A physician’s experience with time stress

I have two Achilles’ heels.  Two mental health issues that continually challenge me no matter how introspective and self-aware I become.  One is food.  I have talked before about how food was my money.  As annoying as that can be, I feel like I have a good hold on that one.  With the right intentions and self-control, I no longer have to wrestle with this demon as frequently.  The other is time.  I am constantly under time stress. Constantly.  Even when there is no reason.  I am always aware of every clock in a room and can often be seen glancing up at them.

This has been my constant struggle.  I have spent half my life rushing through activities to make sure that I am in the right place at the right time for the next event.  While on the surface a good quality, it provides unnecessary stress to myself, my family, and my colleagues.

Why can’t I just slow down?

The good

I am efficient.  Super efficient.  My awareness of time and my ability to manage time stress has definitely been beneficial throughout my career.  They have helped in the process of work bursting, and allowed me to manage several different tasks at once.

I tend to show up early to meetings and tasks, and usually finish before the allotted time.

Why is this important?  Because it allows me to accomplish double to triple what most people do in an average day.  I have found that there are many extra minutes in a twenty-four hour period.  How you use those minutes may be the difference between being extra productive and wasting your time.

Although you may find this unbelievable, the reason I am so efficient is because I like to finish.  I am lazy by nature.  I want to have the extra time to sit around and read a book or lounge on the couch.

Doc G?  Lazy?

No, really.  I am one of the most hard-working lazy people you know.

The bad

Efficiency is one thing, rushing is another.  And I rush with the best of them.  I bound out of bed every morning and spend the rest of the day running.  Does this sound fun to you?  Some days it is, but others it is incredibly tiring.  My sense of time stress won’t let me slow down.  I am always pushing to finish so I can get to the next thing.

This is annoying.  Not only for me, but those poor people who have to deal with me on a daily basis.  While others want to socialize and relax, I am like the energizer bunny.  I never slow down.

I’m sure you have been blessed by dealing with someone like me.  Likely you roll your eyes after they leave the room and then pop a sedative.

The ugly

“Dad, will you stop rushing me please?”

I would like to think that this is not a regular complaint from my kids, but I would be lying.  Sometimes my time stress bleeds into family events.  I can see the look on my wife’s face as I zoom out the door and she doesn’t even have her jacket on yet.

This little foible of mine is often more than just a foible, and effects my relationships with the people I love.

As much as I try to slow down, I find that my best intentions are like kittens to this lion that afflicts me.

Final thoughts

Time stress is my biggest mental health issue.  It has been with me since childhood, and seems only to abate for brief periods.  It is hard to let go of this habit that has made me ultra successful.  A habit, however, that strains relationships and annoys people.

I have become intentional about trying to break the pattern, and use meditation and guided visualization to work on this issue.  I also try to force myself to be late occasionally by placing roadblocks in the way of timeliness.

Some days I am better than others.

It’s a work in progress.

“DocG” is a physician who blogs at DiverseFI.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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