The Hidden Workload of Female Physicians with Susan Hyatt

by Coach Jill Farmer | Podcast, Work Life Balance, Work Life Integration

In today’s episode, Master Certified Coach Jill Farmer talks to Susan Hyatt about the hidden workload of women


“Having someone do things that free you up to have an actual life is going to help your patients and it’s going to help your overall family life too.” -Master Certified Coach & Best Selling Author Susan Hyatt

Susan Hyatt is a Master Certified Life & Business Coach, best selling author, TEDx speaker, and the queen of helping women create what they crave in life. Did you know that men in heterosexual relationships typically have five and half more hours of leisure time per week than their women counterparts? What would you do with five and half extra hours a week? You can probably think of a lot of things. Susan breaks down the hidden workload of women and then she and Jill give us ways that we can begin implementing change so we can stave off burnout and continue doing what we love. 

Susan started her career in sales–radio advertising, then residential real estate- before transitioning into the field of life coaching. 

Over the last 14 years, Susan’s coaching practice has grown into a multi-seven figure business with 10 employees, signature programs, a marketing agency, and The University for Life Coach Training.

Susan has been featured on national TV and in magazines like O: The Oprah Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, and Woman’s World. She was honored to be a Finalist for the Athena Award, recognizing leadership in the field of women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship.

You can find Susan Hyatt at the following links:

Podcast produced by: Amanda Taran

Please enjoy the full transcript below

Susan: Having someone do things that frees you up to have an actual life is going to help your patients, it’s going to help your overall family life, too.

[DocWorking theme]

Jill: Hi, everyone. We are so glad you’re here on DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. I’m Jill Farmer, lead coach at DocWorking. Today, I am really excited to talk with an expert on the subject of the hidden workload of women. It is Susan Hyatt, Master Certified Life & Business Coach, bestselling author, TEDx speaker, and the queen of helping women create what they crave in life. She is an expert at helping entrepreneurs and just one of my favorite people. So, Susan, I’m so glad you’re here to have this conversation with our physician listeners today. So, let’s dive right in. What do we mean when we’re talking about the hidden workload of women?

Susan: Well, it’s often referred to as the second shift. I often call it the part-time job you didn’t know you had. The invisible workload is basically things that women typically in heterosexual relationships assume, absorb, just handle because of culture at large and family of origin upbringing. Women typically handle or shoulder the emotional burden of the family. Managing moods and making sure everyone’s okay, but beyond that, you may, Jill, I know you are married to the most helpful, most amazing man in the whole world, and still if we were to measure how much leisure time each of you had, and what each of you is handling for the family, we would most of the time find that you had probably five and a half hours less leisure time a week than him.

Now, I know you are empty nesters now like I am and so that may have shifted some. But with raising kids and handling things for the family, it looks like being the one to know when doctor’s appointments are happening, knowing where their vaccination charts are, knowing when the pets need to go to the vet, knowing which sippy cup the kid prefers, knowing all sorts of things, and being the keeper of all the knowledge is a lot of the invisible workload.

Jill: Yeah, I love this concept. It blew my mind when I first started reading about it. You defined it perfectly. It’s the cognitive and emotional labor that previously was just unmeasured and I think it came out of Harvard research, a PhD. At Harvard, when they were comparing workloads, more of the task-oriented things that we were talking about, they would hear a lot of conversations among heterosexual couples talking about, “Well, I think about the kids a lot more when they’re in daycare, or “I’m constantly planning ahead for the next thing,” and a lot of times the spouses would acknowledge that, but nobody was really measuring what kind of time that created. I think it’s coming more to the forefront, and I think it’s a powerful awareness, and I think it’s going to head us in a different direction as we think about being women in careers and how we integrate work and life. What do you think about that?

Susan: I definitely think so, because if you think about even just the measurement of the leisure gap, I actually think this is conservative, but on average, that men have five and a half hours more leisure time than their female counterparts in heterosexual relationships. What would you do with five and a half more hours? For women, when you consider the wage gap and the confidence gap, and now we’ve got this leisure gap, if we can close those gaps, then women can start earning more, have more time to do what matters to them, and stop burning ourselves out, and having serious health consequences, because we’re doing everything for everyone.

I know from my own personal experience, and also with client experiences that when my children were little, like you I hadn’t ever heard of this. I couldn’t quite articulate when I would say, “I’m doing so much more.” My very helpful husband would say, “But I’m doing,” and he would list all these things, and I just didn’t have the words to explain the cognitive and emotional labor and now I do and boy is he getting all the education now even over the holidays. We invited his extended family over for a holiday meal. This is a tiny example, but it proves the point. The morning of, he came to me and said, “I really want to help, and so can you give me my list, so I can get my list done for you.” I said, “Okay, I love that you want to help, but I just want to point out that the assumption is you’re helping me, like, this is my thing. And secondly, I’m the keeper of the list. You aren’t sure what to do unless I make you the list. Now, I appreciate you wanting to do whatever I put on the list, but that is the invisible workload at play.” He was just like, “Okay, but can I have the list? Can you just give it to me?”

I think that for people listening, who will say, “Oh, no, not in my household, my husband cooks or my husband picks up the kids.” We’re not saying that men are getting up in the morning trying to be as unhelpful as possible and keep you down. What we’re saying is, this is the patriarchy and a system that we’ve all bought into, and now, it’s time to become awake to these gaps and start closing them.

Jill: Absolutely, and I think that’s important for our listeners. You can be like, you and I are, proud feminists, who definitely believe in equality between genders, and have had this baked into my bones, right.

Susan: Yeah.

Jill: This stuff comes out in ways that are not intentional or sometimes there’s a gap between the knowing and doing. I know, I want equality between genders and still I feel I am judged more, if there’s a meal at our house or somebody pops in at my house and it’s a mess, as a woman than my spouse is going to be. A lot of this plays for physicians and for physician clients into a concept that I first learned from my friend, Brigid Schulte’s book a number of years ago, Overwhelmed, which is contaminated time and this notion that women a lot of times have less of a luxury of having their work time specifically in a container that’s not contaminated [laughs] by either thoughts, worries, emotions, again, that cognitive and emotional labor that we have in the invisible workload, and their time at home completely that is just for doing things that someone might want to do at home, whether that’s parenting or related to the household.

I think a lot of my physician clients, and then after we did a podcast on contaminated time. I heard from some physician listeners, “Yeah, I just never thought about it that way. But no wonder I’m so exhausted.” If I’m at work and still worrying about what’s happening at daycare, whether somebody remembered all the pieces of equipment that they needed for the stuff that’s afterwards. And then, when I’m at home, it’s hard for me to turn off that I’m thinking about that particular case, how it’s presenting, waiting for the lab work to come in? So, how do you see that notion of contaminated time playing into the issue of the invisible workload of women?

Susan: First of all, I love that phrase. I wrote it down. I’m going to have to read that book because that’s exactly what it is, it is contaminated time. For women, I was telling the story yesterday that my children now are 23 and 21, and my 23-year-old son, Ryan was consistently– the principal and the teachers had me on speed dial, let’s just say that. Up until he was in the fifth grade, I was the first point of contact for the school. I would be going about my day, coaching clients, doing all the things, and fielding phone calls from the school and needing to resolve whatever was happening. When he reached fifth grade, I handed that over to my husband and changed the main point of contact at the school to Mr. Scott Hyatt, and I was like, “You can get these calls now, and have your workday interrupted, and figure out solutions throughout the day.”

In essence, I noticed how contaminated my workday was with solving those kinds of problems and decided to reassign that. But beyond that, yes, no matter what a woman is doing during the day, we have assumed the role, because that’s what we’re taught and trained to do about thinking ahead. “Oh, when I pick them up from school, I’m going to need to have snacks, oh, and they’re going to be upset that soccer is canceled.” So, I’m going to need to– It’s all of this accommodating that we’re thinking about and ruminating on planning ahead for our own safety, [laughs] mental health like, “Let me go ahead and make everything great for everyone.” That is exhausting. It’s like what if you pick them up and let them feel their feelings? What if you’re not the one trying to buffer and manage everyone’s emotions every moment of the day? What if you just let people experience life and not try to soften everything for everyone except yourself?

Jill: Yeah, that’s really thought provoking. I think that leads us into the solutions. Here’s a checklist of three ways to completely eradicate the invisible workload of women. We’re not trying to play in that game, but as coaches we do. Susan and I both like to think about, let’s identify the challenge and then look for solutions. The first solution is to identify the challenge and awareness.

Susan: Yes, it is.

Jill: Oh, I didn’t know there was a five and a half hour leisure gap and I can tell you from all the research and we’ve talked about it on the podcast many times before. Burnout happens when we don’t change the channel in our brain, and stop working, and take time to refill or refuel our tanks. That gap is real and will make you burnout faster as a female physician. The gap is real. 40% of female physicians within the first eight years of practicing medicine are significantly cutting back or leaving the practice of medicine. That’s not because people are lazy or not willing to work very, very, very, very hard. It’s at least partly because women are trying to be superhuman and we can’t. That’s not sustainable, when we want to have gender equality in the practice of medicine. I’m passionate about this. So, yes, I love identifying the problem and then being aware of it, so that you can start to take some other steps.


Another step that I think has to happen is that women have to, especially for physicians, because you’re so highly capable, the curse of the highly capable person is to think that you should just do everything because you might as well, because you can do it often better than other people. Female physicians have to be willing to let other people help. What do you have to say about that?


Susan: Yes. 100%. I have been guilty of this, because a lot of the pushback that women get when they do and that is the first step, going through your day and identifying all the things that you think are your part-time job, that maybe you don’t have to be the one to do. When presented to a spouse or partner, just know that spouses, even helpful ones can get defensive, because it’s the first time they’re becoming aware of this. Then what they typically will say and my husband said to me is like, “But you don’t like how I do it. I won’t do it how you want and I won’t do it when you want.” It’s being able to say okay, here’s the baseline expectations, and have at it, and let go of needing it to be done perfectly, and be done the way that you want it done.


Jill: Yeah, I think that’s excellent. And also, recognizing that maybe everything can’t be done by you and your spouse.


Susan: Mm-hmm.


Jill: There’s a lot of pressure that good, frugal, hard working people, and medical education is so grueling that physicians coming out of them the other side of medical education, they have the hard work and the overworked part down pat to the point where sometimes they don’t realize that a lot of the rest of the world isn’t working that hard. [laughs]


Susan: Right.

Jill: Really and there’s some good benefits that can come from not overworking to that level. One of the ways to do that is to offload or delegate by paying someone else to do things that maybe as a child, your mom did, if you’re a woman or sometimes, if you’re the offspring of physicians. Maybe she did have to do it all because the options weren’t there in the same way, but that doesn’t mean that you need to do it all. I really spend a lot of time especially with my physician clients, who are parents trying to get them to think about ways that they can offload, or delegate, or pay someone else besides even just their spouse to do stuff.

Susan: Let me tell you something. You’re bringing up something amazing and absolutely create the budget for it, because I’m an empty nester, and I have a personal assistant who does all the part-time job stuff. That’s what she does. That’s absolutely what she does. It frees up my time to write my next book, and have the time to sit, and do nothing. Like you were saying before, burnout is real. You must offload this stuff. You’re absolutely right, Jill. It doesn’t have to be you or your spouse. It can be someone paid to help.

Jill: Yeah, I know. I know that the initial startup for that can feel overwhelming particularly if you’re somebody who feels you’re firing on all cylinders, but it’s worth it right. The juice is worth the squeeze on that one. It’s worth training somebody who you trust and finding somebody who can drive your kids, so that you don’t have that time in the car, and it can be better spent going other things or doing your laundry, even if it’s different than the person who cleans your house and takes care of your kids. A lot of times, there’s this hidden rule that physicians will have for themselves like, “Well, I already have a nanny. So, therefore I’m getting help,” and not understanding that really this is a very taxing career. It does require some emotional and cognitive labor outside the actual– Nobody’s just working as a physician for eight hours in the clinic, or in the hospital, or in that setting. So, given that there needs to be some give and take in the rest of the workload that you’re taking on outside of your actual work duties.

Susan: Absolutely. Listen, times have changed and the world has changed, but what women ended up doing was going to work full time, and handling everything else that women were expected to handle as well, and that has to change. It has to do with our mental and physical health. You have to think that having someone do things that frees you up to have an actual life is going to help your patients, it’s going to help your overall family life, too.

Jill: Yeah, and it makes us all more sustainable into the future. We’ve talked about awareness, and just understanding, and knowing better. We’ve talked about communicating more clearly, really taking a look, I think you said, at what you are doing every single day, and looking at where you can divide it more evenly, and where there’s just been a lot of taking things on without awareness. Make room for some perhaps messy and even a little bit of conflict with the spouse or partner as you’re re-allocating some of these, looking for outside help to help support you, understanding that you are taking on a lot of this mental time and energy in that cognitive emotional labor as part of this. What else do our women physician listeners and our male physician listeners need to understand about the invisible workload of women to help turn the ship in a different direction as we are moving forward?

Susan: That change can happen that it’s not just, “Oh, this is how it is.” Changing your mindset around it, you don’t have to do things the way they’ve always been done, so that you can make meaningful change, and that you can benefit, and deserve to benefit from that change. My hope is that my granddaughters read about things like this and think, “Wow, that was a thing. Grandma dealt with that.” My highest intention is that everyone listening to this will just go be a journalist in their own life, and pay attention to what’s happening, and make a list, and just start creating solution focused plans.

Jill: I think that’s a great idea. I have participated in panels with physicians in the last year and I’m noticing such a change of people being willing to be more honest and a little bit vulnerable about these kinds of experiences and understanding the concepts in the research, but also naming how it shows up in their own lives and their own experiences. That’s part of the way I think that we paved the way for change and I’m with you. I think it’s 100% possible once we have the awareness, and we’re willing to get a little uncomfortable with some of these conversations and the idea that we don’t need to be perfect all the time. I’m excited about the future. Now that we know better, we can do better.

Susan: Yes.

Jill: Any other final thoughts, Susan and how can people get a hold of you if they want to check out the amazing work that you put into the world?

Susan: My final thought is, don’t just listen to this podcast episode and say that’s interesting and move on. I really want to challenge everyone listening to this like, get fired up, close that leisure gap, and if you want some more help closing the leisure gap, you can check me out. If you’re on Instagram @susanhyatt, my website is I’m also on Facebook and all the places. So, that’s where I hang out and I’m delighted to help anybody.

Jill: It’s been wonderful having you here. Thank you so much for joining us in this conversation. I love all my conversations with you, but particularly, this one and this subject matter is near and dear to both of our hearts. Today’s episode was brought to you by DocWorking Thrive, which is a subscription based coaching program just for physicians. We have coaching support, we have peer support. It is a fantastic community. If you’re feeling burnout, and tired, and you need to make a shift, go to right now and check out DocWorking Thrive. Tell your friends about us. We can’t wait to see you next time on DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. Until then, I’m Jill Farmer.


Amanda: I’m Amanda Taran, producer of DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. Thank you so much for listening. Please don’t forget to like and subscribe, and head over to to see all we have to offer.


Jill Farmer is an experienced physician coach who has been helping doctors live their best lives, increase their success, and move through burnout for well over a decade.

She has delivered keynotes, programs, and training everywhere from Harvard Medical School to the American College of Cardiology.

She has personally coached hundreds of physicians, surgeons, and other busy professionals to help them be at their best—without burning themselves out. Her coaching has supported professionals at places like Mass General Brigham in Boston, Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern University in Chicago and too many others to list.

Jill wrote the book on time management for busy people. Literally. It’s called “There’s Not Enough Time…and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves” which debuted as a bestseller on Amazon. Her work has been featured everywhere from Inc. to Fitness Magazine to The Washington Post.

Nationally recognized as a “brilliant time optimizer and life maximizer,” Jill will cut straight to the heart of your stress to liberate you from its shackles. She has two young adult daughters. She lives with her husband and their poorly behaved dachshund in St. Louis, MO.

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