10 Time Management Tips for Your Dental Lab
Dental Lab Technicians have a lot of autonomy. Most work alongside lab-mates, but fabrication and project management is ultimately up to one person: You. Whether you’re just beginning your career as a DLT, or overseeing a lab you own and operate, time management is critically important. Your skills with tools and knowledge of materials can make you a good Dental Lab Tech, but implementing these 10 time management tips can make you great.
1. Tackle big projects first
When you start your day, you should review your upcoming deliverables and make a plan for your projects that day. If you have three assignments or tasks due, always tackle the biggest ones first. You may want to put off fabricating a complicated crown as long as possible, but you’ll be more efficient at packing orders and taking inventory if you don’t have a huge project hanging over your head.
2. Write a list
In this day and age, Dental Lab Techs can use any number of organizational tools. Post-its, Google calendar, a retro Trapper Keeper: It doesn’t matter which you choose, just use one. Having a physical or digital checklist of ongoing projects will keep you on track to finish upcoming deliverables on time, and it will hold you accountable each day to manage your time well.
Related Resource: 7 Qualities Every Dental Lab Technician Needs
3. Avoid multitasking
That may seem impossible considering life’s everyday distractions, but psychologists universally agree: You’re much more productive, especially at time-intensive projects like dental fabrication, when you only commit to one task at a time. Pick a project and stick to it until it’s finished. Obviously, you may want to work on some administrative tasks if you’re waiting after firing a crown, but avoid checking e-mails or starting a new assignment before finishing one.
4. Take breaks
When you’re crunched for time and have a huge list of deliverables due, taking a break to walk around the block or stretching seems counterintuitive, but breaks will actually make you more productive and so better at using your time. Mentally, breaks are critical for any work environment, but they can help physically in a dental lab, where so many tasks require dexterity. Set a schedule, whether every hour or 90 minutes, to take a break from your work and clear your mind a bit.
Related Resource: 10 Ways to Increase Your Productivity in the Dental Lab
5. Keep it tidy and clean
You’ll waste a lot of time searching for the right tools or ceramic powder if your work station is a mess. Every day before you leave, clean up your area of the dental lab, and encourage lab-mates to do the same. This will save you time in the long run, and if you make tidiness routine, it won’t take much time every day.
6. Hold yourself accountable
Even if you just graduated from a dental lab technology program, you know yourself and your work. You should have a good idea of how long every crown and bridge will take. When you write out your day’s tasks, it may be helpful to assign times to each project, based on how quickly you know you can complete it. If you find yourself taking more time, figure out why. If it’s just because the coloration is more complex than typical teeth, that’s one thing; if it’s because you’re distracted or feeling unmotivated, correct that.
7. Get enough sleep
Along the same vein of thought: Remember that rest is critical to time management. You can have all the skills in the world, but if you’re constantly tired, you’ll never be as efficient as you can be. Sleep enough every night so that you feel rested throughout the day. This isn’t just good for your health: It’s good for your ability to manage time.
8. Set boundaries
If you have a firm idea of how long certain projects take, you know how much you can commit to in any given workweek. Whether you assign yourself projects or receive them from a manager, learn to say no sometimes. There are only eight hours in a workday, and however skilled you are at managing time, you can’t create it.
9. Audit your work, occasionally
Maybe once a month, maybe a few times a year, look over your completed work and your recent checklists. Day-by-day, productivity can fluctuate a bit, but over a stretch of time you should be able to see and appraise how well you’re doing at managing your time in the lab. Consider the tasks you were especially skilled in, and think about which projects required more back-and-forth with the dentist. If you identify areas that need improvement, you can work on them and become a better Dental Lab Tech.
10. Collaborate with your lab-mates
Dental Lab Technology has a reputation for being solitary work, and it often is, but most DLTs work alongside others. Part of your lab’s success depends on them—and vice versa! Meeting regularly with your lab-mates to discuss upcoming projects and more challenging tasks can make you all better. You don’t have to collaborate in every task with your coworkers, but when you do, the time management of the whole dental lab can benefit.
If you’re already skilled at autonomy and time management, and you love working with your hands, you could be a great DLT. Our certified Dental Lab Technician program in Draper, Utah, offers all of the training and experience you need to begin work as soon as you graduate, so contact us today about becoming a certified DLT. Just request more information here. We’d love to hear from you!