prioritized over the years.

One is that my wife and I have a standing Friday date from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00. p.m. every Friday. We spend those two hours together without our kids. She is also self-employed, so I recognize we have a lot of flexibility in our schedules, but this [00:13:00] is something that is important for us because we are typically busy with kids’ stuff in the evening. This gives us the opportunity to at least have a weekly touch point where we get to hang out for two hours.

We go on walks a lot of the time. We plan our vacations. We have the time to go through the cycle of fighting and making up rather than disagreeing and letting it simmer for a day or two before we have time to reconnect. We go to lunch. We talk about big family topics. This is something that is super important to me and we’ve continued to prioritize.

Another thing that I’ve kept on my calendar is blocking off Fridays. So typically on Fridays, I don’t have any appointments. I do my standing date with Carrie and I spend the morning time researching things and doing something fun [00:14:00] not hustling into the office first thing in the morning like usual, just having some open time to catch up if I need to. And that has been helpful.

Other priorities for me are my kids’ activities. So we do a lot in the evening like I mentioned. My kids are both involved in fairly competitive athletic pursuits and it takes a lot of time, but I love it. I always have my kids’ activities on the calendar: their school events, their concerts, that kind of thing.

Related to that, I stopped any in-person appointments or clinical or telehealth or whatever meetings at 3 p.m. every day. If I need to be home after school, I can be if not, I have from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. every day to catch up, do some research, dig into visionary topics, whatever I need to do to wrap up the day.

[00:15:00] The last thing that I’ve continued to emphasize and prioritize is traveling to see friends and family. I am both cursed and blessed I think to have two solid friend groups from college and grad school. That’s the blessing. The curse is that they do not live locally. And so I end up traveling at least 2, 3, maybe 4 times a year just to see friends, see my best, oldest friends. And that’s super important to me.

The older I get and the more I look at the research, the clearer it becomes that relationships are the most important thing of being alive. I’m doing as much as I can to pour into those close relationships. So I continue to prioritize [00:16:00] travel, book trips, and see friends and family.

Now, how about some things that I have let go of in the past? There are so many things. This is hard to identify a few but I picked a few that maybe have the most bang for their buck and might resonate with y’all

One is doing so many evaluations. At a point, probably 2 or 3 years ago, I realized that I could not continue to do as much clinical work and still run our practice the way that I need to so I had to make peace with dropping some evaluations, even though I enjoyed them.

Meetings that I don’t have to attend. I am very guilty of thinking I need to be at every single meeting of everybody all the time. This is largely rooted in some control stuff. I’ve worked hard to drop some of those meetings because I don’t typically enjoy them [00:17:00] if they’re only peripherally related to my role in the practice.

The same goes for networking events or what I would call obligations. I’ve winnowed down my Networking list. And if something new pops up that seems genuinely fun and will give some return on investment, I will do that. But I’m not saying yes to every single event like I used to.

And then the last one is supervising so many people. We have, like I said in previous podcasts, a pretty robust training program with interns and postdocs. This is hard. I do enjoy supervising, but I just can’t do as much of it as I would like to and still run the practice like I should be.

So a little bit of crossover. Not all of these are peak negative [00:18:00] experiences. Things that did fall on that camp that are a little more consistent are I made a deal with myself I think two years ago that I would not say yes to any presentations that I have to create from scratch. I love presenting, but I hate preparing new topics. So unless it is very compelling to me, for instance, I don’t have a presentation prepared on AI and mental health, but I would love to put that together. So unless it’s something very compelling, I truly hated putting together new presentations.

Part of that is building a library of presentations over the years. Of course, I have to go back and edit and tweak those to keep up with new developments. But I made a promise that I would not be taking on new presentation topics because it would just [00:19:00] make me super nervous and I would overprepare or under prepare and it was not enjoyable.

Let’s see. Those are probably the biggest experiences or people or activities that I have let go of, at least that I can remember right now. And so some things for you to think about, hopefully, you’ve gotten some ideas from the items that I’ve talked about so far, but I always think it’s helpful. Just think about your schedule structure. even if you don’t drop or add anything, is your schedule working for you? Are you day theming? Are you time-blocking? Are you working too much? Do you have time for the personal activities you want to engage in? There are so many ways to tackle your schedule and make small tweaks to get it to a place that is more enjoyable for you.

Are your fees where they should be? New [00:20:00] Year is always a good time to revise your fees if you haven’t already. People get stuck on raising fees like, Oh, I can only do it at the new year. Oh, I have to give people a bunch of notice. But testing is nice in the sense that we are always booking new appointments. We don’t have existing clients that we have to deal with. And so, you can change your fee whenever you want. So even though this podcast is coming out toward the end of January, you can change your fee to start February 1st or March 1st or April 1st. Totally fine.

Any tests that you want to get rid of or add? You could certainly… Maybe there are some tests that fall in that peak negative experience category. If so, look for a reliable alternative and replace that test. You don’t have to torture yourself by [00:21:00] slogging through a boring measure over and over in many cases anyway.

For those of you that have group practices, are there any employees that may not be a good fit? Any employees who are dragging down your organization or on the flip side, do you need to hire an assistant to help out? Are you taking cases that you don’t want to take anymore? This is a big question. This is a big one for me where reducing the number of evals meant saying no to the ones that I don’t enjoy as much and dialing into the ones that I do.

Those are just a few ideas. Hopefully, you get the picture here that you comb through your year, you identify the things that bring you the most joy, the things that bring you the most, I don’t know what the opposite of joy is, and act accordingly, but actually [00:22:00] act. Do whatever you can to get these things on your calendar or take them off of your calendar.

So the theme here, as you can probably see is slowly dialing in your life to where it encompasses what you want it to be. As I was putting this episode together, I came up with this phrase that it’s never too early for a midlife crisis, which to me, a midlife crisis is the time when you realize that you’re not going to live forever. You realize it and start changing things about your life to match your desires and values because you want to maximize the time that you have. And so when I say it’s never too early for a midlife crisis, it’s the idea that, why wait to craft the life or the practice that you want to have? You have almost total control over what you do in private practice. It’s never too early to start shaping the practice to be [00:23:00] exactly what you want it to be.

All right folks. Happy prioritizing. I hope that this has sparked some thought for some of you and might result in some cool changes. If you make some changes in your practice, I would love to hear what those are. Send me an email, at jeremy@thetestingpsychologist.com. Tell me about your peak positive experiences or tell me about your peak negative experiences that you dropped off your calendar. I’d love to hear about these changes that get people closer and closer to the life and the practice that they want to have.

All right, y’all. Thank you so much for tuning into this episode. Always grateful to have you here. I hope that you take away some information that you can implement in your practice and your life. Any resources that we mentioned during the episode will be listed in the show notes. So make sure to check those out.

If you like what you hear on the podcast, [00:24:00] I would be so grateful if you left a review on iTunes or Spotify or wherever you listen to your podcast.

And if you’re a practice owner or aspiring practice owner, I’d invite you to check out The Testing Psychologist mastermind groups. I have mastermind groups at every stage of practice development: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. We have homework, we have accountability, we have support, we have resources. These groups are amazing. We do a lot of work and a lot of connecting. If that sounds interesting to you, you can check out the details at thetestingpsychologist.com/consulting. You can sign up for a pre-group phone call and we will chat and figure out if a group could be a good fit for you. Thanks so much.

[00:25:00] The information contained in this podcast and on The Testing Psychologist website are 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 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.

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