Getting Organized with Dr. Gretchen Zarle

Getting Organized with Dr. Gretchen Zarle

August 24, 2020

Getting organized (and staying that way) can be difficult. We’re lucky to have a great team of vet leaders to help our practices overcome all kinds of obstacles - including those related to organization. We talked to one of our vet leaders, Dr. Gretchen Zarle, about the organization advice she offers VetCor practice teams and she certainly had a lot to say.

Throughout the years, Dr. Zarle has held titles like wife, mom, pet owner, friend, daughter, business owner, vet leader, and Chief of Staff. She’s used to wearing many hats and juggling several tasks, ideas, and projects at the same time. The pearls of wisdom she shares with the practices have been tried and tested through firsthand experience but her tips are not always easy to adhere to, she warns. She’ll be the first to tell you that organization is hard to achieve but it’s worthwhile. 

Dr. Zarle’s first piece of advice is to reframe the way you view organization. When thinking about large projects in their entirety, you may write them off by convincing yourself that you simply don’t have time for them. As Dr. Zarle says, you do have time for them - you just might need to work on them bit by bit rather than all at once. And that’s okay. Even if you only make an occasional bit of progress, eventually, you’ll still reach your goal if you stick to your project and persevere. 

Her second piece of advice was inspired by Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method and involves decluttering before doing anything else. To explain the importance of decluttering, Dr. Zarle talks about hypothetically sorting through and alphabetizing the contents of a filing cabinet. Unless it’s decluttered first, it’ll take up a lot more time and effort than it has to - plus there will surely be a lot of paperwork that doesn’t need to be held onto anymore. She emphasizes the importance of getting rid of what you don’t need before starting to organize what you plan to keep and it makes sense. 

She tells us how she recently worked with a practice that hadn’t decluttered since 1978 (yes, you read that correctly) and how they were able to fill two entire dumpsters with everything ranging from antique syringes and textbooks from the 1950s to vintage chairs and broken vacuum cleaners. Getting rid of all the unnecessary clutter allowed the practice team to deep clean their hospital and see the building in a brand new light. In fact, their organization efforts helped others to see their practice in a new light as well because, three weeks later, they hired a new veterinarian who was particularly impressed with the size and cleanliness of their facility.

Once the decluttering phase is finished, Dr. Zarle recommends making a written list to achieve your ultimate goal. After you’ve identified your goal, such as getting a new piece of equipment for your hospital, she suggests working backwards to create a road map regarding how to get from point A to point B. So, for example, if your practice team wanted to purchase a new piece of equipment, you’d have to make space for the equipment, buy it, teach your team to use it, and then start offering the service it provides to clients. 

However, each one of those general tasks can be further broken down into something smaller. Making space involves decluttering, cleaning, and repainting the room in which the new piece of equipment will be installed. Plus, you’d need to make sure there’s an outlet available. Before purchasing anything, you’d need to speak to your regional manager about sending in a request, then research product options, get estimates, and make a final decision. Teaching staff to use the new item requires a training session (or sessions) as well as deciding who will order supplies and maintain the machine and once you start offering a new service, you need to think about client messaging and how to best advertise it. 

When it comes to getting organized, or really, just completing any kind of project, Dr. Zarle’s tips are a breath of fresh air and a surefire way to make sure you succeed. In addition to changing the way you think about organization, decluttering your space, and making lists to achieve your goals, she also encourages using visuals - like whiteboards, corkboards, and sticky notes - to help you see your progress and stay motivated which is wonderful advice. 

Whether you’re a VetCor Chief of Staff, a hospital manager, a home office employee, or just a person in desperate need of organization pointers, Dr. Zarle’s tips are sure to resonate.