Spring is the time of year for gardening. Flowers begin blooming, the grass starts getting green again and the trees are putting on a new coat of leaves. Nature seems to be waking up. Spring is the season of growth, the season when plans made during the quiet of winter come to life.
Spring is also the season of weeds.
Weeds have plans of their own during this time. My botany professor said, "Weeds are plants whose beauty has not yet been discovered." Weeds are a problem in every garden and in every lawn. There are different ways of dealing with this problem but the traditional method is to pull up the offending plant by the roots.
I am certainly no gardening expert, but I have pulled some weeds in my time. Some say it is therapeutic work - I do not agree. There are some measures you can take to prevent weeds, but every garden gets some. And the best time to get a handle on your weeds is early. If your weeds get out of hand, you won't have a garden at all.
Sometimes, I feel like I am spending all my time working in the "weeds" of my office. I go to work with a prepared list of things to accomplish and never look at my list. Other days, the only thing on my list is to make a list, and I don't even get that done. But I work hard all day. A day like that every once in a while is ok, but doesn't it seem like every day is like that at times.
I call those times being "Caught up in the Weeds." It's during these times of no real productivity that I feel unfulfilled with my daily work. For me, the "weeds" represent the unplanned issues that arise due to my lack of preparation. The day to day problems that require my immediate attention. Staff who are complaining about each other, patients complaining about their wait time and insurance companies that don't seem to know what they do and do not cover. Not to mention ICD-10, Windows Vista (or is it XP?) and the taxes that are due this week.
"Weeds" sometime seem to overwhelm and every moment is spent dealing with one little issue after another. I solve one, then three more seem to pop up and just when I see the end of the problems, you turn the corner and see everything is covered with new "weeds", new sets of problems that got bigger because I was too busy "pulling weeds" in another section of the office (or do I mean garden?)
If you are in a leadership position and your entire day is spent dealing with issues that pop up, you are "caught in the weeds." You are hurting your practice and yourself by dealing with issues that need to be dealt with by other members of your team. Stop weeding, get up and take a look around the practice. The "weeds" that you left, who else could be helping with that? What is being left undone, what future plans are not being developed because you are concerned about to many minute details.
Leadership OD members have access to the BluePrint™ program which we designed to help practices with this very issue. It works and we are finding that it works over and over. Members of my team have begun the BluePrint™ program for the third time. The newest team members have heard us talk about it, but will be experiencing it for the first time.
To get out of the "weeds", follow these steps:
- Realize what you are doing
- Step 1 in solving any problem is realizing that you have a problem in the first place. The single most common comment I hear from overwhelmed doctors is, "I have so much to do that I can't get anything done."
- Stop it
- Often the most difficult part is to stop spending so much time doing things that you think have to be done now and have to be done by you. Practice saying this, "I am sorry but I can't think about that right now. Do what you think is best."
- Revisit the Vision / the Mission of your practice
- BluePrint™ Alumni can log back into their program and read the Executive Summary, page 1. There is the Vision of the practice. Others can go out to the reception area to read that Mission Statement. Others just take a minute to reflect on the reason you have a practice in the first place.
- Look at the current situation through realistic viewpoints
- Make a list (include the weeds)
- Only after you have reminded yourself of the overall vision of the practice AND been realistic about your current situation can you make a meaningful task list. I like a old fashioned flipchart, some like notepads, others like computers. Just document all you need to get done, including those "weeds."
- Communicate the plan to the team
- Don't try to do all of this alone. If you don't have regular staff meetings, then call one. If you can't do that, send some sort of mass communication to let everyone know the plan. Include in the plan how you will delegate various parts and how you will monitor progress.
- Get to work
p.s. Just another reminder that the BluePrint™ does all of this for you and yes, I really took a class in botany.