You didn’t sign up for this. You don’t have to drown in the paperwork.

This is not what I signed up for.

Have you ever said this when you are rushing home 1.5 hours after the last patient left and you still haven’t finished all your charting? You grab a handful of forms to take home with you with the hopeful expectation that you will get them done tonight too. After you have done “enough” to appear to be a present parent and prepared supper and said goodnight to the kids, that is.

You sink into the couch at the end of the household rush with the guilty constant “should be” invading your every breath. I should be finishing my notes. I should go empty that inbox. I should tackle one or two of those forms. But your body feels heavy, and your couch entraps you with its soft embrace, you open Facebook and disappear.

Later you plod heavily to bed and allow yourself rest only to wake an hour or so later with another “should.”

“I’m awake anyway, I should just get those chart notes done, or I will never get back to sleep.” You exit the warm bed and the sound of your husband sleeping soundly and wake up your computer.

10 chart notes and 70 results. You get started and despise every minute of your feet getting cold on the study floor and knowing how uncomfortable it is going to be to wake up in the morning and get through the day with less than six hours of sleep.

Finally, at 3 a.m., a sense of accomplishment, the chart notes are done, and the results checked. Many of which you read three times in indecision. You close the difficult results and leave them for later.

You wander back to bed, rewarm your feet and toss and turn back to sleep.

Day after day.

Each day you punish yourself for not keeping up with the work, for getting grouchy with phone requests and patients wanting to be fitted in. You wonder if anyone else gets it. You wonder if anyone is on your side.

The text from your husband at 6 p.m. — “Where are you?” or “When are you going to be home?” You know that the last patient left at 5 p.m., and you feel like you have been putting out fires and working flat out since then. You have forgotten to text to say when you will be home. You are starting the evening off on the wrong foot again.

He asks, “Can’t you just text me to tell me when you will be home,” this seems like a reasonable request. “No,” my mind screams, the pile was all-consuming, and there was no end in sight. In fact, I left the pile incomplete and will restart it at 11 p.m. tonight when you are sleeping soundly.

I want to scream. I want to tell him that I am drowning. Instead, I just say, “sorry.”

Tomorrow comes, and the patients are gone, back into the inbox. The 6.30 p.m. text arrives. Oh hell, I’ve done it again. I close it all down, grab the pile of papers in my inbox, and scramble to get home.

I grab a glass of wine or a gin and tonic as I prepare dinner and again on the couch after supper.

I tell myself it’s going to get better. It has to change eventually. I ask senior colleagues how they manage, but they admit to working in the evening and on weekends.

This is not what I signed up for. It feels like it is sucking my life away.

I have no hobbies, no goals, weight gain, and a borderline drinking problem.

Then one day, I discovered life coaching, in a podcast, on my way to give a presentation to the medical students. Let’s just say it changed my life and gave me hope.

I got a life coach, and I inspected and scrutinized everything I did. Everything.

I said it was impossible to keep up with your charting. I was wrong.

I said it was impossible to have an evening free of paperwork. I was wrong.

I said it was impossible to exercise. I was wrong.

I said it was impossible to gets forms done the same week I got them. I was wrong

I said it was impossible to know what time I would be finished for the day. I was wrong.

I said it was impossible to have a weekend. I was wrong.

My clinical day became unrecognisable.

I could see my booked patients and extra’s and still be home on time.

I could leave work with all my charting and results done.

I could stop drinking and not miss it.

I could have fabulous evening meals and great mealtime conversations with my family.

I could have a better relationship with my husband.

I could sleep all night and have the energy to exercise in the morning.

I could make goals and take on projects as I had time and energy, and mental space.

I want you to know that nothing changes unless you actually make time to scrutinize everything and plan for change.

But it is possible if you allow yourself to stop and decide what changes you want to achieve.

I encourage you to find your way out of despair.

Find your system and processes for getting home with everything done.

Get the help you need. Consider a life coach.

Start creating time for the things you love.

You don’t have to drown in the paperwork.

Sarah J. Smith is a family physician and can be reached at the Charting Coach. She can also be reached on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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