Bumpy ride? 5 ways to make workdays feel less chaotic


Bumpy ride? 5 ways to make workdays feel less chaotic

Dec 01, 2006

YOU'RE RUNNING LATE—SO WHAT'S new? But, as you know, running 15 minutes behind at a morning appointment affects the rest of your day. You're late to your afternoon appointments and you'd sure like to get home for supper—but when are you supposed to catch up on your e-mail? And, darn it, your assistant forgot to enter some data into the computer and do the billing, so now you've got to take care of that, too.

Sure, there are some easy fixes to your scheduling problems. You could build in extra time to each appointment to give a cushion for appointments that run long. Or you could leave open a slot from 11 a.m. to noon. That way if your morning is off schedule, your afternoon isn't. (And you'll be more likely to get some lunch. Always nice.) But those are fixes that, in one way or another, affect your bottom line.

So what can you do, personally, to maintain your peace of mind and general well-being? Christiane Holbrook, a business coach and the founder of Legacy in Action, a business coaching firm in Pasadena, Calif., says you can take these five steps to smooth out your schedule, stay focused while you're working, and get home sooner.

1 Set boundaries

Knowing your limits and sticking with them when dealing with clients, team members, and when you're setting your work hours is a great way to smooth out your day. And knowing your boundaries means knowing when to say "no" to clients.

Stanley McChattsalott, one of your oldest, albeit most difficult, clients won't stop talking. If you don't get in the truck now and start on your 20-minute drive, you'll be late to your next appointment. Sound familiar? "It's OK to let the client know that you've got to move on," says Holbrook. "And it's OK to say no to a client." So if that familiar, "While you're here doc could you ..." pops into the conversation and you don't have time, say so.

Holbrook says it's not easy to set boundaries. "You worry that you'll upset the person or that you'll lose money," she says. "But you know deep in your gut when you're dealing with a difficult client and need to say no, yet most people ignore that feeling. You've got to tap into your intuition."

Dr. Emily Williamson, owner of the Sixth Day Veterinary Practice in Bargersville, Ind., relies on her team members to help her set boundaries and deal with difficult clients. "Your team is your first line of defense in this situation, and they need to be direct but polite with this type of client," she says.

Boundaries are also a must when you're trying to establish reasonable working hours. "If you want to set the goal of being home by 6 p.m., then you should set that goal," says Holbrook. "You'll work hard to be home by that time and most likely you'll get everything done. That's focused work." Make your goal clear to your team, too, so that they can help you defend your boundaries.

2 Stop rescuing everybody

You're back at the office after finishing all your appointments for the day—it's late. You notice your receptionist didn't finish filing the day's records and your assistant didn't clean out the truck. So you take care of both tasks and get home even later. You just rescued your technician and receptionist, but what about rescuing yourself?