Who’s Controlling Your Appointment Schedule? Five Lessons From the Woodpile….

Yesterday I had the joy of stacking the woodpile. Down at the farm. On my own.

And while I did, or should I say while I was doing this, I got to thinking how the woodpile was really a metaphor for our dental appointment book, and how many lessons we could learn from the process of stacking the woodpile.

So let’s paint the picture.

Our woodpile in the shed was getting low.


It’s summertime here, so that means log fires are a rarity for a few months now. Though funnily enough, we did pop a fire on on Christmas Eve.

Fortunately for us, our farm has no shortage of trees, and fallen trees, for firewood.

Now, over the springtime, along with a little bit of nagging, we were able to have our farm manager firstly trim up a couple of fallen trunks, and then section them, and finally chop them.

So this Christmas, as he headed off to the coast for vacation, his parting words, tongue in cheek, to us were, “if you’ve got nothing to do, you could always bring up the wood from the paddocks”.

What a joker!

Interestingly, one of the piles of chopped wood was visible across the paddocks from the kitchen window. As a daily reminder. So there was really no way of forgetting his parting “jibe”….

So as I said, yesterday I had “nothing to do”…..

Or more importantly, yesterday was shaping up to be the coolest day, temperature wise, to be out in the hot summer sun gathering wood.

So yesterday was the day…and as I gathered, I got to thinking, that there were lessons to be learnt from my exploits.

Lessons from the Woodpile.

And metaphors.

Firstly, the final woodpile, in the shed, is like the Dental Office Appointment Book.

It needs to be well stocked. And stacked. In an orderly manner.


Not in a mishmash. But in neat rows.

Stacked high, wide and deep. Well stacked.

Where we get the wood from, for the woodpile, well that’s a metaphor for our general population.

Yesterday I had two piles of chopped wood to move.

These are the general population.

The first pile, which I chose randomly, contained lighter wood, chopped fairly evenly and consistently, that was easy to gather, easy to load into the ute, and easy to sort during the loading process.


The second pile was different.


It was a bigger pile than the first. Less evenly split and chopped, and many pieces of curved and twisting wood, making it more difficult to sort during loading.

At one point, while on the second pile, I had to make the decision that I was going to have to take two trips with the ute, to transport the load.



And so the two piles became three trips.

Once back at the shed, stacking the pieces into the woodpile there became a science.

Because some pieces were longer than others. And some pieces were square, while others were flatter, and some others curved.

So stacking required thought. It was like with like. So that the rows were even. And orderly.

Lessons from the Woodpile.

Strangely shaped pieces of wood will throw your stacking out of alignment.

You need to select the wood from the chopped wood pile and place it into the transporter with just as much care and thought as you do in taking the wood from the transporter and stacking it into the woodpile in the shed.

This is our metaphor for our appointment book. The chopped wood pile in the paddock is the general population. The woodpile in the shed is our appointment book.

In order to keep the woodpile in the shed orderly, well stacked, compact and tight, so it holds together, and is an efficient use of space, then we need to be aware that we need to sort and choose the best shapes of wood in the paddock, as we go, to fit the final woodpile.


We cannot just throw any piece of wood anywhere into the final woodpile.

Otherwise, we end up with an unstable jumble of pieces thrown anywhere taking up too much space and likely to collapse.

A well stacked woodpile is full of wood, not spaces and air.

In the same way, we need to be mindful that our appointment book has a template that needs to be followed so that the day runs efficiently and productively.

Without spaces. Without the wrong people in the wrong places. Rather, we want the correct shaped people, and I use the word “shaped” metaphorically, in the best places to make our day as efficient and well proportioned as possible.

Different wood piles will provide differently shaped pieces of wood.

Or different logs will provide different shapes of wood.

On different days the world out there will provide you with different types of chopped wood.

Somedays the wood will be neat, ideal, and much the same as we want.

On other days the chopped wood will be more varied. Complex. Diverse.


It is our duty to sort the wood, as we go, to compile the best possible woodpile we can, in the shed.

The tightest woodpile in the least amount of space.

In the same way, some days we just don’t know what types of patients are going to call each day.

Some days our phone rings with ideal patients, wanting ideal treatment at times that suit our template and the openings in our schedule.

On other days we just get what we get. And it’s our job to sort as we go. Remembering our template, and its purpose. We have to put certain pieces of wood in certain places. Our final woodpile depends upon it.

In the same way, we need to be firm and put certain types of appointments in specific places that maintain the integrity of our dental day.

If you stack the crazy shaped pieces of wood in first your final woodpile will be a mess.


Your job, in stacking the woodpile, is to put the right pieces of wood of the most appropriate shape and size into the best stacked woodpile that you can.

Don’t let the type of pieces of wood control your woodpile.

Have I said this enough?

You are in control of your appointment book and template. Not your patients.

If you want to keep your sanity, you must control your template.

Beware of Joe Blakes.

Finally, beware of snakes. [Rhyming slang: Joe Blake = snake]

On a hot summer’s day, in rural Australia, snakes are about.

Deadly snakes.

Either black snakes, brown snakes, or red belly black snakes.

A snake in your wood pile, in your chopped wood out in the paddock, can throw your day right out.

Ruin your plans.

For the day.

In the same way, with your appointment book, look out for snakes in your wood pile.

Yesterday, fortunately, I didn’t see any snakes. But I was looking…

Every piece of wood I lifted, turned, or picked up, I was mindful that I was in their environment, not mine.

In the same way, when you’re sorting through your calls, be wary of snakes. They’ll wreck your day. Ruin it.

Because one day there’ll be one. And you need to be ready.

Final lesson:

A well-structured appointment schedule, that follows the template, is a blessing to your office.

A well-structured appointment book provides a smooth flow of patients, receiving ideal treatment at the appropriate places during the day.


Productive day. Smooth flow of patients and instruments. Happy doctor. Happy team.

Leads to?

Happy patients. Making ideal appointments in a well structured appointment book…. Productive day. Smooth flow of patients and instruments…. And so it goes..

So, who’s in control of your appointment book…


Learning how to structure, or template your appointment schedule is just one of the Modules that make up The Ultimate Patient Experience, a simple to build complete Customer Service system in itself that I developed that allowed me to create an extraordinary dental office in an ordinary Sydney suburb.  If you’d like to know more, ask me about my free special report.

Email me at david@theupe.com

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