5 Steps to Make 2020 Better than 2019 | Practice Cafe
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Happy New Year! Are you resolved to make 2020 better than 2019 in both your personal and professional life? I know I am, but where to begin… New Year’s resolutions often seek to add something of value to life, whether it be more health, more time with family and friends, more money in the bank, or more freedom to pursue your interests and passions. These are good things! As you ponder and plan for making worthwhile additions to your life this year, consider also what valuable subtractions you could make to achieve more peace, more time, more energy, and more happiness. I’m talking about alleviating pain points and eliminating tolerations, and I’ll walk you through a simple 5-step process to get started.


What is a Pain Point or Toleration?

Let’s begin by defining “pain point” or “toleration.” Basically, I’m talking about things in your life that bug you but instead of making plans to address them, you’ve been tolerating them. These tolerations likely deplete more of your energy and motivation than you realize, and living with too many of them can hold you back from taking your life to the next level. At home, here are a few examples of common pain points: Your closet has too many ill-fitting clothes, which makes getting ready frustrating and discouraging. An important space like the laundry room or garage is disorganized, which makes it hard to find things and get things done in a smooth and timely manner. A lack of planning for groceries and meals leaves you regularly scrambling at the last minute, spending more money on takeout food that’s less healthy for you and your family.

At your dental office, possible pain points could be relatively minor things like a squeaky dental stool, a piece of hand equipment that you don’t like, a messy desk, or a cluttered break room. You might also be tolerating something major, such as an employee who isn’t treating your patients or other team members well, or a particular set of insurances that are causing big hassles for your staff and cashflow. Whatever your current pain points or tolerations are, if you allow them to linger too long, they can rob you of feeling in control of your life. Decide today to live with more control and more intention. Here are 5 steps to get you going:

1. List your top pain points or tolerations.

Get a blank piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. At the top of the left side, write “Personal” and at the top of the right side, write “Professional.” When making your list, aim for whatever number of pain points feels productive but not overwhelming. This could be 5-10 tolerations in each column. Please feel free to use this set of planning worksheets for making and categorizing your list.

2. For each pain point that you wrote down, ask yourself, “Why do I tolerate this thing?”

Your answers could range from “I don’t know the best way to solve the problem,” to “I don’t have time or money to deal with it.” Make some notes on your paper, if that feels helpful. This step is mostly an exercise in self-reflection to understand what has been holding you back. For many pain points, the real reason we tolerate them is that we just haven’t made a plan yet. That’s what we’re doing now!

3. Categorize your pain points into four categories:

  • Easy, Short-Term
  • Challenging, Short-Term
  • Easy, Long-Term
  • Challenging, Long-Term

You can use a secondary sheet of paper for this, as provided in these free planning worksheets, or you could assign a different color highlighter to each category.

4. Pick one pain point in each of the four categories and make plans.

Perhaps you want to tackle the things that annoy you most, or you may prefer to begin with the tolerations that are easiest and cheapest to address. For short-term items, choose a date by which you want to eliminate those tolerations, meaning you’ll execute your plans completely to alleviate those pain points. For items in the long-term categories, your initial plans should take you as far as the first few steps to address them. The first step could be scheduling time to research solutions, whether they be products or a serviceperson to help you out. The second step could be contacting a handful of those potential solutions to determine the price range you’re looking at. Then, the third step could be making a viable budget plan to save up what you need to get that thing taken care of.

5. Last but certainly not least, schedule yourself a follow-up session to be accountable to your plans.

During your follow-up planning session, review your original worksheets and notes, hold yourself accountable to the priorities and tasks that you scheduled, and plan for the next steps, whatever they need to be. I suggest more comprehensive planning sessions monthly and quarterly with routine check-ins on a weekly (or sometimes daily) basis. How often you plan should be dictated by the nature of the thing you’re working on. Personally, I budget on a monthly basis, plan my meals and groceries weekly, and I evaluate my closet seasonally. At work, many goals are monthly or quarterly, with weekly meetings and many daily tasks planned out and executed to accomplish those goals.


Not every pain point or toleration will have a straightforward solution, and not every goal will be attainable, as many things in business and in life are out of our control. Don’t let that hold you back! Make a plan and give it a try. The more pain points that you alleviate and the more tolerations that you eliminate, the happier and more peaceful you’ll feel, and the more energy you’ll have to keep improving your life, one step at a time. You have the power to make this year better than last year!

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