The Practice Manager's Guide to Self-Care and Increased Productivity
The arrival of spring means many veterinary hospitals are bracing for a flurry of new puppies and kittens, flea allergy dermatitis, tick-borne diseases, plant and flower toxicities, thunderstorm anxiety, and more. While it's important to adequately prepare your veterinary practice and team for the spring rush, it's even more important that you take care of yourself during this stressful time. Self-care is often placed repeatedly on the back burner as tasks multiply — but it's when those to-do lists spiral out of control that taking care of yourself is more important than ever.
Here's a guide just for you — the busy veterinary practice manager — on making self-care a priority, so your productivity can skyrocket.
Understanding Self-Care and Why It's Important
Think of your practice's busiest, most stressful days. Perhaps patients aren't cooperating, and someone on your team gets injured during a simple nail trim. Maybe two team members have called in sick, leaving you short-staffed and the rest of your team feeling like they've drawn the short straw. Perhaps a client is upset about her invoice and demands to speak with you after yelling at your client care representative. During this kind of day, taking care of yourself and reducing your stress will help you make better choices and handle difficult situations with tact.
Self-care involves nurturing your mind, body, and spirit. It promotes well-being and helps alleviate stress. When your practice gets busy, it may seem counterintuitive to take 15 minutes to go for a walk or read a book, but those 15 minutes could relax you, improve your productivity, and prepare you for anything work throws your way the rest of the day. Just like a parent on an airplane is supposed to put on her oxygen mask before she puts on her child's mask, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone — or anything — else.
There are numerous studies linking self-care to increased productivity and linking stress to decreased productivity, according to HuffPost. Mindfulness, healthy eating, exercise, and spending time outside are all among the practices that boost focus and creativity.
We all have different needs and desires, which means caring for yourself is highly personal. Some of the tips in this article won't apply to you, while others may suit you perfectly. If you have never been a fan of yoga, don't try it just because it is one activity that can decrease stress and increase productivity. Instead, let the ideas here inspire your own self-care plan and help you choose the beneficial activities you prefer.
How to Take Better Care of Yourself and Increase Productivity
Here are some ideas to help you thrive during even the busiest days at your practice:
Make it a team effort. Hire a personal trainer or a yoga instructor to show the team during a staff meeting how to incorporate simple exercises and healthy stretches into their daily routines. Encourage staff to bring healthy meals and snacks, and schedule a weekly potluck lunch where everyone brings a nutritious dish.
Take actual breaks. No more working as you stuff a sandwich into your mouth because you had no time to sit down and eat lunch. Physically leave the practice — read a book in the park, grab lunch with a friend — and take time to quiet your mind and reflect. Think of lunch as a free 30- or 60-minute break to spend how you'd like.
Leverage your staff. You can't be everything to everyone, and when your practice gets busy, you'll never have time to properly care for yourself if you don't delegate tasks and trust your team to perform.
Give yourself a lift. Every day, try to find a way to meet a physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual need. Everyone is different, so choose the activities you find the most satisfying and refreshing. Here are a few ideas:
- Exercise. Whether you prefer to hit the gym, go for a hike, or sweat it out in a yoga studio, physical exercise is a powerful pick-me-up.
- Eat healthy foods.
- Get enough sleep.
- Meditate. Download an app and meditate first thing in the morning, during lunch, right before bed, or whenever you feel overwhelmed.
- Listen to something that makes you happy. Whether it's a book on tape or a playlist that motivates you, tune everything else out and enter your own world for a few minutes.
- Read a book or laugh at funny cat videos.
- Get a massage.
Give credit where credit is due. Be kind to yourself. When you do a good job, pat yourself on the back. Use positive affirmations for a quick lift.
Set boundaries. And keep them. Leave work at work — don't let it follow you home. By keeping work and home life separate, you'll be able to give 100% to both.
Add taking care of yourself to the top of your to-do list, and watch your productivity soar.