I frequently get asked how I balance my schedule as a physician who is also involved in lots of different things outside of clinical medicine. As any reader of my blog knows, I like to stay busy! As well as my work as a frontline physician (which I absolutely love and have no intention of ever leaving)- – doing a mixture of inpatient and outpatient work, I also am involved in other ventures including startup work. I’ve always known from when I was in medical school that I had a creative side to me, that would seek other outlets for my ideas and energy levels. Every week is different, and I like to keep things interesting and varied — striving for zero chance of boredom! But at the same time, I’ve never believed that life is all about work, and was fortunately blessed with parents who encouraged me right from a very young age, to do lots of other things in my spare time, including traveling and getting outdoors to play sports.
I’m going to talk you through my typical weekday schedule. While every day is different, I’ve tried staying true to the broad schedule most of the time.
My daily schedule as a physician
4:30 – 5 a.m.: Wake up. I actually haven’t always been a morning person, but have trained myself to become this way, based on what I’ve learned and read about the habits of the most successful people.
5 – 5:30 a.m.: Confirm my daily agenda and catch up on a few things from overnight. Browse through emails, read through the news quickly, and perhaps start writing something.
5:30 – 6 a.m.: A quick workout, at least 20 minutes of cardiovascular with some weight training. I am not a big breakfast person, and will typically have a healthy cereal bar with a cup of tea (I do not drink coffee).
6:30 – 7 a.m.: Arrive at the hospital and start rounding on patients. I like to get the day started as early as possible, because an hour in the morning is worth three at any other time of day.
7 a.m. – 1 p.m.: See patients, get plans in place, prioritizing the sickest patients first. Usually, stop for a brief break around 1030am to gather my thoughts, clear my mind, accompanied by a fresh juice or cup of tea (plus/minus another cereal bar depending on how hungry I am!).
1 p.m.: Catch up on emails and any other messages. Typically have a small healthy lunch, before getting right back to work.
1 – 5 p.m.: Continue rounding on or discharging patients and admitting new ones via the Emergency room. See some patients a second time and usually have family meetings during this time as well. I have a to-do list that I create during my day, and as the afternoon progresses, check my way through these items. Tasks may include calling other doctors and chasing up results. Oh, and I usually always have a cup of Earl Grey tea around 4 p.m. (an English thing I guess).
5 – 5:30 p.m.: Aim to finish work in the hospital. Barring any emergency, I am not one to hang around very late in the evenings at work. I’d far rather start the day much earlier, so I can get home at a reasonable time.
6 p.m.: Fortunately, I’ve never lived far from where I work (did you know research shows that for every increment your commute is more than 30 minutes, your job dissatisfaction goes dramatically up?). When I get home, I may have a healthy snack such as an apple or banana.
6 – 7:30 p.m.: I will often exercise again for 30 minutes or so, either at the gym or go for a quick run, before showering and feeling fresh again after a long day. I will then catch up with my own (startup) work-related emails, write, and perform any other home-related errands quickly — like opening the mail, doing the washing.
7:30 p.m.+: I am pretty strict about having evenings to myself, and at least one complete day a week where I’m not working or going at 110% light speed! Whether it’s catching up with friends, going on a date, enjoying a Netflix show, Lindy Hop swing dancing (my latest hobby) or just doing nothing — this is my time! Phone and internet away, please. Dinner is also around this time, but rarely after 8:30 p.m.
10 p.m.: Assuming I’m working in the hospital again the next day, I’ll be in bed by this time. May have a real quick catch up on emails around this time. Oh, and I always try to read before going to bed. We all have our own optimal sleep amounts (studies suggest ideal sleep for most people is between 6 and 8 hours). For me, it’s around 6.5 hours.
Suneel Dhand is an internal medicine physician and author. He is the founder, DocSpeak Communications and co-founder, DocsDox. He blogs at his self-titled site, Suneel Dhand.
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