Zeroing in on your goals

Zeroing in on your goals

Feel like you're going round and round and getting nowhere? Use this planning exercise to plot a course that heads straight for your dreams
Mar 01, 2005

Ever feel like you're working harder than ever without seeing any progress? Yet colleagues around you seem to be moving ahead and getting so much more done. What's their secret?

Quite simply, doctors who thrive work on their practices not just in their practices. They don't run in circles because they're following a plan.

Practice tool, Goal planning form
Remember when you decided to become a veterinarian? What did you do? You put a plan together, at least mentally, to accomplish this goal. You decided that to achieve your goal you needed excellent grades, specific courses, experience working at a veterinary practice, and a degree from a graduate school. And those are likely only a few of the steps you took to achieve your dream.

Well, what are your goals now? Maybe you'd like to become board certified, offer a new service, hire an associate, open a satellite clinic, or make your practice more profitable and efficient. Whatever the goal, your first step is to identify it and make sure it's realistic.

Identify your goal Spend 15 minutes writing down all your personal and professional goals. Then break your list into one-, three-, and five-year goals. If you have a partner, ask him or her to do the same, and then discuss your goals together. It's important to consider both your personal and professional goals, because they're often interdependent.

When you define your goals, you need to follow five rules:

1. Be specific rather than general. Define your goals and objectives in detail and indicate the means for attaining them.

2. Distinguish between the known and the unknown. You've picked a goal, but you must know what's needed to achieve that goal and decide whether you're up for the task.

3. Make your goals logical and practical. Be realistic about what you can accomplish. You can't become board certified if you don't have any time to devote to the effort. And you can't expect to graduate from veterinary school and open a five-doctor practice a year later.

4. Build in some flexibility. Recognize that no plan is infallible, nor can it cover all contingencies. So make sure you can modify your goals if that's what the circumstances require.

5. Make sure your new goals correspond with the focus of the practice. This is why you and your partner need to discuss your personal and professional goals.

Retreat to plan your advance
Plot your path I recommend using a goal planning form to outline your path. (You'll find an example on the previous page, and a downloadable form in Related Links below. This form helps you think through the steps you'll take to accomplish your goal and spot potential obstacles that you may encounter along the way.

In our goal planning example, the team's goal is to increase clients' awareness of the importance of preventive dental care. That's a good start. Next you need to define the goal more specifically, so you know when you've accomplished your objective. How will you determine that clients have become more aware of the importance of preventive dental care?