3 areas every dental assistant should focus on in 2019: Are you on track?
A new year brings New Year's resolutions, and dental assistants should take the opportunity to set goals for themselves. But setting and achieving are two different things. Here's how to actually meet your new year's resolutions and feel better for it!
Every year begins with millions of people making resolutions to better their lives, but one out of three people do not keep their resolutions past January. Choosing the right resolution for you will give you an edge to succeed. Find something that is achievable and meaningful.
Three top areas to focus on during the new year are personal, professional, and other. More on these later. Goals are part of life whether we realize it or not—how you conduct your relationships with family and team members, what you want to achieve in your career, and the way you use your precious free time, to name a few. It comes down to priorities and what you want to accomplish, whether you make conscious choices or go with subconscious preferences.
Many resolutions fail because they are not the right resolutions, and they can be wrong for three key reasons:
- The resolution is so vague even you aren’t sure what it is. An example of this is “make more money.” Sure, you can make more money, but you can also spend more money and eventually you have nothing to show for your resolution.
- The resolution is so unrealistic you have no plan on how to attain it.
- The resolution is based on what someone else, such as a friend, family member, or society in general, tells you to change.
Our goals should be SMARTER—specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound, evaluated, and recognized and rewarded. It’s a way of looking at things from a different point of view when setting goals, whether for your work or personal life. Many organizations and individuals use SMARTER when setting objectives. I’ve used it throughout my career, and it works!
Your resolution should be clear. Spell it out in writing. Revise it as needed and you will achieve it. Think about this as the mission statement for your goal. This isn’t a detailed list of how you’re going to meet a goal, but it should include answers to the popular “w” questions.
Who—Who needs to be involved to achieve the goal?
What—Think about exactly what you are trying to accomplish and don’t be afraid to get detailed.
When—You’ll get more specific about this question under the time-bound (T) section of SMARTER goals, but you should at least set a time frame.
Where—This question may not always apply, especially if you’re setting personal goals, but if there’s a location or relevant event, identify it.
Which—Determine any related obstacles or requirements. This question can help decide if your goal is realistic.
Why—What is your reason for the goal?
This one is a bit more difficult, but not impossible. What metrics are you going to use to determine if you meet the goal? This makes the goal clearer because it provides a way to measure progress. If it’s a task that’s going to take months to complete, then set some milestones with smaller tasks to accomplish.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t have big goals. But trying to take big steps too fast can leave you frustrated or affect other areas of your life to the point that your resolution takes over your life. This asks how important the goal is to you and what you can do to make it attainable and may require developing new skills and changing attitudes. The goal is meant to inspire motivation, not garner discouragement. Think about how to accomplish the goal and whether you have the tools or skills needed. If you don’t possess the tools or skills, think about what it would take to attain them.
Is this a goal that really matters to you, and are you setting it for the right reasons? Do not do something because it is expected of you or “just because.” Relevance means focusing on something that makes sense with the broader goals.
Like achievable (A), the timeline toward reaching your goal should also be realistic. This means giving yourself enough time to accomplish the goal through lots of smaller intermediate goals along the way.
By evaluating your goals every single day, you’ll be much more likely to achieve them. Long-term goals (and also goals that are three or six months out) can be easily ignored if they aren’t evaluated every day. Make sure that you set up a system to evaluate your goals and then make that evaluation habitual. Do not ignore this important step. Your mind has a clever way of allowing you to ignore goals by pushing you into emotion-numbing behaviors when the goals aren’t closely evaluated.
Recognize and reward
It’s human nature to want to succeed. Identifying meaningful and appropriate ways to reward your progress is an important part of achieving your goals. Keep a list of different rewards, big and small, that will keep you motivated. If for some reason we do not meet your goal, revisit it and look at other ways to achieve it. You may need to readjust your approach.Readjust doesn’t mean that you have to throw out your goal and start all over. What it means is that you have to try different approaches until you get closer to your goal. That’s why evaluation on a daily basis is so important. If you don’t evaluate you can’t measure your progress.
The 3 areas of focus
As mentioned earlier, the three areas dental professionals should focus their goals on are personal, professional, and other. Let’s look at professional. There are infinite goals under this category. Evaluate your professional life and look for areas you would like to expand, enrich, and explore. Perhaps it’s joining your professional organization, increasing networking, or making a change to another area of the office.
For the personal area, look for goals to not only improve your life, but to make things more streamlined. An example could be waking up earlier to beat traffic or reading a book at the office until it’s time to start work. Not only will you feel less stress, you’ll beat traffic and find some downtime to enrich and unwind before focusing on the day. Another example is seeking additional certifications or continuing education, which also benefit your professional life. The sky is the limit but remember to take time for you!
Finally, the “other” category, which involves different things for different people. For some it may be family, while others may want to enhance their spirituality. As with personal and professional, the choices are endless and entirely up to you.
Dental assistants spend many hours doing things for others—patients, family, friends. When was the last time you did something for yourself? You deserve to take time for you! You new year’s resolutions can help you achieve that.
Natalie Kaweckyj, LDARF, CDA, is past president of the American Dental Assistants Association.