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[00:00:00] Hello everyone. Welcome to The Testing Psychologist podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Jeremy Sharp, licensed psychologist, group practice owner, and private practice coach.

Many of y’all know that I have been using TherapyNotes as our practice EHR for over 10 years now. I’ve looked at others and I keep coming back to TherapyNotes because they do it all. If you’re interested in an EHR for your practice, you can get two free months of TherapyNotes by going to thetestingpsychologist.com/therapynotes and enter the code “testing”.

This podcast is brought to you by PAR.

The FAW Interpretive Report, available through PARiConnect, provides scores for all FAW subtests and can aid clinicians in creating personalized and targeted intervention recommendations. Visit parinc.com\faw to learn more.

Hey everybody. Welcome back to The Testing Psychologist. Glad to be here.

[00:01:00] Today, I’m talking about one of my favorite topics, which is, blocking off time and creating thinking time for yourself so that you can work on your practice instead of just being involved in the day-to-day minutiae forever.

If you’ve listened to the podcast for any length of time, you know that I’m a big fan of blocking time. I’ve also talked frequently about the role of “think weeks” in my own practice development journey. But what if you don’t have the bandwidth or ability to take an entire week to work on your practice? Or even an entire day? Enter the “think morning.” In this episode, I’m talking through a sample schedule for a “think morning” that you can totally steal and use for yourself! Just a note that if you don’t want to copy everything while you’re listening, just hit the link for the transcript for the written version.

If you’re a practice owner who would like some more in-depth [00:02:00] support in your practice development or running your practice, check out the consulting options on thetestingpsychologist.com/consulting. We could work together individually or you could join one of the mastermind groups; whatever format feels best. If you go to the website, you can schedule a pre-consulting call, check it out, and see if either one might be a good fit.

With that, let’s talk about one of my favorite topics, Thinking Time.

Okay, everybody, let’s get right to it. I’m talking about a think morning.

Again, this is for any of you who would love to block off some thinking time to work on your practice versus in your practice. Just a reminder, the distinction there is, working on the practice is when you step back [00:03:00] and you work on big picture development stuff; big projects, visioning, anything that’s going to move your practice forward on a macro level from a leadership or founder standpoint versus working in your practice, which to me is returning phone calls, writing reports, returning emails, that kind of thing. So this is all about working on your practice.

This comes up a lot in my consulting with folks. People want to develop time to work on the practice, but it is hard to block off time. Even if you can block off time, it’s often hard to know how to use that time. I hear it over and over again where people will take time and have some time blocked, but then get overwhelmed with the amount of free time and the openness because we’re not used to that. We’re used to checking our email, writing reports, or bouncing back and forth between different apps and notifications and so forth. So free time, even if you get it, can be overwhelming.

[00:04:00] That’s what this is all about. This is a sample structure or sample schedule for how to put some support or scaffolding into a three-hour open block of time, which we will call a think morning.

So like I said, we’re going to shoot for a three-hour block. For me, the ideal times for this kind of thing would be on a Thursday, Friday, or possibly Sunday afternoon. I try to keep it during the week. I don’t like to work on the weekends but I recognize with family and other obligations that weekend might be the only option for you. Either way, pick a day where you can get an uninterrupted three-hour chunk of time.

Now, some of you might be saying there is no way that I can block off three hours of time. My response to that is, I get it. Of course. We could all be working on reports or [00:05:00] returning emails or whatever it might be. We can all do that 24 hours a day, probably. And so this is a bit of a challenge, I suppose, to give yourself and your practice the gift of forcing yourself to set up this uninterrupted time.

It’s going to be tough. It’s never really going to be easy for most people. So, taking the leap and finding the best time that could fit. This is where I say, hey if you have to do it on a weekend, if you have to ask your partner or your family or whomever for a little bit of help to give you this time, I think it is totally worth it because the time that you spend this three-hour chunk and the work that you can get done during that time can make such a big difference in the rest of your practice and help you save time in the future, feel more balanced, more efficient, and so forth. So we’re shooting for a three-hour chunk of time.

[00:06:00] Now, once we get there, actually, let me say a little bit about where or how to do this. For me, I like to be in a completely quiet, uninterrupted atmosphere. So if this means you have to go to a hotel room, if this means you have to lock yourself in your home office, if it means turning off all your notifications on a weekday and again, locking your door in your work office, that is totally fine. But whatever you can do, whatever locale or setting will be most conducive to you having an uninterrupted three-hour chunk, that’s what you’re shooting for.

Let’s assume that you have gotten there. You’ve turned off your notifications, you sit down and it’s the now what?

I would spend It’s been about 10 minutes outlining whatever you would call the vision for your practice as best you can. I like to shoot [00:07:00] for one year out. If you’re practiced at this, you can start with a three-year vision. I think that’s a long-term horizon for our line of work. And so I like to shoot for one year out. That seems a lot easier for us to envision and plan for.

Go with the prompt: What do you want your practice to look like one year from now? I would encourage you to be as specific as possible. Some things that people might try to define in this time would be, what do you want your revenue and or profit to be like in one year? What do you want your personal schedule and your roles in your practice to be in one year? How many referrals do you want? How many employees do you want? And so forth.

These are just some ideas to craft a vision. I personally feel like revenue and profit are important. They drive everything, but your personal schedule is [00:08:00] also pretty important. So these are just a few things to serve as a springboard, but the idea is to be as specific as possible. Maybe you have a little bit more detail that you want to dig into. Maybe you have a specific vision around the location of your practice or a new office or something like that.

The idea is to spend about 10 minutes defining this vision and making sure to write it down. That’s going to be a key through many of these exercises. Write them down and record them.

Now that you have a bit of a vision, it does not have to be perfect. Don’t overthink it. You spent 10 minutes defining your vision. You’ve written it down. We’re going to set that aside for a bit.

For the next 30 minutes, I want you to do a complete brain dump of everything that you are wrestling with in your practice: ideas, problems, friction points, [00:09:00] confusing aspects, anything that comes to mind. The idea is to not edit this at all.

Some examples might include: — insurance panels pay really low, should we keep them? We have too much friction in our onboarding process. I’m burned out but I still need the money and need to keep working. Or that one employee is challenging. These are four examples of things that you might be wrestling with in your practice, but I’m going to give you 30 minutes.

The idea here is that after these 30 minutes, you are going to have quite a list, and if you can’t fill 30 minutes for whatever reason, maybe it doesn’t take that long, maybe you’re quick, maybe you already have this top of mind, my suggestion would be to reach out to a partner or someone in your practice or a friend or whomever it may be and ask them, is there [00:10:00] anything you can think of that I’ve been complaining about, anything that I’m struggling with, anything you can identify as a challenge in my practice that I might want to think about?

Let’s take a break to hear from a featured partner.

Y’all know that I love TherapyNotes but I am not the only one. They have a 4.9 out of 5-star rating on trustpilot.com and Google, which makes them the number one rated Electronic Health Record system available for mental health folks today. They make billing, scheduling, note-taking, and telehealth all incredibly easy. They also offer custom forms that you can send through the portal. For all the prescribers out there, TherapyNotes is proudly offering ePrescribe as well. And maybe the most important thing for me is that they have live telephone support seven days a week so you can talk to a real person in a timely manner.

If you’re trying to switch from another EHR, the transition is incredibly easy. They’ll import your demographic data [00:11:00] free of charge so you can get going right away. So if you’re curious or you want to switch or you need a new EHR, try TherapyNotes for two months, absolutely free. You can go to thetestingpsychologist.com/therapynotes and enter the code testing. Again, totally free, no strings attached. Check it out and see why everyone is switching to TherapyNotes.

I want to tell you about the new Feifer Assessment of Writing Interpretive Report available through PARiConnect, PAR’s online assessment platform. It provides scores for all FAW subtests and includes detailed interpretations of index, discrepancy, and subtest scores. It offers strategies and recommendations tailored to each individual’s age and scores and provides clinicians with data to create targeted customized interventions. Learn more at parinc.com\faw.

All right, let’s [00:12:00] get back to the podcast.

You come to the end of the 30 minutes, you likely will have quite a list of problems in your practice. Now, I want you to spend about 10 minutes narrowing that list down to the top 10 problems or issues that you think will have the most bearing on reaching the vision that you set out at the beginning of this exercise.

We always come back to the vision. The vision is going to be the anchor for our elimination process and our identifying priorities during this time. So spend about 10 minutes narrowing that list down to the top 10 problems. Then we’re going to do this again. We’re going to spend 10 more minutes narrowing the list down to the top five problems or issues.

Y’all may be listening and thinking, Oh my gosh, why do we have 10 minutes? I could do this in 30 seconds.

You may be surprised that it’s really hard to narrow down [00:13:00] problems:

1. Because you’re going to start with a lot.

2. Because you’re going to be trying to be very deliberate with how important these issues are and trying to identify the ones that are most important. And that will become harder and harder as we eliminate things from the list and narrow down these issues.

At this point, we went from a bunch of things down to 10 things, then we narrowed it down to five problems or issues. The final step is to spend another 5, maybe 10 minutes narrowing the list down to the top three issues or problems or friction points that you think will have the most influence on reaching that one-year vision.

The idea here is to look through the lens of if I could solve three of these problems, would these things get me [00:14:00] closer to my one-year vision? How close could they get me to that one-year vision? The hope is that you are identifying the top three issues that will have the most influence on that vision.

That’s your first hour. One hour is done. So we’re going to head into the second hour. You’ve got your three issues that you have identified as contributing to the vision. The next task, I suppose, is to spend about 10 or 15 minutes mapping each of those three issues to an upcoming three-month period. So quarters, right? We all know calendar quarters. There are four quarters in a year. So the idea is that you’re going to map each of those issues to an upcoming three-month period. The idea is to tackle one major issue each quarter.

Now, hopefully, you would order them by importance or by using the domino effect. So, work on the ones [00:15:00] first that will have an impact on the other two, but you want to loosely map them to upcoming three-month periods. So if you, let’s say start in January, then you would map one to the period of January through March, another one would map to April through June, and another one would map to July through September. If you’re off on the months and it doesn’t turn out even, that’s okay. Just ballpark it.

Once you have mapped to the upcoming quarters, now it starts to get fun. You get to spend roughly the next hour researching what you would identify as the most immediate issue for the upcoming quarter. You might ask yourself, what info do you need to solve this problem? What steps should be in place to move you forward toward a solution? Trying to lay out a bit of a roadmap [00:16:00] toward solving this problem. Outline the important steps, outline a process, and set miniature goals for yourself over the course of those three months.

If you’re ready to take those steps at some point in the hour, that is totally fine. Feel free to go for it. You can email that person you need to email, demo that software, whatever it takes, and get the wheels turning if you can on this first quarter’s issue. So you get about an hour for that.

Now, you’re not going to finish that first quarter’s issue, for sure. That’s the whole point. If it’s a major issue that is going to make an impact on your practice, the likelihood is it will take much longer than an hour to complete. So totally okay. You have plenty of time, but we’re going to give you a head start here during this hour.

All right. At this point, we have been working for approximately two and a half [00:17:00] hours, and so for the last 30 minutes, you’re going to do some scheduling to set yourself up for success moving forward. The first thing is to look ahead and block out at least a three-hour chunk every quarter for the next year. So this is not a one-time thing. We’re not going to do a “think morning” and then abandon the process for the rest of eternity.

So the first thing is to schedule a three-hour chunk every quarter for the next year, every three months. Then look at your weekly schedule and try to build in at least an hour hopefully two hours a week to make progress on your quarterly issue or goal that you identified. I say an hour because I feel like that’s a lot more doable for a lot of folks.

If you’re in this place where you could barely even find a three-hour chunk to do a “think morning”, the likelihood of finding two [00:18:00] hours every week is probably low. So I’m going to start with an hour just to dedicate solely toward working on your quarterly issue, but if you can do two hours a week, that’s great. It’s definitely not going to go to waste.

The last thing is looking at your weekly schedule, doing a review of how you’re spending your time, and deciding what you want to keep and what you want to let go of, at least in the short term. I like to evaluate my schedule at least every six months. And that’s why, I’m saying here, this is going to be a quarterly exercise. I love diving into the schedule and keeping a finger on the pulse of how you spend your time and making sure that it’s fulfilling and the way that you want to spending it. So this is a good time to reflect on how you’re spending your time.

Plus, if you’re doing it every three months, then that gives you more frequent opportunities to change your schedule. I’ve always joked that changing our schedules is like turning the Titanic. [00:19:00] Many of us book months and months out and it’s hard to make big changes to your schedule. So if you’re doing it every quarter, it will give you more opportunity to make those changes before too much time passes.

Okay, so we have looked at our schedule, decided what you want to keep or let go of, and think about what’s working, what’s not working, what you want to get rid of, what you want to do more of. At the end of this exercise, you should have a little time left to take some action toward reaching your ideal schedule. That might mean setting a deadline to leave your current group, asking your partner for more work time, two evenings a week, and building in more personal time. So feel free to make any tweaks to your schedule that feel reasonable and doable here in this timeframe.

By this point, I’m guessing you’re going to be pushing upright on three hours. [00:20:00] So to wrap up, I want you to put everything down, go back, and review your ideas and schedule to make sure that everything makes sense.

The idea here is to feel some clarity and confidence in knowing that you have a priority and a plan for the next several weeks at least. And you’re going to have time set aside over the course of the year to do this again and again. You’re going to do this every quarter. This is not meant to be a one-time thing, like I’ve said before. So again, clarity, confidence, and having some kind of plan or priority for the next several weeks in your practice. So that’s the three hours. That’s a think morning.

To wrap up this episode though, I would encourage you to take the first step and block out the time to do this. So flip ahead in your calendar to the first [00:21:00] open three-hour block you can find. Hopefully, that happens within a month. If not, you may have to have a conversation with some folks, whoever the stakeholders in your life might be to try and find this time for yourself. At that point, you have your first think morning on the books and that is worth a congratulations.

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 in 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, I would be so grateful if you left a review on iTunes, 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 [00:22:00] 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.

The information contained in this podcast and on The Testing Psychologist website are intended for informational and educational purposes only. [00:23:00] 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 has 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 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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