One Step You Can Take To Increase Your Success Now

by Jen Barna MD | Life Journey, Physician Coaching, Podcast

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DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast

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“People say, ‘I want to have some free time’. I want you to have free time too. If you give yourself the tiniest bit of light structure, it’s like putting the banks of the river there so you can guide the flow so it isn’t flooding everything.” – Lead Coach Jill Farmer

Join DocWorking Physician Coaches Gabriella and Jill as they sit down to discuss one step you can take now to increase your success. Learn about advanced planning. What that means, how to do it and then how to apply it in your life.

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Podcast produced by: Amanda Taran

Please enjoy the full transcript below

Jill: People say, “I want to have some free time.” I want you to have free time, too. If you give yourself the tiniest bit of light structure, it’s like putting the banks of the river there so you can guide the flow so it isn’t flooding everything.

Jen: Hi, this is Dr. Jen Barna. Welcome to DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. At DocWorking, our specialty is coaching physicians to achieve the best of life and medicine. This is the podcast where we talk with doctors about real life outside of medicine.

Jill: Hi, everyone. I’m Jill Farmer and welcome to DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. We are so glad you’re with us here today.

Gabriella: Hi, my name is Gabriella Dennery, one of the life coaches at Today, I’m here with my co host, Jill Farmer. We’re talking about one step you can take now to increase your success. So, Jill, you’ve worked on specifically time and stress management for physicians, and you have some really cool, how to really get control of your time back, how to get back in that driver’s seat, right? And you talk about advanced planning. So, tell us what does that mean, what is advanced planning to a physician who may be overwhelmed and just wondering what to do next and how to do it?

Jill: Yeah, when it comes to this one simple step that physicians can take to increase their success. If I had to call it down to one thing in my work, especially, around time management, the pattern I see often in physicians is that, they are so used to a highly tight regimented schedule, especially, if they’re working in any kind of clinical setting, whether it’s hospital or seeing patients in a clinic, or whatever it is. There’s just, somebody else is creating the schedule, and it is very tight, and there’s a lot of space in between. So, they’ll come to me with this saying, “Oh my gosh, on my non-clinical days,” when I should be catching up on office work, and whether it’s EMRs, or all the other things that are part of the process, or having meetings, or preparing talks, or writing papers, or even in evenings at home trying to get something done, or on weekends at home trying to get something done, they’ll often come to me with the sense of shame and overwhelm and say, “Oh, I’m just not getting anything done. What’s wrong with me?”

What I often see is, that imprint of that highly regimented schedule on those clinical days, there’s a presumption that then I’ll just figure out what I need to be doing on my other days and get it done in priority order without taking any time to map it out. Based on your years as a physician and as well as seeing your clients, is this familiar to you? Have you seen this before? Is it just with my clients?

Gabriella: [laughs] Oh, my goodness. It doesn’t stop, that churning that absolutely every– What I do now and I have time off, or I have a few hours of what this total jumping around all the time and that stress response that is an operation 24/7. So, Jill, where do you start to break that response? Where do you start?

Jill: You just said it beautifully. It’s important to understand that when we’re trying to make decisions and launch action from that stress response, it’s not a very good place to launch action and make decisions. We get 13 points stupider according to the research. IQ diminishes when we’re in that fight or flight mode. So, what I see most often is, we default to the low hanging fruit theory. So, we just immediately do whatever is in front of us. For a lot of us, it’s reading emails, and then responding, but we don’t really have time to respond correctly. So, we end up reading the same dang emails over and over and over again, and then it gets all confusing, or we do what– we know where there’s low hanging fruit.

But sometimes that means that the more important stuff, again, the bigger stuff, if you’re in academic medicine, it might be writing papers. If you have some goal of trying to do something meaningful within your community, that stuff just gets put aside. The bigger stuff gets put aside. And the low hanging fruit gets attracted, gets taken care of and this story I often tell about that is, think about, imagine, where the world’s best apple growers are. If all of a sudden, we go to the apple orchard, and the expensive fruit on the tree that we’re going to get a lot of money for, as an apple farmer to sell, is up in the tree, but we spend all our time picking up rotten fruit on the ground, which we get 10 cents on the dollar for over and over and over again, because we don’t really take the time to get up in the tree and get the stuff that really matters. That’s what’s happening when we’re in that low hanging fruit mode.

What we actually do, back to your original question, is we take a few minutes every week, and I’m talking five to 10 minutes because the first thing a lot of my physician clients will say is, “I don’t have time to add one more thing to my agenda,” and I get it. So, it’s a very short amount of time, a very simple step that has a big impact. It’s a big lever for making the big difference in it. Sitting down and doing a very quick set of steps, which we can talk about briefly to map out your week, so that when you have those spaces of time, when you are in those clinical days instead of assuming that you can default to taking meaningful action, you have a guidebook for yourself to get to the things that really matter.

Gabriella: Do you also encourage them to map out some leisure time?

Jill: Yep. [laughs] You know I do. You and I both do. I’m so glad you brought that up because the thing that happens is, “Well, I don’t deserve to take a break because I didn’t get all the stuff done,” that was banging around in my head, and this cacophony of not enough time thoughts were banging around in my head in this sort of chaotic way. So, I didn’t get to whatever mystery agenda I had in my brain. So, therefore, I don’t get to take the break. I don’t get to do the things that I know to refill my tank and recharge my batteries. People say, “Oh, yeah. I want to have some free time.” I want you to have free time, too. If you give yourself the tiniest bit of light structure, it’s like putting the banks of the river there so you can guide the flow so it isn’t flooding everything.

I’m talking about just some simple steps like doing a brain dump and taking all the things that you would like to get done this week out of your head on to a meaningful list, and then processing that list instead of just having it be this long to do list that beats you up every night saying, “You are indeed inadequate and not getting everything done.” Put it in actionable places. In those spaces on the clinical days in time blocks that are not four hours or something that’s going to feel so onerous, we’re going to procrastinate and go do something else. But instead say, “Yeah, I’m going to do it in 45-minute blocks. I’m going to get some meaningful things done here,” then I’m going to schedule that walk with a friend, which I know is great for my body and my brain. I’m going to spend the afternoon getting lost in that novel, or in that science fiction book, or something that I know takes my brain to a different place and literally lets it recharge its batteries. I’m going to spend some time in nature, which the research keeps showing us is so good for us. So, I’m mapping it out and I can enjoy doing that so much more when I’ve had a plan and I’ve made even the tiniest bit of appreciable project on those things that matters. So, taking that time to block it, to map it out, is really the key.

Gabriella: Absolutely. I think the word ‘appreciable’ piqued my ear for a moment. Because you know that, that whole mindset, “I’m not doing enough, I’m not doing enough, I’m not getting to it. Not enough, not enough, not enough,” and which means that you’re working 24/7, seven days a week, 365 days a year, whether you’re on vacation or not, whether you’re on a downtime, non-clinical hours or not, because of that mindset. So, then the question is for me, as I’m listening to the word ‘appreciable,’ how do you build in that level of appreciation?

Okay, so I didn’t get to every email but “Hey, I had a chance to spend time with a friend today. How do you build that appreciation in that mindset of taking those simple, tiny steps to map out your time.” I don’t know if you have something to add to that.

Jill: I do because one of the things I love to do, instead of having a massive long to do list, I really like breaking it down, putting into blocks on your calendar, and then the things that aren’t really time sensitive that you can squeeze in for instance, between procedures, when you have 15 or 20 minutes that will feel good to get out of the way. Those go on a daily to-do list. What I really like is at the end of the day, instead of already looking at everything you didn’t get done, or what am I going to get done tomorrow? Just start with, what did I get done? The research of Martin Seligman and others around the impact of positive psychology and our strengths, one of those sense of accomplishment, sense of completing something is really good fuel for our bodies, brains, and spirits. So, taking that time to do that is a really good way to then help say, “Okay, yeah, these are the things I did get done.” That feels great now, how can I just crack that puzzle a little bit to reconfigure the things that didn’t get done today, instead of having it take up all this energy of self-flagellation and beating ourselves up, it’s just a little bit of a simpler, softer, kinder process and it starts with putting on your calendar, that one step that will greatly increase your request is this week. Put on your calendar on Friday afternoon, or Monday afternoon, or Sunday afternoon. Take that five to 15 minutes to roadmap your week out in time blocks that are kind and gentle, block out some time to take care of yourself in meaningful ways as well, and you’ll notice that it just eases and gives you a little bit more calm, so you can move forward and get back in that driver’s seat of your life.

Gabriella: Mm-hmm. I love it, I love it, I love it. This is fabulous. So, are we talking about these things in the upcoming self-paced course?

Jill: This is a great conversation and people can walk away with good stuff and start today. If you really want to learn more deeply, “What is the actual step-by-step process in that advanced planning?” I have a six-step process that takes a little time to explain that advanced planning process that we talk about in Stat. The thing that I love about Stat is that it’s self-paced. So, if you are a very busy physician, you can take the course, five minutes at a time, 15 minutes at a time, 30 minutes at a time watching the videos, doing the exercises in the guide, and it will make a difference almost immediately. So, go over to and check out Stat: Quick wins that will change your life for more information, and make sure you tune in to us next time here at the DocWorking Podcast. We have a lot more conversations about a lot of things to help you as physicians have a life and work that you love.

Amanda: Hello, and thank you for listening. This is Amanda Taran. I’m the producer of the DocWorking Podcast. If you enjoyed our podcast, please like and subscribe. We would also love it if you check out our website which is And you can also find us on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. Our Instagram is @docworking1 and that is with the number one. When you check us out on social, please let us know what you would like to hear on the podcast. Your feedback really means a lot to us. If you’re a physician with a story to tell, please reach out to Jen at [email protected]. Thank you, again, and we’ll see you next time.


Board-certified practicing radiologist, founder and CEO of DocWorking, and host of top ranked DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast

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