Work When You Want
As a full time worker with a part time practice I was used to the 8-5 then 5:30-7:30 plus a half-day Saturday work week. God, I read that now and feel totally overwhelmed by the idea of it, but at the time I just chugged along… for 5 years. 5 years, guys. That’s a long ass time to work that many clinical hours.
I entered full time practice with the belief that clients NEED evening appointments. It didn’t even occur to me that I could end at 5 and head home. So I built that first full time practice so that I worked 8am-7pm three days a week with a 2 hour lunch for eating and exercising. Did you just realize I had 4 day weekends? Hell yeah!
During those years I realized that plenty of clients were fine coming during the day when my evening slots were booked. While pregnant with my first daughter I realized that with the huge life change of being a parent I was going to need to alter that schedule so I could spend some waking time with my new baby.
For the first time I gave myself some consideration and decided my schedule could reflect what I wanted for my life rather than shaping my life to what I assumed clients wanted. I’m a morning person. I like to be at home or out and about in the evenings, not working. I set my 8am-5pm schedule with pumping + eating breaks (two lunches spread out Hobbit-style with the WEEEH-weeeh accompaniment of the pump). I kept my 4 day weekends and it was great.
This schedule worked beautifully for the rest of my time in Seattle. When we moved to Asheville, a little worn out from 8 clients a day + being a mom + ageing, I decided to spread it out a little more. 4 days of 8am-5pm with my 2 hour lunches reinstated and a little wiggle room. Fridays with Adair and the weekends with family and friends.
Then Adair started going to daycare. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Dante’s least talked about circle of hell: “getting a toddler out the door.” After maternity leave with June, I decided I didn’t want the hectic mornings anymore and decided to build in an hour so I didn’t have the pressure of being late for a client because my three year old refused to wear pants and decided eggs are the WORST breakfast ever. I don’t need that kind of stress in my life & coming into work all harried and irritated with no time to ground myself certainly doesn’t yield the best clinical results for my clients. So 9am-5pm with my pumping with lunch breaks works for me with Fridays off with the baby and weekends free and clear.
When my kids are in school I plan to work 4-5 days and leave work when they get done with school. I fantasize about having so much time to cook dinner while they play outside and put their rocks/frogs/stray kittens on the counter when I call them in to eat. Or on rainy days they’ll dutifully do their homework at the kitchen table, looking up only to say “Wow Mom, did you know…”. Don’t tell me what it’s really like; I like my imaginary version.
I often hear “But I work with couples! They need evenings!” Some couples may need evenings, but not all do. If 8 people a day, many of whom are married, can see me during the day I’m guessing many people who want to be seen together can make it work. Plus, there are people who actually prefer to work evenings to mornings (shout out to the night owls).
“But I work with kids! They need late afternoons!” Yep, many do. And you can see the ones that get out of school a little earlier on the earlier side and the middle schoolers a little later. Some can come during the school day, too. It depends on the kid and his/her specific needs and the parent’s ability to make things work. Some kids aren’t going to traditional school. Look, it’s more finagling for sure but play with it! As evidenced by my experience, your schedule isn’t set in stone. Our clients are often more flexible than we give them credit for. Again, other clinicians in town may WANT those evening appointments. If you don’t, you don’t have to take them!
What I’d love is for you to sit down in a quiet place.
If you knew your caseload would be full no matter what:
What hours would you work?
Which days would you work?
How many clients would you see in a day?
When & for how long would you take breaks?
Are there set weeks you’d take off each year?
Any other important time considerations?
Start there. Yes, you may have to make some tweaks. But starting from what you want instead of what you assume your clients need will get you closer to what works best for both of you.
What’s YOUR ideal schedule? Let us know in the comments!
P.S. FREE WEBINAR ALERT!!! Joe Sanok or Practice of the Practice, Jane Carter, and I are covering 9 Marketing Tips for Your Private Practice this Thursday at 3pm. Hop in here!
Allison Puryear is an LCSW with a nearly diagnosable obsession with business development. She has started practices in three different states and wants you to know that building a private practice is shockingly doable when you have a plan and support. After retiring her individual consultation services, she opened the Abundance Party, where you can get practice-building help for the cost of a copay. You can download a free private practice checklist to make sure you have your ducks in a row, get weekly private practice tips, listen to the podcast, hop into the free Facebook Group. Allison is all about helping you gain the confidence and tools you need to succeed.