A few nights ago, I lay sleepless in my bed for hours, mind racing with thoughts of everything that I need to do. Studying for fellowship, studying for my exam, patients to see, dictations to complete, presentations to prepare, extra work shifts to pay off my upcoming vacation, running, keeping my home from decaying into chaos. The list seemed never ending, and it was enough to send me into a middle of the night near panic.
The next day, while I dragged my tired and still stressed out self through the hospital, I started thinking about ways to make the next year easier (or, if not easier, then at least possible). Here's what I came up with:
1) Saying No: I am regularly being approached by people to participate in research projects or supervise clinical exams or take on extra shifts or give presentations now that I'm a fellow. And then there's family and friends, who want me to go to concerts and take cooking lessons and help them move and attend their weddings. Saying "yes" to everything that has been asked of me is what got me into my current mess. My new answer? No. No no no no no no no no. To pretty much everything that isn't absolutely necessary until I get my feet under me again.
This is really hard for me, as I like to be someone who is there for my family and friends, especially when they're going through difficult times. But I've come to realize that this next year is a difficult time for me, and I need to be selfish through it. I actually told my mom (only partially kidding) that she should consider herself to not have a daughter for the next year, because I just won't have the time for her that I have in the past.
2) Accepting Imperfection: Is anyone surprised that someone in medicine would be a perfectionist? I inevitably take too long to do just about everything because I want it to be perfect, and even then I'm often still disappointed by things that don't live up to my standards. My new standards? Good enough.
3) Organization: Yesterday I wasted an hour and a half because I had written down the timing of a doctor's appointment incorrectly. While I've gotten pretty good at keeping track of my schedule, I can still do better, and doing so can only help me to save time.
4) Single Tasking: My efficiency at just about everything is decreased by Facebook, email, text messages, and other distracting technologies. I'm really trying to keep all of these things turned off while I'm working or studying.
5) Finishing Work Before Relaxing: After studying, I have the bad habit of immediately collapsing in front of my tv for an hour. While this is enjoyable and a nice reward, it inevitably leaves me to do all my life maintenance tasks (reviewing the next day's schedule, replying to emails, packing a lunch) just before going to bed, which gets me stressed and revved up again. My new approach is to get all of those things done right after studying (or while taking study breaks to clear my mind) so that the end of the day is just for relaxing.
6) Forgiving Myself: I feel like I shouldn't be struggling with time management or anxiety or feelings of overwhelm anymore at my age. I should have everything figured out and be able to do this with ease. But I don't, and I can't. This is hard. So I need to go easy on myself as I transition into one of the busiest and most stressful years of my training thus far.
Nothing in here is particularly earth-shattering, but I think it's still valuable to write these thoughts down, both for the help it gives to me and the help it might give to others. If nothing else, hopefully it makes people who are struggling feel less alone. I get it.
I just realized that I can still get in on the Medical Mondays action, even though Monday is but a remote memory of a lovely holiday spent on the couch with too much takeout. If you haven't already, check out some of the other great blogs that are participating.