In the recent weeks we have discussed both how a scarcity mentality and how we view time as finite can cause us to feel like we don’t have enough time.
This week I will introduce the concept of priorities.
Let’s look at this example. You are working in the hospital and you have 15-20 people on your service. You are rounding on them and then need to sit down to chart and put in orders. If someone came by and asked you to grab a coffee, you would not go. You would either decline, or schedule for a future time. However, if all of a sudden you hear a Code Blue being called, you would run to the bedside of the patient who needs you. In this latter example, you will have chosen to make that coding patient a priority over every other patient and administrative task you had planned for that morning. You will have chosen to spend your time differently than you originally had planned, because there was a new priority.
When we say we don’t have time, if it means that we have not prioritized certain activities, theoretically there should be no problem. This is because if something is not a priority, it shouldn’t matter to us if we are not making time for it.
Interestingly though, we are so often left feeling resentful, frustrated, or bitter about our sensed lack of time. The reason for this is that we are dissatisfied with how we have prioritized our lives.
One of the ways in which to get to the root of the “lack-of-time” problem is by answering for ourselves FOUR questions:
1. What are my priorities?
2. Why am I not living in alignment with my priorities?
3. How will I need to think differently in order to realign what I want to be doing with how I am spending my time?
4. How can I think differently in order to feel better, if I am living in alignment with my priorities, but I am still unhappy?
“We don’t build the lives we want by saving time.
We build the lives we want, and then time saves itself.”
~ Laura Vanderkam
Do the Math
In the TED talk, Vanderkam also shows how we have enough time by actually doing some math.
There are 168 hours in a week. Assuming you get 8 hours of sleep per night, this leaves 112 hours in a week. I do believe we have enough time, but I see a problem that physicians have, especially those in training or in jobs with above-average work hours.
If you are working a 60-hour work-week, you will have 52 hours left each week.
If you are working an 80-hour work-week, you will have 32 hours left each week.
In this last example, which is common for residents and physicians in certain subspecialties, this means you will have 4.5 hours each day. If 2 hours are spent on getting ready for the day and travel, this leaves you with 2.5 hours each day. You may spend 1-1.5 hours on food preparation and meals. This leaves you with about an hour each day for another chosen activity. If you have kids – there you go. (In the example where you are working a 60-hour week, you will have about 3 more hours each day.)
Our training and jobs often require that we are working above the average number of hours. Therefore, given the math, I think it is important for doctors to have their priorities straight.
So, I do recommend completing a time diary like the one Vanderkam mentions in her video. You can do one to see how you spend your time each day in general; you can do one specific to your time at work to see if you can be more productive; you can study the evenings at home to see if your family and dinner time is really being maximized. Take an honest look at how you spend your time and then decide if you want to continue that way.
At the request of my own coach a couple years ago, I did this when I was working on improving my efficiency in the office, to study where I had developed inefficiencies and given in to distractions during the day. My goal had been to get out of the office sooner at the end of the day with my notes completed. I knew at that time that if I was spending my time on anything but productive work during the day (even if it was for minutes here and there), I realized I would be sabotaging my own goals. Examples of things I had noticed and decided to change:
· Extended conversations with patients that weren’t contributing to my relationships with them or patient-care
· Unplanned conversations with office manager or staff that interfered with administrative time
· Checking my email during unplanned times during the day
· Allowing interruptions to my work due to an “open-door” policy
· Taking breaks to get food in the break room, including stress-eating
· Complaining to myself about how long the day was
This process was eye-opening for me, and I know it will be for you too. Being able to objectively see what was happening and then tackle the problem head-on was empowering.
So what are the action points for this week?
1. Determine your priorities and assess where your mind is at using the four questions above.
2. Complete a time diary of your day or week in order to objectively take account of how you are spending your time. For each action or activity, including any time you spend thinking or daydreaming, note the time spent. Ironically, this itself may take some time, but it will be valuable information for you.
If you’re starting to see how coaching can make a difference in your life and want to take things to the next level, sign up for a free 25-minute mini session with me to see how you can make the changes you are looking for. It all starts with a single call. Schedule with Ashwini Nayak, MD