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Keep It Simple At Work

May 30, 2024

Life is complicated. It can be as complicated as you make it to be. As physicians, many of you are facing challenging situations, patients with multiple medical issues and other problems. The best approach is to keep things simple. The more complicated you think something is, the easier you feel stressed and overwhelmed.

Keep things simple is a decision. It is a choice you make. No matter what the situation is, there is always more than one way to view it. By choosing the simpler approach, you are less likely to be stressed out by it. It is easier for you to focus. You will increase your efficiency and productivity.

Once you make the decision to keep it simple, the next step is to set your priorities. Take the example of a typical day of a family practice physician, doing mostly outpatient visits. Assuming the patient schedule is full, the top priority is to see all the patients, take care of their needs, document the encounter and bill for your service. Each patient is scheduled within a set time frame, say, 20 minutes. If a particular patient has twelve different issues to discuss, you may want to choose the top three to four things to address, and bring the patient back to discuss the rest. Most of the time, not everything the patient brings up is vital to address immediately.

Another way to set your priorities is to optimize the workflow among your staff. For example, patient phone calls – is it possible to have a nurse dedicated to triage those calls, so only certain phone calls are sent to you? During the clinic hours, set certain times of the day to check your messages, as opposed to checking each message as it arrives in your inbox. Your brain likes simple things and simple tasks. Switching from one task to another constantly makes it more complicated for your brain.

Set clear goals and remember why you want those goals. For example, there are twenty patients on your schedule today. Set a time goal – for example, you will finish seeing your last patient by 4 pm and get all the charts and phone calls done by 5 pm. Your goal to leave by 5 pm is to fulfill your desire to spend more time with your family.

Declutter your mind. When there are many thoughts popping up in your brain, it is easy to feel flustered or overwhelmed. Pause. Take a step back. Choose the thoughts to focus on the other thoughts to minimize their volumes. Do your best not to overthink things in general.

Declutter your office, the physical space where you work at. Organize it such that you know where things are at, so you do not have to spend the time and energy to look for things. When your visual image is clear, well-organize and simple, your mind tends to be in a more relaxed mode.

Minimize distractions. Besides setting times to check your email and inbox messages, establish a set protocol for your staff to screen phone calls and other patient-related matters, so that you will not be constantly interrupted. Less distraction is less task switching. You are doing one thing at a time.

When you focus on fewer things, you get to concentrate on each of the few things more. Sure, there is always the risk of oversimplifying things. It is  always a learning process.

It is very important to communicate. Talk to your staff. Talk to your patients. Let them know what you are thinking and why you do things a certain way. Do not expect other people to be able to read your mind. Do not expect to be able to read other people’s minds. Rather than playing the guessing game, ask the person. Talk to that person. If you are not certain of something, clarify it. Sometimes a simple question will save you several hours of work and agony.

Keeping things simple allows your mind to function in a moderate or cruising speed, rather than the high-strung, in-a-rush velocity when you think things are complicated and overwhelming. Set your priorities. Set your goals and be clear on why you set those goals. Declutter your mind and your physical space. Develop smooth workflow and minimize distractions. Get laser focused on the few things you choose to focus on. Always communicate with your patients and colleagues. You will have less mental drama and more productivity.

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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