I’m a problem solver. If something’s wrong or needs fixing, I’m your person. I like to figure out a plan and then put the plan into motion. When I started my acupuncture practice fourteen years ago, I figured that building a clientele just meant working smart and working hard. In those early years, I gave a lot of talks, participated in health fairs, wrote a lot of free articles, and never said no to any networking opportunities.
I felt that if my schedule wasn’t full, I just needed to work harder. Empty appointment times? Just line up another talk or have coffee with a potential referral partner. Seasonal slump? Crank out another newsletter. I took vacancies in my schedule personally—what was I doing wrong? My default mode was to just muscle it a little more.
About a year ago, something changed. It may have been a conversation with a colleague or teaching new acupuncturists or simply that I’m tired. But the upshot is that I just quit trying. That’s right, I just let go of the rope in this tug of war of building my practice.
I also cut a day out of my schedule. I decided that if I weren’t filling it up completely that I would just quit trying so hard and instead, I would take some time for myself. It was one of the best choices I’ve ever made.
It took a little time, but within a month or so I found myself completely booked up. Not just booked up, but struggling to find times to get my regular patients into my schedule. You may be thinking, sure, that’s because you’re working one day less. But the reality is that I’m seeing far more patients per week in fewer days than I ever did when I was more available.
I’m also happier. Okay, I’m happy by nature, but freeing up a day allows me the time to go outdoors, take photographs, and get a little more exercise.
So what’s going on? My theory is a couple of things. Certainly, my patients are realizing that they don’t have as many options to get into my schedule, so they book ahead. But I believe that something else is going on as well. I’ve just stopped worrying about how full my schedule is or isn’t, and my patients can sense that change. I will always tell a patient when I think they ought to get back in for their next session, but now after I’ve told them, I’m able to just let go and let them decide. And with that letting go, there seems to be a subtle ease about rebooking, which must on some level be appealing.
I have also realized that something else is going on, and it goes way back to acupuncture school. During practice management class, a guest speaker came in and asked us students to visualize our best, case, ideal, perfect practice. When I think back on that exercise, I remember that part of the vision of my perfect practice was being really busy but working fewer days. It took me a couple of months to realize it, but that’s exactly what I’m doing—working in my perfect practice.
One of my life lessons has always been to just let go and quit trying to muscle things. I am learning (slowly) that trying harder isn’t necessarily the answer. Instead, letting go, not worrying, and allowing things to happen is easier and often the path to what I want.