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Time: The Physician's Achilles' Heel

January 2, 2018

 

Poll a group of physicians interested in entrepreneurship on what their most precious resource is, and pretty consistently, you'll find that the answer is time.

 

In starting Physician Side Gigs and in related networking, I've found that people have a ton of ideas, but finding the time to sit down and actually execute them is a different story.  This likely isn't surprising to you, but what can be done to help with this?  We may be innovative, but can't exactly create more hours in a day.

 

As someone who regularly takes on way more than I should, and is in danger of missing a deadline on something at almost every moment, here are some tips that I have.

 

1.  Organization.  Lists, reminders, synced calendars and task lists with loved ones - productivity tools are invaluable.  Don't ever fool yourself into thinking that you can remember to do everything you have on your plate.  I take these lists to another level, with subcategories and color coding.  Find a system that works for you, and stick with it.

 

2.  Set aside an amount of dedicated time for your side gig, no matter how small.  Even 15 minutes a day of time without interruptions can be great to foster ideas and make forward progress.

 

3.  Learn to say no in a polite but firm way.  Don't take on something if it's not interesting to you or if the reward is not worth the effort.  There's nothing more frustrating than trying to meet a deadline for something that won't benefit you while your real task list takes the backseat.

 

4.  Set limits for yourself.  Decide how much time you're going to spend on your side gig and try to stick with it.  Time can get away from you easily, particularly if you're excited about what you're doing.  Make sure it doesn't compromise your clinical time or your personal life - many of you are doing the side gig to combat burnout, not contribute to it.

 

5.  Sometimes, having more on your plate can actually make you more efficient.  But being overly stressed while approaching your work makes you less efficient - and takes the joy out of the side gig.  Find out where your balance is.

 

6.  Approach every task you take on in a goal directed manner.  Know exactly what the purpose of accepting a meeting, going to a conference, reading a recommended book, etc is.  You can waste a lot of time clicking on links and perusing social media groups.  Trust me, I know :)

 

7.  Take breaks when you need them.  Many of us are good at identifying when we're not getting anything done and taking a quick break, but most of us aren't good at knowing when we need to take an extended break.  Remember, you sometimes need a 1 week vacation from your main clinical job - your side gig is no different.  Approaching something well rested will both increase productivity as well as bring on better ideas.

 

8, 9, and 10.  Outsource.  Some things just aren't worth your time.  If you find yourself doing a lot of work that you could probably pay your children or a college student to do at $10/hour, you should probably not be doing it.  Even if you think you can do something tedious while watching TV or listen to something while exercising or doing the dishes, it will almost certainly detract from the value of that time.  

 

Any other tips?

 

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© 2017 by Nisha Mehta, MD