Make more time in your day, and spend it wisely

A mindfulness expert helps calm harried physicians with key ways to make more time in the day and then spend it on the things that really matter in life.

For a harried physician (and they are all so, one might think), there are a few key ways to make more time in the day, and then use that time in the best possible way, said Linda Hawes Clever, MD, MACP, at her talk “Beat the Clock: How to Expand Your Time and Effectiveness” at Internal Medicine Meeting 2015.

To make more time for yourself, eliminate time wasters, said Dr. Clever, an internist and occupational health specialist. Create some privacy, she advised. Close your office door if you have one, to reduce the clamor. Reduce clutter, and with it the time spent looking for lost things. Be on time, because being late wastes not only your own time, but others'.

Dr Clever Photo by Kevin Berne
Dr. Clever. Photo by Kevin Berne

Say no sometimes. Physicians may say yes for a lot of reasons, and audience members shouted out a few of their own: a fear of lost opportunities, a fear of being seen as a slacker, or a fear of payback for refusing. Dr. Clever told attendees to use the 24-hour rule and say, “Let me think about it for a day.” Use that time to check your calendar, your family commitments, and your gut. If someone pressures you to decide right away, say no, citing “I want to do a good job” as the reason.

To know how to spend your time, define your values, she told the audience. Of interesting, when she conducts sessions with physicians, 2 values they frequently select are honesty and integrity, which may reflect how physicians want to be treated themselves. In other sessions she has conducted, physicians have told her:

  • “I want to be physician in chief.”
  • “I want to be able to talk to my teenager.”
  • “I want to earn $1 million.”
  • “I want to know how to die well.”

As an example of setting priorities that align with personal values, she recounted the story of a surgeon who wanted to be involved in raising his children. He created a practice with 3 other surgeons, all of whom also wanted to spend more time with their children.

“Why does this matter?” she asked attendees. “Because so much depends on you.”

Dr. Clever's “F” list

Dr. Clever outlined her list of personal values that guide how she spends her time:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Faith
  • Flexibility
  • Forgiveness
  • Fear (which can motivate change)
  • And chocolate (fudge, for the purposes of this list).