After a few months of freedom, I don’t think I could ever go back to being an employed physician. The flexibility enables me to be the person I always wanted to be. I’ve been able to show up for my family, give lectures, invest in my patients, network, write, build, and engage in so many ways I never could have in typical practice.
Time management was never a struggle for me in the past. No joke, I had a planner in fifth grade. It was by Five Star. Since residency, I was always on somebody else’s schedule, so time management did not matter all that much. That went on in practice. When I was at work, I was at work and when I was at home I was still at mostly at work, but the hours outside of the house were mostly fixed. My day was also distinctly separated by location. While I was in the clinic or hospital, my primary purpose was caring for patients. When I was home, taking care of my kids was my main job.
Now it is completely different. My days are dynamic. My days are a constant interweaving of patient care, home care, child care, meal prep, self care, business development, wifing, writing, design, networking. It is so much fun. This is the life I dreamed of for as long as I remember. However, as someone who prides herself on an incredible ability to plan and not being flaky, I’m embarrassed to say that for the first time in my life, I have literally forgotten to show up to a couple of meetings in the past few months.
I realized the hard way, if something is not on my calendar, it will not get done. Knowing this, when my son was still nursing, I even scheduled in his breastfeeding slots onto my calendar. Over time, I noticed patterns for when things are going to slip through the cracks. Two specific situations stand out. One, I get a call when I’m with my kids and schedule a meeting then get wrapped up with them again before putting it on my calendar. Another tough situation is when my phone is blowing up. Hammer calls are a recipe for disaster and I have not figured out exactly how to navigate them. I’m talking about the situation when I schedule a meeting and then answer a call waiting before I can add the original meeting to my schedule. This gets very confusing.
I have learned a few things in my brief period as a mompreneur to stay organized and to manage my time.
- Try to always answer your phone if possible during work hours and possibly a little beyond (I mean until 6 p.m. not 11p.m.). The phone tag that ensues from not answering is often way more time consuming than simply answering the original call.
- Have a method to annotate calls and messages you leave, and a plan and method for follow up. Creating a dated task list helps.
- Put everything on your calendar immediately. You will get busy and forget later, and this can lead to embarrassing situations where you stand someone up for a meeting that you had every intention of going to.
- If you do telemedicine, block off time where you will do phone or video follow ups (I need to start doing this).
- Set limits and boundaries with yourself and your patients — family time is sacred and you can let non-urgent messages wait until you are free.
- Give yourself some extra time because things always take longer than expected. I’m constantly struggling with this.
- Be okay with turning some meetings and opportunities down. You cannot do it all well and your time is valuable. Do not take a meeting just to be nice if it does not serve you. If you have no interest in what the other party is offering, you are wasting their time, too.
- Just like your time is valuable, so is other people’s. Do not steal others’ time and try your best to be on time.
- Do not put things off — you will never have more time later.
- Remember to have fun! Your schedule is finally yours!
Arti Thangudu, MD, is an endocrinologist and a 2018–2019 Doximity Author. She specializes in Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism and is a mom of two beautiful kiddos under three! She has started her own lifestyle and preventative medicine clinic called Complete Medicine in San Antonio. She has also contributed to Medscape and KevinMD. Outside of work, Dr. Thangudu enjoys traveling, cooking, and spending time with her husband and two children.
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