Energy Management: Work-Life Balance for Dental Teams

By Lexi Marino December 28, 2020

In this episode, we brought back Dr. Ana Vazquez, DDS and owner of Fisher’s Pediatric to further discuss her concept in team management of “WIN”, what’s important now, and how that philosophy is a building block for energy management in the workplace.

Watch this video to learn the following:

  • Understanding how to embrace the concept of “It’s okay not to be okay”
  • Making changes in terms of lifestyle in relation to the pandemic
  • The importance of maintaining your energy and being present in your workday

Rolando Mia, from Zyris, is the host of our series, Dental Voice. In this show, we focus on the latest news, topics, and conversations happening in dentistry and assess differing views across the nation. In Season 2, we’re focused on, “What’s Working and What’s Not”, where we’re debunking myths by assessing trial and error since the start of Covid-19.


Rolando Mia: Good day, everybody. Welcome to Dental Voice, season two with Zyris. My name is Rolando. Thank you so much for joining us today. We have a returning guest, and I cannot tell you how excited I am. This is Dr. Ana Vazquez. The purpose of Dental Voice is to hear from people in our industry and professionals and understand the experiences that they’re having. Get some advice, get opinions.

And today, because it’s been, about five, six months, we get to hear back from Dr. Ana Vazquez with Fisher’s Pediatric in Fishers, Indiana. So, thank you for joining us. How are you, Doctor Ana?

Dr. Ana Vazquez: Hi Ro. How are you? It has been seven months. Can you believe it?

Rolando Mia: So, first of all, thank you for joining us. I’d like to just jump in and say between, when we first talked to today, how are things, how are you? How’s the team? How is everybody at Fisher’s Pediatric?

Dr. Ana Vazquez: Well, thank you so much for asking. Everybody’s good. We are doing great. We’re surviving. We’re actually thriving, to be honest with you. So, it’s been seven long months, but we’re doing great. We’re doing great and it’s so good to see you. It’s so good to know that you’re doing good. I’m glad to be back.

Rolando Mia: So, when we talked seven months ago, we were right in the beginning of the pandemic. And there was so much that people didn’t know. There were so many things that that was causing anxiety, the guidance wasn’t there, all that type of stuff. And you introduced an incredible context of “WIN”, what’s important now. How is that applied to what you’re currently doing in your practice and everything else?

What’s Important Now: WIN Concept

Dr. Ana Vazquez: So, the most important thing is that in seven months, I wish I could tell you that the anxiety level has come down, but obviously this week, the anxiety level has even gotten even higher for obvious reasons. So, I think that the principle of “WIN”, is still as valid as it was seven months ago. There are some moments like in the last seven months that we have to stop, think, “What’s important right now?”

Rolando Mia: Oh, wow. It’s one of the things that was so crazy at the time was because there was so much uncertainty, the anxiety was building on it, and then people started speculating of that. And I love the context around it because what kind of happened is we got sucked into this vortex of going crazy about what to do.

We started losing perspective on what we needed to do. What’s important helped, but then also we kind of, you know, the idea behind balancing what we needed to do, our lives, our responsibilities. What context do you have around that?

Dr. Ana Vazquez: Well, that’s a very good question. So, Ro, within all this vortex as you call it and my principle of “WIN”, one of the things that we kind of gather is like, how important is that work life balance? Because the majority of us, obviously we had to go work. I mean, I’m a business owner. I have to go back. I treat patients, I go to the hospital. So, it was extremely important to have that work life balance and present it to the team more than ever. That balance was important.

Rolando Mia: What do you mean by balance? And what are some of the key aspects of that you’d like to kind of share with us with regard to how to navigate through that?

Work-Life Balance in Dentistry and Beyond

Dr. Ana Vazquez: Absolutely. I knew you were going to ask me because every time I introduce this to a business owner, they said, “Okay, so you’re talking to your team about work-life balance. Are you crazy? Because if you’re talking about work-life balance, are you telling them not to work?” Actually, that’s not what work life balance means, what work-life balance, for me, is when you are present wherever you are.

So, when we are working, when we’re at the office, be there, be present, be productive, be what you are expected to be and more, but when you’re home, be present at home. I don’t want you to be thinking about all the other things and we all have different hats, obviously, that we wear. We’re daughters, we’re mothers, we’re sisters, we’re partners, besides being a dentist, being a business owner, being a co-worker. So, there’s so many things that we do.

The important part of work life balance is be present where you are, be present mentally and physically. There are some moments that because of the stress of life, our bodies are there, but our minds are not. And that is not what is expected. That’s not what I would like for my team to do. It’s like, you know what? There has to be that balance.

But the majority of business owners there, anytime I say work-life balance, they’re like, “Okay, you’re telling your employees to be lazy.” And let me tell you that during this process in seven months, we have found that, and we had to do changes in our office. Like, I’m pretty sure every office in the country, we had to make some changes.

We had to make sure that we provide social distancing, even within our office. And, you know, our office is extremely large in one location. So, we had to introduce shifts. So, there’s somebody that starts from seven to three, another team starts from eight to five. Another team starts from nine to five. So, it’s all these different changes.

So, the only thing that were introduced for every single one of our groups was like, “Okay, when you’re here, be here, but I want you to go home and I want you to enjoy home. And I want you to enjoy family.” I think that one of the things that we learned through all the process, through all the anxiety that we’re still going through is like, “Okay, what’s important in life?” It’s all those other things.

So yes, we have to do this in order to be able to enjoy this. But every single part at every single aspect of our lives is important.

Rolando Mia: Wow, I love the sentiment and the message around that because it works both ways. When you’re at work, be at work, don’t bring all the other things in there because it enables you to focus. But then when you’re out of work, don’t bring your work home because you’re not at home. It sounds like it’s something that’s meaningful and giving you kind of the ability to keep driving forward and all that.

First of all, you’re a very energetic, I love the energy that you bring. You’ve got such a phenomenal perspective. What does that come from? How did that?

Energy Management in Your Career

Dr. Ana Vazquez: I’m glad you asked this because I wanted to talk a little bit about time management. And I think time management in the past used to be like, “Oh my gosh, let’s teach time management.” Well, I think that by this moment, if you do not have this time management idea under control, there’s a very, very important life skill that you don’t have.

So, I’m going to tell you that one of the things that I have learned, and I’m talking to somebody that has as much energy as I do, is energy management, because there’s a big difference between time management and energy management. Because like I said, I mean, I do have, I’m going to say 90% of the time, I have energy for me and three other people. And obviously I’m very good at time managing my life, but it’s that energy management that it’s important. And it’s a new concept that I’m going to say that I have learned because all the uncertainty that the world has brought to us that this 2020 has been, I have learned to manage my energy more than my time.

Rolando Mia: Learn to manage my energy. What an interesting thing. I love that. I love the idea behind that.

So, what do you do? I mean, how do you kind of decompress? Or how do you establish that? So that you’re not, cause, you know, as a business owner, you’re dealing with so many different things, your patients, your team, you’re dealing with the office, you’re dealing with, you know, we were in a situation here where safety, extra PPE, you’ve got less patients coming in.

It’s Okay Not to be Okay

Dr. Ana Vazquez: Well, I’m going to take you back just for a second on those moments that we were completely, it was a shock for all of us in March and April, the entire nation, we were at shock. So, there were some moments that even though, yes, our energy could have been like the best energy in the world, then you crash and all of us are humans.

So, I learned one concept and from a good friend of mine, Mr. Parker, there was one day that, you know, you have this group of friends that they’re your support group. I’m trying to pretend, you know, people tell you, “Hey, how are you doing?”, and you’re like, “Oh, I’m okay. I’m okay.”, and he looked at me and said, “Okay, Ana, stop it. You are not okay and it’s okay not being okay.” So, thank you, John, for saying those words, because as much as just wanted to say, “Who are you to tell me if I’m okay or not?”, but he knew I wasn’t okay. So, I learned that concept. It’s okay not being okay.

So, by you knowing that you are not okay at that moment, you have to validate that feeling, “hey, I’m not okay.” However, you don’t have to stay there. You can enjoy the moment for a little bit, but that’s what that energy management is all about, because it’s like, if you think about your energy as a bank account, so you have to put some money in the bank to be able to do some withdraws.

So, there’s a moment when we are not okay and we’re not okay because we’re anxious. We’re not okay because this patient is giving me more trouble than what I wanted. We’re not doing okay because I have all these expenses. We are not okay because I have employee problems and employee conflict, because I’ll have conflict with my spouse, with my partner, with my kids, with my mother, with whoever they are. It’s okay not being okay.

So, what are you going to do in order to get out of all this? So that you can be okay. So, one of the things, unfortunately for us, when we are with patients and you know that I’m pediatric. So, my patients, they’re not responsible for any of my “not okay” moments. So, I need to bring that energy somewhere so I can make sure that patient is in a very, very, very good, good situation.

If you think about it with the work-life balance. So, and I tell you I was going to have a prop and you told me it was okay. So, I have a book, which by the way, this is one of the best things I have ever done. I took classes at the Culinary Institute of America. So yes, I’m going to cook for you, but if I’m going to ask you to hold this book and I ask you, okay, how long can you hold this book? And for a moment, I mean, you can say, “Hey, I can hold this for five minutes.” I’m like “Okay. Well, let’s see how strong your shoulders are.”

So, there is going to be a moment that this book, which is obviously not that, that heavy, is going to be that heavy that you’re going to just drop it. So, it’s the same if you think about it with our situations, there are some moments, if I tell you, hold the same book for 30 seconds, put it down, just relax, do something else, and hold it again.

So, when I tell you to be present, that’s exactly what I’m telling you. The situations for us as a business owner, I mean, they’re going to be there. Our expenses are going to be there. Our conflicts with employees are going to be there. Our patients are going to be there. So, it’s just taking that break, get that energy from some place.

So, when you come back to hold that book again, you have that energy to hold it and you can hold it with a smile on your face because the truth is, if I ask you to hold this for a full day, at the end of the day, you are not going to be smiling at me. You are not going to be saying pretty bad things to me. So that’s the importance of that work life balance and that energy management.

Rolando Mia: Wow. You know that the idea of making sure. Yeah, especially when you have a lot of energy, it all goes out and you’re right. At some point you pass out because you just run out. But by actively recognizing that there are different things that you can do and being conscious of that, it gives you the ability to kind of meter out things. And then the idea of balancing it with where you are, what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, is really cool.

It’s interesting. You’re right. People see you and people have an experience with you where you’re always up. And then the idea, and this resonates especially strong with me is it’s okay not to be okay. Especially when you’re in a leadership role, when you’re in a situation or in a position where people are looking up to you to make decisions, people are looking to you to tell them they’re going to be okay. You mentioned that the, you know, the dynamic with your team, you have, how many, roughly, how many folks are in your practice?

Dr. Ana Vazquez: I think after COVID we have 60.

Rolando Mia: Yeah. And they’re all coming to you. What’s the experience that you’ve had with them and practices out there are currently, there are a bunch that are struggling with teams of six, seven, eight, nine, ten, I mean, think about it. You’ve got 10 times as many. What’s the experience with you right now with regard to working with them?

Being Vulnerable in Front of Your Team

Dr. Ana Vazquez: I think one of the positives and I have been extremely, extremely lucky that I have, I do have my best friends work with me. I have a team that helped me manage that energy in that they’re the source of my energy. And I think that that as a leader, you have to show up and you have to allow your team to be human. That it’s okay not to be okay, that they are allowed to have a day that is not as good as they want it to be. And to help them manage that energy.

Like I said, I mean, working with kids, I mean, obviously I have been blessed that I get to work with kids, but for people that like to work with adults, it’s the same. I do not like working with adults, but is that, you know, that it’s expected, it’s expected that energy.

So, number one, let your team know that it’s okay not to be okay, but let them see you struggle and get out of that as well. I, and for me, I mean, this just works for me. I classify my level of energy in different levels. And how am I going to, when I’m at there, what am I going to do to be able to get out?

So, the worst, obviously, and I think during this past seven months, all of us has been on this stage at least once is that depression that you just don’t know where you’re going, like a little more, like even this week, I mean, we don’t know where the nation is going to go yet. And to a point, I mean, you’re going to feel like, “Okay, I can’t breathe.” I mean, what is this all about? It’s okay feeling like that. Just don’t stay there. So, what are you going to do to get out of there?

The other stage that we have all been there is when you feel, and I’m going to say that this is more on a family level, more than at a work environment, but when your anxiety goes hand to hand with just anger, towards whatever, and for those folks in there that are married, do you know when that happens?

And even with a mother daughter relationship, even though my daughters are adorable 90% of the time, and I’m pretty sure they would say the same of me as a mother. Oh, my mom is awesome 90% of the time, but it’s that anxiety. And then it gets to the point that you get resentful because of something that happens.

So that’s another level of not being okay and the way you’re going to deal with all this is going to be completely different. So, if you think about it and I know that you haven’t asked me, but I’m sure that you’re going to ask me, okay. So how do you get your energy?

Well, I know that I’m not going to be too popular with this, but let’s think about where you do not get energy from. Have you ever sat down to watch TV, especially the news, and let’s say that you watch TV for an hour? You watch the news for an hour. And I’m a news junkie and you get out of that. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I feel so energetic. I got this.” No, no, you don’t.

How Do You Recharge Your Energy?

I don’t know anybody that could say that. So, there are certain moments, like, especially when you’re on that depression or that anxiety that we said, watching TV is probably the worst thing you could do. There are other things that you can bring for you to be able to do it. I do yoga and yoga for me brings me to a different level. And maybe that level of energy that I get from yoga is not the level of energy that I need when I’m in the office.

But I need that level of like, to be able to get to the next one, which is the excitement, that energy, the one that I have right now, that one that I have in the office, that I have when I’m with my employees, the one that I have when I’m with my patients, that’s the energy that’s for me, that’s the energy that you have to look for. But in order to get there, you need to go step by step. And you need to manage that energy. Because when you’re on this stage, you don’t want to use it all because you still have other things. You still want some energy.

So, you get home, and you can deal with your kids. You still, some energy, you need some energy to deal with your partner, especially if you are Rolando’s wife. I mean that poor lady, she needs as much energy as she can get.

So, if you think about that management of energy, it’s what’s important and what’s going to keep you in line and what’s going to keep you happy. For me, the most important source of energy is laughter. And how do you get this laughter? So usually you get this laughter, for me, it’s my friends. I mean, you know, Douglas is probably one of my best friends, but in my office, I have a team of people that they know when I need energy.

They know when I need that positive energy. And they know, they just know, we have been friends. My employees have been there for 15, 20, 25 years. I have, Courtney has been with me 25 years. So, it’s just a matter of like, you look at each other. My sister, I’m blessed that my sister works in my office.

So, I’ve been friends with her for more than that. Let’s just not talk about age, but all of us, you had that group of friends. And I certainly hope that all my colleagues, they can get that group of friends that they know I need that energy so I can use this energy. I mean, like I said, everything goes in a circle.

If I have this energy, I’m going to be able to make good decisions. I know what’s important right now. If I’m drained, I can’t withdraw from this bank. There’s absolutely nothing in this bank.

So, laughter is definitely, but for some of us, especially like when we’re tired, we come home and we’re like, “Oh, let’s just watch TV.” That’s not exactly how I can get my energy. I go for a walk; I have a gorgeous dog. She doesn’t know she’s a dog. Let me not say it too loud. This creature that lives in my house and gets to go to the office with me. Her name is Harley. So, I take Harley for walks or I play with her. So, but there are certain things that I think to be able to survive all this anxiety, all this uncertainty, this world that we live right now, and let’s not talk that holidays are coming.

And even before pre COVID, holidays have always been a very stressful situation. So, in order to deal with all that, it’s just trying to be prepared. What can we do so we don’t drain the energy and then I’ll have to be on that depression and that anxiety? So, it’s, let’s try to keep, and everybody’s different obviously, but there are some patterns that we all know. When I’m there, let me just, it’s okay not to be okay, but let me get out of there as soon as I can.

Rolando Mia: Thank you for that. I love the message around that because it does, it brings in what’s important now. It brings in balancing your work-life balance. It brings in managing the level of energy. There are a lot of clinicians. There are a lot of dentists, practice owners out there who are struggling right now. And I believe, you know, that message about find that figure out, don’t get sucked into things that drag you down. And when you do, it’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to feel crappy because if you don’t do that, then you don’t, and then now you’re kind of hiding things.

Let me ask you this. You’ve been in practice now how many years?

Dr. Ana Vazquez: 20 some years. Oh, that’s right. So, you started when you were five, I think.

Rolando Mia: So, you mentioned early on that your practice is doing well. According to the ADA, the majority of practices out there right now, although they’re open are not doing anywhere near at the same level that they were prior to the COVID.

How do you see, or what is it from your perspective that you put in place that’s enabling you and your practice to maintain that level, to continue serving your patients, and then also continue working with the community and your team?

Leaders are ‘Fixer Uppers’

Dr. Ana Vazquez: Great question, Ro. Great, great question. I think sometimes as dentists, because we work in such a small environment, we think that we’re alone. We think that we’re the only people with this problem. We think that, oh my gosh, if I don’t do this, the world is going to end. And to a point your world, not the world.

So, first of all, I mean, you have to go back, realize I’m not alone. I have people that I can talk to. I have people that I can just go to for advice. One of the things that I have learned again throughout the years is that we business owners, we fix problems. That’s what we do. We’re fixer-uppers, that’s all we do. What’s a problem? Let’s fix it. What’s the problem? So, there’s a moment that you have to sit back.

Especially when we’re talking problems with conflicts, with staff, are you asking me to fix the problem or are you just wanting to share the problem because it’s going to be completely different my reaction to that, we, and I’m going to say dentists, we tend to just get everything on us and not, not everything. I mean, sometimes you just have to delegate that. Okay, is this just, do you want to talk to me about it or do you want me to fix it and saying “no” is a complete, perfect answer for somebody.

Right now, where you’re asking about the practice, it has been extremely hard for us to say “no” to patients. And you know that I have a business partner and I have four other pediatric dentists in the office. Well, we are to capacity. I mean, we are doing as much as we can. And I’m doing all the surgery cases at the hospital. And like this past week, I did 21 cases, to a point that I have to talk to my partner. And I, you know what, we might have to just say “no”, I mean, it’s like, I can’t do this, but I cannot put my staff through this. We will never ever go back to a pre-COVID stage.

We used to see 250 patients a day. Well, that’s not going to happen. That’s not going to happen again. We cannot go back to a hundred percent capacity. We have to scale down because not only I want to protect my patients, obviously, I want to protect my staff.

So, we have to put some procedures and certain protocols in place that is taking time. In the past, I mean, probably my appointments for a child were 20 minutes. Well, there’s no way that I can use what we call now a concierge to go get the patient, to do the temperature check, to make sure that the patient doesn’t touch anything, to sit them on the chair in 20 minutes, it’s just impossible.

So, some changes needed to be made. It has taken some time for everybody to accustom to it, but there’s a limit. So, we as dentists, I mean, because sometimes we think that we are like super dentists and we can do everything. There’s a moment that you have to realize, you know what, no might be an answer. And when you had these parents that they want things or patients in general that they want things, it’s like completely unrealistic expectations.

You have to learn not to say, “No.” Hey, you got to learn how to manage that energy. And like, “Nope, I’m not going to use my energy on this because I’m going to need that energy to deal with my child at home, to deal with e-learning that we do here.”

I know that you guys probably in California and probably the majority of the country was doing e-learning. Well, when you are not a teacher and you’re trying to teach your child math, it could be a little bit challenging, especially if the child doesn’t like math. It’s just those things that you just have to learn. But as practitioners, we have to find out, we have to reinvent something. So, what was it that we were doing and what is it that we need to do? What are the patients needing?

Rolando Mia: No, see, when people are saying things that make sense, when people are saying things that resonate with me, Hey, keep talking, because it’s wonderful. What I’m getting out of that and it’s so poignant and it resonates so strongly is that situations are different. But when you actively and purposely manage and pay attention to, give yourself permission to say, “no”, give yourself permission to ask, “Do you want me to fix that? Or are you just sharing?”

What you’re doing is you’re listening. You’re actively listening and feeling. And I think that that is one of the most powerful things that anybody in a role who’s responsible for working with people have. I’m guessing your team absolutely adores you. And even if they don’t, they still adore you.

Focusing on ‘WIN’ to Maintain Energy Levels

Dr. Ana Vazquez: I think that there’s some moments that they do. No, I know they do. It’s just, you know what, doing this for all of us, not just me, all of us have to do some changes. I mean, even internally in your home, the nucleus of your home, having for you, for instance, having to work from home, your wife called me the other day and she’s like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t wait until he can go back to the office. I can’t breathe.” So, it’s just things that we have all had to adapt. All had to adapt, having a child that we have to help in school.

So, it’s the same in the office, but in order to make those changes, you need energy, you need energy. So, if you think about it, everything has to do with energy. Just as a question, have you ever been on a place that you go and you’re like, “Oh, I feel good. And yet nothing has happened, but I feel good. I don’t know why; I just feel good.” And then you go, even to a park and then you get to the park and you’re like, “Hmm, it’s just something, it’s just something.” So that energy, you either take it or you give it.

So, I would suggest that anybody as a leader role, just make sure that you’re the one of those that you can give energy, but there’s going to be a moment that you have to shut down and just get that energy somehow.

Rolando Mia: See, when I meet, speak, and spend time with you, I want to go run a marathon. I’m excited to go attack anything. So, there you go. You give me energy.

You know what, I so appreciate you taking the time. I so appreciate the message that you give. Though your focus is on the business side, there’s a very human aspect to the way you look at and you navigate through your personal, professional, your team, your family life. And I personally very much appreciate that.

If you could kind of sum up and I’m going to give you grief about other things in a second here, but if you could sum up for people who are going to be watching this and people who are going to be, you know, listening to your words, what would that your kind of closing statement be for those, for people, for everyone?

Dr. Ana Vazquez: Absolutely, I’m going to say that number one is don’t forget the “WIN” philosophy. What’s important right now? Every day in your office, you’re going to find something that it’s like, okay, I have to make this decision for this.

However, before you get to that part of the office, you have to have the work life balance. And all that means is be present wherever you are. In order to be able to make those decisions at the office, you have to be present. Your mind has to be present. Your soul has to be present. And obviously your body.

When you’re at home, you have to be the same. And in order to be able to have that work-life balance, you have to have the positive and the balance energy in order to be able to make those decisions. So, for me, the most important thing is like, get that energy, make sure that you know how to manage that energy. So, you can do that work-life balance. So, you can make those “WIN” moments there. What’s important right now?

Rolando Mia: Wow. Fantastic. Thank you.