I’d like to take an interlude this week from my series on pricing concepts to share a concept that, while not unique, is something that those in private practice should seriously consider: the work sabbatical.
I started taking work sabbaticals several years ago. At AAA in Salt Lake City (2004) I met a guy named Greg who quickly became a friend. We had attended a morning pre-conference session together and got to talking during the breaks. After the the session was over, we kept the conversation going, comparing our practices and how we do things. I had actually brought a lot of “back-office” work with me and shared with him some of my ideas. He gave me a fair and critical review of my ideas and helped refine them. By the time we were done, we had missed our next session, but at that point we didn’t care. We felt we got more out of the brainstorming and idea sharing than we would have from the classes we had previously planned on attending.
This experience, I’m sure, has been shared countless times by many audiologists from all over the country. What it did, however, was help me coalesce the idea that I should set aside time to focus on all those back-office projects I never seem to find time for. The cool thing about AAA and similar conferences is that you come back with tons of ideas on how you can improve your practice and expand your horizons to provide better solutions for your patients. The problem is that by the time you get back to your office, there’s likely to be a pile of work awaiting you. As a result, those cool ideas get stuck in a drawer somewhere, awaiting a time where you’ll be able to get back to it.
But my conversations with Greg helped me to realize that I just needed to set aside the time for these projects and follow them through to their completion. I vowed that at the next AAA I would use my time to set specific goals and finish projects that had been delayed by my day-to-day routine. But I didn’t want to do so by sacrificing the classes and other events at the conference, as had happened when I hung out with Greg. The solution? The work sabbatical.
A SUCCESSFUL TRIAL RUN
At the next AAA, I arrived earlier than usual–seriously early. The Sunday before. My goal for that trip was to set up a new newsletter for our office. For years we had been using a professionally designed one by an industry leader, and had been happy with the results. Despite this, I wanted more control over content and to be able to produce it in full color. So, I used Monday and Tuesday prior to the conference to write an 8-page newsletter entirely with content of my own design. It would also serve as a long-term template for future newsletters, and thus I was able to complete a goal I had never previously found time for.
I was energized by the result. Ever since, I have used the few days prior to AAA to conduct this work sabbatical. One year I was able to put together a full procedure manual for our professional staff. At another I wrote a 20-page consumer booklet I call The Shopper’s Guide to Hearing Aids (more on this in a future post). But nothing has been as valuable as that feeling of satisfaction I get when I actually am able to complete a long-term project to the degree that it is ready to implement when I get back on Monday after AAA.
Since that time, I’ve used a few other occasions to do these work sabbaticals, sometimes twice a year. It’s handy to schedule them in conjunction with an out-of-town conference. The value of getting away from the office, going by my own schedule, being able to work uninterrupted by those pesky (but endearing) patients and employees is–as they say in the credit card world–priceless. Especially if you can do it poolside.
LET’S SHARE IDEAS
Now, I don’t expect I’ll be poolside in Boston since it will be March. But with the strange weather we’ve been experiencing, who knows? AudiologyNOW in Boston is why this particular post is important enough to interrupt my ongoing series on pricing strategies. I wanted to put the concept out there for the rest of you to consider. I’m sure there are others like me out there who like to channel their workaholism into productivity, and actually consider this to be kind of a vacation from the daily grind (Vacation? How sick am I?)
If so, please consider contacting me sometime between now and then. It gets a bit lonely at times, and maybe we could get together for dinner and share ideas. Here in Oregon, we are currently in the process of putting together an “Audiology Business Discussion Group” so that we can swap ideas and deal with issues facing us at a local level. I feel that we as professionals need these work sabbaticals–interludes–to regroup, decompress, and work on our practice free of the daily grind. With the proliferation of internet providers, competition from national chains, and now even the insurance companies themselves, we need all the help we can get!