by Ray Foxworth, D.C., FICC, MCS-P
President & Founder, ChiroHealthUSA
“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” – Abraham Lincoln
Procrastination can be a joking matter, but it can also do real damage to your practice. Research shows that one person in five is a chronic procrastinator. So, if you have an office of 10 people, chances are two of them are online shopping while on the clock. Procrastination can come in many forms, including distractions from surfing the web on the office computer, not to mention the ubiquitous presence of our personal devices.
Causes of procrastination
Though it may not be chronic, most of us procrastinate to some extent in our daily lives. So, what are the causes?
Maybe we succumb to the many distractions that might be more fun or interesting than the job at hand. Or maybe the pursuit of perfection, and the fear that we can’t achieve it, keeps us from getting started. Or maybe we object to a task that has been assigned to us.
Whatever the reason, procrastination can cause problems for any business. Here are a few possible issues that might arise.
Lackluster Patient Experience – Whether patients are trying to communicate by phone, email, or social media, they expect a prompt response. In some cases, that expectation is for an immediate reply. 96% of respondents to the Microsoft survey linked above, say customer service affects their choice of a company and their loyalty to it. And, that applies to the patient experience as well. Procrastination is the enemy of providing an outstanding patient experience.
Poor reputation management – Those patients who are disappointed in your customer service are likely these days to let that be known online, whether in a blog, a forum, or a social network such as Facebook or Yelp. Those bad reviews tend to fester if they go without a courteous, respectful response from the company. Good reviews should be met with gratitude. Either way, the response should be same-day, and procrastinating can cause anger to build and patients to lose interest.
Last-minute rushing – When workers put off tasks until the deadline looms, the ensuing rush often results in subpar, careless work. It might not get as bad as Lucy at the candy factory, but it’s a fair bet that employees who are rushed and frantic aren’t doing the best jobs. According to research from Dr. Hal Hershfield, a professor of marketing at the U.C.L.A. Anderson School of Management, in the midst of procrastinating “we’re even less able to make thoughtful, future-oriented decisions in the midst of stress.”
All of the above is bound to lead to the kind of tension and stress among employees that works against a happy, healthy workplace and the kind of happy, healthy patients that are crucial to your practice. So how does a business combat procrastination?
Accountability is the key.
If it seems like you have a procrastination problem in your practice, or your life, build a system of accountability. More often than not, we think small when it comes to accountability. It is not about consequence, but ownership. When you and your employees take ownership of tasks, it helps create a mental shift where you see these items as “choose-to” not “have to.” For example, each week in our staff meeting, we have numbers that each person in our practice has taken ownership of and reports in a weekly scorecard. At the beginning of each meeting, each person reports their numbers and progress to our practice goals. Our employees are less likely to let something slip or drop completely when they have to admit to doing so in front of the entire team. I have seen a huge change in what employees would consistently procrastinate about (patient follow up calls, denials, etc.). Now they strive each week to exceed their goals with no additional prompting from me.
We all procrastinate at some time or another. The key to keeping procrastination from getting in the way of our success, is to recognize those tasks on which we tend to procrastinate and identify why we are avoiding them. If you are feeling overwhelmed, break tasks into smaller chunks to improve your self-efficiency. If you struggle with delayed gratification (guilty!) and love the high of finishing a project or task at the last minute, breaking these tasks into smaller chunks can become more rewarding. And, if all else fails… take 5 minutes before starting the looming task at hand and spend that time outside. Go for a walk. Soak up the sunshine. A small break will improve your productivity and efficiency.
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