Today, I want to introduce you to our newest contributor, Dr. Jennifer Kanapicki! Dr. Kanapicki joins us from Stanford where she is the Assistant Residency Director and Co-Director of their Medical Education Scholarship Fellowship. Needless to say, she knows a thing or 2 about being efficient, which makes her an an ideal expert to be our productivity section editor! Welcome Jennifer and we can’t wait to read more of your work!

The 1440 Doctor: Time Management Strategies for the Busy Physician

Do you know how many minutes there are in a day?  1,440. That’s it. I remember when I was a medical student and attended one of our American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA) dinners.  Each physician had some time to stand up and give us their best piece of advice on life as a physician. One physician got up and said “You have one plate in life and it is only so big.  You decide what you put on the plate. You are going to be a busy physician. Don’t put things on the plate that you don’t want to do, save it for things you do.” This piece of advice has stuck with me since medical school.  We know how big our plate is, it is exactly 1,440 minutes.

What’s on your 1,440 plate of life?  Really, think about it right now.  

How much of your 1,440 is taken up by reading and answering emails, “Got a minute” meetings, or the badges and notifications of social media?  How much of your life is reactive and not proactive in what you want to accomplish? By knowing what’s on your plate you are able to decide if you want it to be there.  In the book 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management (if you really want to get some serious time management pearls, read it!) the reader is asked to think about what they value most in life.  Items on most people’s list are what you would expect: health, money, family. Highly successful people also value these things, but, unlike everyone else, above all they rank their most valuable asset as TIME.

Time is the one thing that you lose and never can get it back again.  Let that sink in.

Okay now that you’ve thought about what’s on your 1,440 plate.  What do you want on your 1,440 plate and what do you want to get off it?  In a Harvard Business Review study called “Make Time for the Work That Matters,” researchers found that 41% of knowledge worker’s spent time on discretionary activities that could be done by others and weren’t satisfying to them personally.  By adhering to a few simple strategies for productivity, workers were able to free up 20% of their time.

One strategy well known in the productivity literature is the  4D’s of time management. Think about each item on your 1,440 plate and apply the 4D’s:

Do.  This is the simple act of doing.  The popular business book called Getting Things Done introduced readers to the idea of the “2-Minute Rule.”  Simply put, if an action will take 2 minutes or less to complete, it should be done immediately.  Reading an email about confirming attendance to an upcoming faculty meeting? Quick reply, yes. Bonus points for using the subject line and keeping the email short (look out for my next 1440 post on taking control of your email inbox).

Drop.  Think about items on your plate you can drop completely.  Are there any committees you are on that aren’t personally satisfying and aren’t adding to your CV?  Get them off your 1440 plate.

Delegate.  Look for items on your plate that you can delegate.  Are there any items you are doing that could be done by your admin? Get a task emailed to you that you can delegate, hit forward and pass it on.  If you’re like me and hate grocery shopping, think about outsourcing all your shopping using an app like Instacart; definitely my favorite one.  (be on the lookout for my future article on the best outsourcing apps).

Diminish.  This category takes into consideration the items on your plate that you want or need to keep doing but you can diminish the time you spend doing them.  What can you do in a more time-efficient way? I don’t know about you but I go to a ton of meetings. Think about ways you can consolidate meetings. I often try to hold Google hangout meetings which has really helped save me commute minutes (and the other person’s as well!).

My goal with this series is to get each one of you to be a 1,440 doctor. We are too busy not to be!  Each post will give you another tip to make the most of your 1,440 minutes. To be proactive and not reactive and prioritize what you want on your 1440 plate of life.  

Don’t be careless with your minutes, it’s your most valuable asset.

1440 Doctor Action items:

☑️  Think about your 1440 plate.  For each item, check the 4D’s.  Think about what makes you happy and is line with your life goals that you want to keep on doing.  What is something that you can drop. 80% of your results will come from 20% of your action (more on how to apply 80/20 to your life in future articles).  Think about which items you can delegate or outsource..  Lastly, think about items that you can diminish, or continue doing in a more time effective way.

☑️  If an action will take 2 minutes or less, DO IT.  You’ll waste more minutes using up the brain power to remember what it was when you come back to it later.

Want more? Take the “Discover your personal time management style assessment.”  You’ll get not only feedback on your personal style but access to a handy workbook to help you be a 1440 doctor.