5 Simple Ways To Get Back an Hour Of Your Time For Women PhysiciansJan 20, 2023
We have 24 hours a day, and unfortunately, most women physicians (or working women) cannot account for where we spend those hours due to our busy schedules. It's the sad truth about our concept of time, leaving us in the cycle.
It is easy to get caught up in the daily activities of female physicians and lose sight of how we spend our time, leading to a struggle with our work-life balance. It also makes you feel like you don't have enough time for the things that truly matter, such as self-care and personal development. But there is always time to change things and get your best version. There are ways to prevent this cycle from happening and take back the power of our day, in just ONE hour.
An Hour a Day Can Make a Difference
An hour a day may appear to be little time on its own, but adding it up over a week, a month, or a year can make a huge difference. For example, if you spend an hour each day working on a specific skill, you will have spent 365 hours working on that skill after a year. This addition is a 4 percent increase in time per week that you can use as extra time for your clinical practice or your family life.
Setting small, incremental, and consistent goals to accomplish in that hour will make a significant difference over time. It's important to remember that the quality of time spent is just as important as the quantity. Prioritizing and concentrating on meaningful activities during that hour can have a more significant impact than wasting time on something that does not align with our goals or priorities.
An hour a day may appear to be a small amount of time, but when used effectively, it can significantly impact our lives. So let's think of the team members at work who, while we care about them as a colleague, routinely takes 1 hour of our day to vent. Let's say they routinely do this 2-3 times a week; you just gave that person 150 HOURS of your work week, when you could be working on things you DO NOT have to take home!
Get Snobby with Your Time
As the saying goes, "Time is gold.". if we dive deeper into this phrase, we will realize that time is the single most valuable resource that we possess. So, sister, it is time we get SNOBBY with our time. Yes, snobby, sister! I always say: be approachable to many, but that only means access to some! Its time change comes to our time.
How do I spend it?
Who do I spend it with?
Who has access to me during the day?
Who do I let have access to my calendar?
Time is an investment; similar to how we invest money in assets that will increase in value over time, we should invest our time in activities and pursuits that will produce growth, peace, and fulfillment. It is a finite resource that cannot be replenished, and it is critical to reflect on how we spend it.
Ultimately, how we spend our time should align with our goals, values, and priorities.
Time is our most valuable commodity and will never be replaced. It's a good idea to strive to be productive and make a difference in our lives and those around us. The phrase "time is gold" serves as a reminder that time is a precious and valuable resource that should not be wasted and needs to be used in the most beneficial and meaningful ways possible. If you do not set boundaries around who has access to you, you will have everyone and anyone thinking their time is your time.
5 Ways to Get Back your Time
As a woman physician juggling a busy career and my family, I have had to reconstruct my time management skills to maintain any sense of well-being. The most common question I get when I speak is, "How do you accomplish everything you do?", "Do you have any time for yourself left?" and even "Do you ever sleep?". Honestly, I do not manage things perfectly, and there are weeks I wonder what day it is. But here are my biggest tips and what I fiercely do to protect my time:
1. Plan and Set Boundaries Each Sunday
Planning and setting boundaries are essential tools for effective time management.
Planning enables us to set specific goals, prioritize tasks, and allocate our time aligned with our values and priorities. It gives us a sense of control and organization on how we want our day to be.
Setting boundaries gives us healthy limits for ourselves and communicates those limits to others. We can set limits on when we are available to work, say "no" to things, and prioritize time for self-care and rest. Boundaries are essential for protecting our time and energy and ensuring that we are well-rested with responsibilities and daily tasks. If you need help setting boundaries, my book can help and guide you with practical ways to do it. (Click HERE.)
Planning your boundaries once a week – and what I mean by that is what you will and won't do this week. BEFORE the week starts, find a good place to plan your weekly hours; this allows you to organize your time in a way that aligns with your goals and priorities. Will you allow that coworker to steal your hours with his venting this week? Will you kindly set boundaries with him when he starts and ask if he can come back later?
2. Prioritize Goals Every Quarter
If I pick THREE goals I want to achieve each quarter (not 10!) it helps me hold myself accountable for where I spend my time. I, then, have a harder time setting unrealistic and unattainable goals. If we set goals that are not realistic, we are left feeling disappointed and even self-shame when things don't work out according to plan.
I now understand that setting realistic and achievable goals is a big deal and the key to success. The good news is that I no longer set goals that I can't reach; instead, I focus on what I can do right now and break down my long-term goals into small, achievable steps.
For example, I used to say, "I am going to finish this manuscript by March 1". But then life happens, and even if I am 75% done with the manuscript, I feel like a failure on March 1. I now rephrase that goal: "I am going to write for 30 minutes three days a week". This action makes it: 1) more achievable and 2) allows me to take smaller steps that build my confidence. I am MUCH more likely to set a timer and write for 30 minutes than I am to spend 16 hours in a row meeting a deadline.
Prioritizing goals is an important aspect of managing time effectively. And starts with identifying what is most important to you – those are the things you focus on first. This new focus will help ensure that you spend precious time on activities that align with your values and long-term goals.
Here are different ways to prioritize your goals:
● Start by creating a to-do list of all of your goals, both short-term and long-term
● Review the list and determine which goals are the most important;
● Once you identify the top priorities, focus on them and allocate your time and energy to make them happen.
● The most IMPORTANT STEP: Say NO to all the things that DO NOT align with these goals! That is where boundaries come in!
Feel EMPOWERED to review and adjust your priorities regularly. It can be easy to get caught up in day-to-day tasks and lose sight of our goals, so periodically taking the best care to reassess our priorities can ensure that we are still on the path we want to be on. Often we find ourselves doing things as women because someone asked us to or because we have done it that way for years, but it no longer lights our soul on fire. You can change, sister! YOU are the CEO of you!
By focusing on what is most important, we can ensure that we spend our time on activities that will bring us closer to progress, greater fulfillment, and life satisfaction.
3. Practice Good Time Management Skills
As a woman physician, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the different things to complete every day. With all of the work-related madness, it's easy to get lost in life and lose track of time, leading to work extending beyond our time and boundaries. Developing a strategic plan and practicing good time management will take me in the right direction whenever I want to take back time for myself. It helps me regain control of my time and creates a better balance between work and personal life. It can help you too, friend.
(PS: I have created a FREE time management guide just for you. If you haven't already, you can easily download it HERE!)
It is so easy to let our work demands control our day. It is also hard when our medical community work environment is constantly changing. Work demands can consume our time, and suddenly, we feel like that is all we do and our entire purpose: to work in medicine. Now, more than ever, we MUST adopt radical work-life boundaries. We must create a schedule that allows us to PRIORITIZE personal time for self-care.
It's important to remember that time is a precious and limited resource, and we all have different life priorities and circumstances. Therefore, it's essential to find what works best for YOU and adapt to YOUR personal needs. I am hopeful that some of the time management practices above will help you, which is why I dedicate so much of my teaching to time management!
(If you are finding yourself needing specific coaching on time management, check out my upcoming CME coaching course, specifically for women physicians, called Brave Balance HERE).
4. Delegate like a Boss!
It amazes me how often I multitask while juggling my work, family, and myself. Multitasking can be exhausting, and while we are accomplishing a lot, we are left disoriented and lack boundaries.
My job as a physician calls for constant attention, but my job as a mother is a 24/7 round-the-clock appointment. I want to be present for my kids and be there whenever they need me. But being the best mom for my kids will only be possible if the demands of my well-being are satisfied. Through the years of being a mom, one thing that strikes me the most is that I am the best mom when I am my best self.
(PS: You can listen to my podcast season on motherhood and medicine HERE.)
The truth is, I cannot be there 24/7 for patient care or my family members, and I need A LOT of help. I have learned that it is not a failure to ask for help and that you do not have to do everything alone. Every day, I always remind myself that I am just a human. I am no superhero. But getting things done is always possible with the magic work of - delegation.
Do not underestimate the power of delegation. It is a tool that helps physicians, coaches, and working women better manage time and resources, all while still accomplishing their goals. Delegating allows us to assign tasks to those with the best skills and experience, leaving us plenty of time to focus on what matters most to us. If that means paying someone else to do things, like administrative tasks, then that is 100% worth it for me.
I advise you to delegate all non-essential tasks to others and concentrate on your top priorities, allowing you to focus on your goals and let someone better suited handle these things on their own. With delegation comes trust. It is normal to feel uneasiness when giving away a responsibility to the hands of others that we think we can do very well. My advice is to let it go, friend.
Don't be afraid to seek help from others. At the end of the day, it will only help you take back your time and shift your focus to something else that matters.
5. Take a Break – or Five!
Please take a break if you're feeling overwhelmed or have physician burnout. Taking some time off can help us reset and recharge to return to work and responsibilities with a healthy mindset and radical boundaries. There are many ways to take a break. (I've cultivated my favorite ways to pamper myself in a list HERE.)
The truth is, being a woman physician is hard work and is challenging at times. The most beneficial thing next to planning my time is to connect with other women physicians. It helps me beat burnout and reminds me that I am human and need routine breaks. I got you if you are looking for a strong community of women! Join my community HERE.
Taking breaks at work - even just for 5 minutes - prevents feeling burned out and helps clear my mind to get going again. Often, I will leave the OR for a minute, find a sunny window, and sit in it. I will also do a five min power walk around the ORs. I will Facetime my kids. All of this helps me reset. If all seems too much right now, take a break. It will never hurt to spend time alone and breathe it all out. Inhale, exhale.
Ready to Take Your Time Back?
Of course, taking back our time is only possible if we act on it now. Remember, time is precious. Do not let it slip away with things that do not spark joy, progress, and growth. Now, friend, my question for you is:
Are you ready to take back your time?
Be the master of time management and start now by joining my three-part webinar series: The Best You Yet: Three Myths to Unlearn to Take Back Your Time in 2023.
An hour a day seems to be insignificant, but collectively, it will make a significant impact on our lives. Do not wait! This year, we are more than ready to take back our time! (Sign up for the webinar series you don't want to miss by clicking HERE.)
Feeling stretched thin? I can show you 10 ways to get back TWO HOURS in your week!
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