effective students

Ramit Sethi's top 5 productivity mistakes — and how it applies to docs

(picture of Ramit Sethi's website)

Ramit Sethi, a New York Times-bestselling author and productivity/finance/entrepreneur expert, talks about the 5 productivity mistakes that people make in his latest blog post. Here are my thoughts on how this applies to physicians, along with notes from the video itself since it doesn’t come with a transcript.

Productivity mistake #1: Trying to do it all ourselves

Which to-do items will change your life (e.g. learn how to invest), and which just needs to get done (e.g. empty the dishwasher)? If you rank them all at the same level, you set them up for failure because you can’t do them all. Top performers in the same 24 hours are very clear about where their time deserves to be spent. As you earn more and more, you can trade money for time. e.g. hire someone else to do laundry.

What is one thing you can you outsource today? Each week, pick one thing you can do to save one hour a week.

For me, I can get all my groceries delivered at Safeway.com. Or as a physician, delegating tasks properly to other members of the team. I remember one family physician at UC Irvine saying she was overwhelmed with trying to raise her family, be a wife, take care of her patients, and also clean the house — she’s always been the one to clean her house — when she finally yielded & hired a housekeeper.

Managing your Mental and Spiritual Energy, for physicians

a physician water-squirting his pager

This is a continuation of my thoughts on “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time,” by Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy, as published in the Harvard Business Review. The first series in the post dealt with physical energy, the second, on emotional energy.

Mental Energy

  • Reduce interruptions by performing high-concentration tasks away from phones and emails.
  • Respond to voice mails and emails at designated times during the day.
  • Every night, identify the most important challenge for the next day. Then make it your first priority when you arrive at work in the morning.

This is nearly impossible on the wards since so many people want to page you. I did, at one point, try using a Bluetooth headset on my cell phone so that I could answer phone calls more efficiently. I noticed that the more efficient residents would enter in orders, write notes, and present cases (i.e. multitask) during rounds. The point that the authors try to make is to emphasize how important it is to reduce clutter, and it relates to a condition one psychiatrist, Dr. Edward Hallowell, has labeled attention deficit trait.

Manage Your Emotional Energy as a Physician

This is a continuation of my thoughts on “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time,” by Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy, as published in the Harvard Business Review. The first series in the post dealt with physical energy.

  • Defuse negative emotions — irritability, impatience, anxiety, insecurity — through deep abdominal breathing.
  • Fuel positive emotions in yourself and others by regularly expressing appreciation to others in detailed, specific terms through notes, emails, calls, or conversations.
  • Look at upsetting situations through new lenses. Adopt a “reverse lens” to ask, “What would the other person in this conflict say, and how might he be right?” Use a “long lens” to ask, “How will I likely view this situation in six months? ” Employ a “wide lens” to ask, “How can I grow and learn from this situation?”

Renewing emotional energy is harder to accomplish when on a high-stress high-stakes service like internal medicine or surgery. read more→

Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time: managing physical energy in healthcare

Harvard Business Review: On Managing Yourself

The Harvard Business Review magazine often features articles detailing techniques for personal improvement based on more rigorous scientific research and analyses of successful organizations and leaders. One of the articles featured in its recently-published compilation On Managing Yourself, “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time,” focuses on improving yourself by managing energy instead of prioritizing and stressing about time management. The four dimensions of personal energy include physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual, which I’ll tie in this post and subsequent posts. I’ll cover the article’s highlights, and tie it in to make it more relevant to healthcare professionals:

Physical Energy

Authors Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy summarize their techniques along these points:

  • Enhance your sleep by setting an earlier bedtime and reducing alcohol use.
  • Reduce stress by engaging in cardiovascular activity at least three times a week and strength training at least once.
  • Eat small meals and light snacks every three hours.
  • Learn to notice signs of imminent energy flagging, including restlessness, yawning, hunger, and difficulty concentrating.
  • Take brief but regular breaks away from your desk, at 90- to 120- minute intervals throughout the day.

Book review: Time Management for Entrepreneurs, and applying this to physicians

No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs provides some insight into high-powered entrepreneurs like Dan Kennedy, who ran businesses so they worked for him in his favor, instead of the other way around. I routinely try to find ways to complete projects as effectively and efficiently as possible, so this book gave me some very interesting thoughts. And these are great for physicians: I often find doctors running around like headless chickens trying to perform surgery on one patient while answering pages about other patients in the PACU or SICU and juggling teaching medical students and research and side projects of running clinics in Africa and having a marriage.

(gasp) Let me exhale for a moment.

In the book, Dan Kennedy provides nuggets called “No B.S. Time Truths”, with some of my thoughts: read more→

Her life is held together by a tiny little computer

This past weekend, I helped Carolen get her life organized. We spent, oh, six or more hours poring over paper planners and Palm PDA. (Pocket PC's have a user interface from hell and we Berkeley students like to stick it to the man when we can, so we avoided it.) After much debate over the advantages and disadvantages of each, we concluded that although Palms were much more expensive than paper, it was, by far, the most flexible and most portable way to get one's thoughts down. read more→

Organizing life in a pocket notebook

Last month, I tried using a pocket notebook to organize my time and my life, inspired by the productivity blog 43 Folders. They obsessively post about things to help keep life organized, heavily inspired by David Allen's Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity book. Some of them are obsessed with a particular notebook, called the Moleskine notebook (illustrated here), useful for not only keeping track of life, but as a haven for creative ideas, an exercise log, engineering ideas, storyboards for animations or even storyboards for one's personal day in lieu of a more formal task list. I thought I would give this a try too.

I had a beautiful set-up: a black bound notebook with ... read more→

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