Remember that ride in the playground when we were kids? It was like a mini-carousel, and we would grab ahold of the handles, run in a circle, push it as fast as we could, and then jump on. Sometimes other kids would keep speeding it up, and we would start to get dizzy, but we couldn’t get off.
Sometimes life can feel like that. In the past, I often felt myself thinking “Stop the world, I want to get off.” Ironically, for many people during the pandemic, the world did sort of stop. But not for doctors. Things actually got much harder for most of us.
Many of us constantly feel we have too much to do and not enough time in which to do it. And we think that if we could just work harder, put more systems in place, and find more efficiency; then we could do it all.
We exhaust ourselves, then we label ourselves as failures. And we think that everyone else has it figured out better than we do.
What we need is a paradigm shift.
We don’t need to work harder, we need to work smarter.
My coach shared a mental image with me that illustrates this beautifully. Imagine that you have to get from point A to point B. You decide to ride your bicycle. It’s a really long distance, and you have a deadline to get there. You’re pedaling so fast and hard that you can’t see anything around you. The sweat is dripping down into your eyes. You completely miss that there’s an express bus equipped with a bike rack that can get you there for a couple of dollars, with far less energy expenditure, and plenty of time to spare.
Sure, the bicycle will get you there, but it would be so much easier and wiser to take the bus.
Where in your life are you pedaling instead of riding? Where can you do less? What are you currently doing that could (and should) be done by someone else?
Is it smarter to hire a house cleaner than to spend your precious Sunday vacuuming? Can your assistant deal with the bulk of your email while you see patients? Is there someone else who can pick the kids up after school for you so that you can have an hour to finish your charts?
At our house, we are big believers in the idea of the “nice people”. We have multiple nice people who cut our lawn, shovel our driveway, wash our windows, clean out our eavestroughs, and repair things. You get the picture. The exchange of money (a renewable resource) for time (a non-renewable resource) just makes sense.
Don’t forget that taking care of yourself is part of how you take care of your patients (and increasingly your colleagues). If you burn out, many people will be affected.
If you would like some help figuring out what working smarter might look like in the context of your unique situation, please reach out for support.