In this guest post, Andrea Greer of On Point Dental Consulting shares her simple four-step process to staying organized in even the busiest of practices.
Let’s talk about the stuff. Managing a dental practice generates a LOT of stuff. Paper, junk mail, to-do lists, marketing projects, office supplies; the list goes on and on. Finding the time to organize can be a daunting task, and many times I am asked, "Where do I even start?"
Many people make the mistake of purchasing the storage containers first, but I was never guilty of this. Ahem. Like so many, The Container Store is one of my happy places, but there are a couple things to do first! In fact, many of my clients are surprised (maybe a little disappointed?) to learn they already have much of what they need to get organized.
Today, I'm here to share my simple four-step process that will help guide you to getting — and staying — organized.
Surprise! The first step to purging is not actually throwing stuff away — it’s actually getting it all together into one place! Focus on one category at a time, such as office supplies, printing materials (letterhead and envelopes), or business papers (invoices and magazines).
Personally, I like organizing supplies first, as it provides good practice for tackling the rest of the categories. Therefore, supplies will be my focus for this article. Resist the temptation to start pitching all the things, and instead go through the whole practice and gather up the supplies. Ask permission before removing items from treatment rooms or desk spaces.
Have three boxes: trash, recycling, and donation. Then have some smaller bins for sorting the supplies themselves. Go through the individual supplies (rubber bands, paper clips, etc.) to evaluate if they are still in working order.
Throw away pens that do not work, pencils without erasers, and markers that are dried up. Let go of those dried-up rubber bands and old sticky notes that have 3 crusty sheets left on them. If possible, test batteries and recycle responsibly if they no longer work. Donate the pens you don’t like or other supplies that work, but you have no need for — do you really need 5 staplers at your desk?
Work hard to make fast decisions. If you are truly unsure of something, set it aside, but try to limit these items.
As you are purging, begin sorting. Separate pens from pencils and markers. Sort until you are all the way through your supplies. This part of the process is incredibly important because it helps you determine your storage needs! Keep in mind that supplies should always be stored centrally or in one place, rather than stocked throughout the practice.
One client of mine had about a five-year supply of binder clips. She was storing them in multiple places and never knew what she had, so tended to just buy more when she was at the store — just in case! A central supply will allow for better inventory control and reduce spending.
Before you grab your wallet and car keys, first go shopping in your office and at home. If there are boxes, bins, baskets, or other unused containers that will fill the need for the supply, use them! Of course, if you are an employee, this would not be expected, but it’s a great way to be green by reusing and repurposing those decorative bins and baskets you aren’t using. Perhaps the doctor can shop his or her own home for these containers.
If you don't already have what you need, purchase within your allotted budget. I love Deflecto modular cubes for office supplies, as they are uniform in size and come in a variety of configurations. Closed door cabinetry is best, but if items must live on open shelves, and in view of patients, they must fit the aesthetic of the practice and stay neat at all times.
Go vertical with your storage. Horizontal surfaces should be 95% clear, outside of monitors, phones, credit card terminals, etc. If you have wall space that can be used for file organization or mounting shelves, you will optimize your vertical "real-estate" and distribute the burden of storage.
You did it! Now you can put everything away and feel great about your work! Store like items together, and refrain from stockpiling a "stash" here and there. Get in the habit of keeping minimal reserves at your fingertips, and replenishing that stock as needed.
As an example, I see many team members store a variety of envelopes at each station in the business area. Instead, keep a small handful of only the size you use multiple times a day within arm’s reach. Store the other sizes with your other printing supplies. If these supplies will also be used by the team, show them your handiwork. Let them know where to find the supplies they may need. For replenishment, mount a small whiteboard inside the supply cabinet for jotting down items to be ordered.
Congratulations on organizing your practice! I have seen office managers that were overwhelmed facing the task of "getting organized," and with this little bit of guidance they knocked it out in a matter of hours — that includes getting the containers they needed! If you can carve out the time to get this done, you will be more efficient and productive, and that, my friends, allows you to better serve your patients!
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