Imagine working five days a week, eight- to nine-hour days, dealing with patients who tell you they hate going to the dentist. And yet they keep coming. And then Mr. Jones walks in and complains about the cost of dental care. But he doesn’t take care of his teeth at home.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. That’s the dental industry many people experience. And that’s why it can be so stressful for dentists, hygienists, and everyone else in the office. That constant stress wears on people, often to the point that it takes a toll on our personal lives.

That was the reality for Dr. Travis Campbell, who just a few years ago was struggling to lead his practice. He didn’t think he could take days off, go on vacation, or even leave work at the office. So he worked all year round, often taking work home with him, to the dismay of his wife.

One day, Dr. Campbell had enough. He was stressed out and had enough. So, he decided to take action and build a better L.I.F.E. for him and his wife. He would no longer let his practice keep him from living his best personal life, even if that meant not being there as much. And, to his delight, his income actually went up while his stress level went down. Here are the four steps he takes to building a better L.I.F.E, and how you can, too.

1. Learn: Always be learning.

Most people in the dental industry know how to do a few things really well. Workload efficiency, running businesses, and leading team members are not things we often learn about. We learn how to perform dentistry and jump into all the other things because we have to. Not only does that keep us away from doing what we do best, being forced to do things we don’t know about is stressful.

Make a list of the things that cause you the most stress. How can you learn to do those better so they are not so stressful?

2. Inscribe: Write down your goals.

Inscribe is an interesting word. We could have used “write” but that word isn’t as strong as what we want you to do. (It also doesn’t begin with the letter I so it would totally mess up our acronym…). Inscribe is a stronger and more appropriate word. It means to “engrave” or “print as a lasting record.” If we want to make a permanent change, we must “inscribe” it on a piece of paper. No pencils. No erasers. Let’s set our intentions with confidence.

Did you know you are six times more likely to remember something if you write it down? And you’re exponentially more likely to do something about it when you’ve written it down?

After inscribing the list of things that cause you the most stress, make a list of the items you don’t want to do anymore. The list should include everything that you don’t want to learn how to do better and the things other people can do better than you. Then inscribe who on your team can do those better. If you don’t have someone on your team, ask someone on your team to help find a solution.

Next, inscribe what you want to keep doing in your practice and what you want to do in your personal life. Want to leave the office by 5:00 pm every day and not take work home? Inscribe it.

3. Focus: Focus on your strengths.

At this point, you know what stresses you out, what you want to do less of, and what you want to do more of. Take another hard look at that list and ask yourself whether what you have left to do yourself is a strength of yours.

If not, consider adding those tasks to your delegation, outsourcing, or elimination lists. When you focus on your strengths, everyone wins. You will be much more fulfilled at work because you will do what you do best. Your team members and others will have more work to do and get to do more meaningful work that you delegate or outsource. And you will have more time at home or to do whatever else you want.

4. Empower: Empower others to perform.

When delegating or outsourcing, avoid micromanaging the process. Not only is that stressful for you and them, but it also ends up taking more time for tasks to be done because it creates a bottleneck. Additionally, what worked for you to do a task might not work for others. It might not even be the best way to perform the task.

Instead of giving people checklists to perform, try this. Show them how you do the task. Tell them why you do it that way. Let them know the outcome you need and why that’s important. Then empower them to improve the process or apply it to how they work best.

Are you ready for a better L.I.F.E.?

Follow these four steps to make life better at your home and your practice.

And if you want to go deeper into the topics, check out Dr. Campbell’s Practical Ways to Reduce Stress in Dentistry training and join your colleagues in the Dental Hub 360 and Trapped in an Op Facebook groups.

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