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How To Find Time In A Busy Schedule

May 22, 2023

“I don’t have time to do this.” I hear this a lot, especially among physician moms. Physician moms who work full-time and take care of their children, school-age kids or younger. There is always a sense of urgency, a constant wave of rushing, an ever-growing pressure on their shoulders to get things done yesterday.

That used to be me. Work took up most of the day, on average 14 hours if not more, during the week. The rest of the time was divided to somewhat taking care of the kids and sleeping. Taking care of myself or doing something fun outside of work was not a consideration. Weekends were used to catch up on work I did not complete. Occasionally there was time to get together with some friends for a few hours, just enough to keep my sanity.

Living like that was draining the life out of me. I thought I had to be a machine to do it all. To work full-time as a physician, to be a responsible mother, wife and daughter. Even a machine needs some break time!

The notion of having to “do it all” was engraved in me so deeply that I was blinded to any alternative. That was a very pricey belief - that I did not have enough time of the day to do everything I was supposed to, but I was responsible to somehow make it happen. It put me to a state of misery, frustration and helplessness. I felt like no one else outside of medicine would understand this.

Do you feel this way?

You do not have to be a physician mom to feel the incessant pressure or the fast pace of life.

One thing I learned is that it is okay not to do it all today. Give yourself some grace. You are doing the best that you can. You always learn from your daily experiences and grow from them. You do not have to be perfect, and you are not supposed to be perfect – because you are human.

Finding time in the day starts with the day before, or even several days before. Since most of us start our work week on Monday, the weekend is usually a good time to plan for the week. Many people have the same sentence in their brain: There is not enough time. To me, that makes me feel rushed, inadequate and frustrated. That sentence has come up so many times that it seems very real.

We all have 24 hours. Instead of believing there is not enough time, what is another way to look at the day? An example is that you have the time to complete the things you plan to. If you are not quite there to believe it, maybe try to think that you are doing your best in learning how to manage your time.

Rather than having a to-do list, I recommend to have an hourly calendar for the week. That way, you get to plan what to do and how much time to do each task. This is also a great opportunity to examine if you are planning a lot more than what can be completed in 24 hours each day.

Prioritizing your day in advance will make it less stressful for you to go through. If you have 17 things in mind to do on a particular day, pick 3 of the most important ones. Those are your non-negotiables – if you do not do them that day, there will be very serious consequences. Such as meeting a deadline on a project or going to catch a plane. Put those on your calendar. Then choose 3 tasks which are also important to complete that day. Prioritize according to their importance and time constraints. Always schedule for some blocks as “free” blocks – in case there are unexpected things happening. There will always be some surprise element in your day. If you still have free time on the calendar, schedule more tasks to fill it up.

There are things which are non-negotiable and yet we believe they can be – such as the self-care list of to-do things.

Many people think that taking care of other people or other things is the top priority. There is no need to take care of ourselves, because we can just keep going. And we have to keep going. There is no other way. I used to think like that. Then I learned it the hard way.

You cannot give what you do not have. Otherwise you are creating a deficit every time you do it. Eventually, you will not be able to function if you do not replenish physically and emotionally.

A good night’s sleep will help you feel refreshed in the morning – ideally 7 hours of sleep. Exercise every day to keep your body strong and healthy. Read a book that is not related to your profession. Listen to some motivational speakers. Set aside time to quiet your mind. Meditate. Practice mindfulness. These are all the things you can do to refuel your body and soul, so that you will be renewed and ready for more challenges and opportunities for the day ahead.

As for the individual tasks or things related to work, explore if there is any way you can improve your efficiency. There is nothing wrong to ask for help – either for someone to show you how to be more efficient, or ask for help in the form of delegation. You may be surprised at how much time you end up saving!

Are you ready to stop feeling stressed and overwhelmed? Are you ready to have more time to do what you want?


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