The Physician Philosopher Podcast

TPP #20: Building a Hell Yes Policy

Have you ever looked at your life and thought to yourself, “I never have the time to do what I want?” I’m sure a lot of us have felt this way before.

That’s what this episode is all about! There is a way to create a life that is happening FOR you not just TO you. You don’t have to be burdened by all the things you don’t want to do. There’s a way to create time only for the things that matter most.

Now is the perfect time for you to create your very own Hell Yes Policy and make it the guideline for how you make your decisions. It will change your whole life!

Today You’ll Learn

  • How to create and live by your very own Hell Yes Policy.
  • How my Hell Yes Policy has absolutely changed my life.
  • How to avoid doing the things that you hate and wasting your time.
  • How to create time for the things that you care about them most!
  • And more!

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Do you ever feel like life is happening to you rather than for you? Or do you constantly feel busy, or there's never enough time in the day, or there's always something to be done? Maybe it's time to start saying no to some things so that you can start saying hell yes to what actually matters.

This is the Physician Philosopher podcast. I'm Dr. Jimmy Turner, an anesthesiologist, personal finance blogger, and life coach for doctors. The Physician Philosopher podcast teaches you how to create the life that you deserve, one thought at a time. Start before you're ready. Start by starting. Start now.

Hey, hey, hey, everyone. Welcome to episode number 20 of the Physician Philosopher podcast, where we take an uncurated and unapologetic look into physicians' life. Today's thought is this. When you say yes to one thing, you are saying no to something else. So before you say yes, consider whether the new opportunity is worth the cost.

Before we get to the show, I do want to mention an awesome opportunity that I really don't want you to miss out on, the Alpha Coaching Experience, our premier coaching program meant specifically to help doctors find balance and create the life they want and deserve. That's going to be opening on February 13th. However, you don't have to wait to say that you're interested. In fact, the wait list is open right now and if you sign up for the wait list, which only means that you're interested, you want to learn more information about coaching for doctors, but you do decide to enroll in the program, there's going to be a $500 discount off the pricing when coaching for the Alpha Coaching Experience enrollment opens in February. So by signing up for the wait list, you're just saying that you want to learn more about the Alpha Coaching Experience. And this online coaching program includes coaching on a variety of topics, including life coaching for burned-out doctors, career coaching for those thinking about making a transition, and it even includes business coaching for those considering starting an online physician side gig.

So, if you're a doctor who feels overwhelmed by all the responsibilities you have as a partner, parent, and physician, you're burned out or looking for options, or maybe you just want to see what's causing all this buzz with this physician coaching stuff, the Alpha Coaching Experience wait list is now open. Make sure to sign up so that you can get your exclusive discount when enrollment opens in February. You can do that by visiting thephysicianphilosopher.com/waitlist, or by clicking the link in the show description in your podcast player. Now back to the show.

All right, everybody. Welcome to episode number 20. I'm so excited to be here. I'm so excited that you're listening in, and I just want to say thanks. In this new year, as we get started with being intentional with our lives, I just want to let you know that I have this podcast, right, and it's about coaching and it's about helping you figure out how to have a more intentional life, the one that you want, the one that you dreamed of, and building a life that you deserve. When you get asked, "Hey, how's it going," you say, "Living the dream," like you actually mean it. That's what this podcast is about. And so I just want to say thanks for listening and thanks for being here.

And I also want to just recognize that a lot of these topics that I podcast about are things that I struggle with and coaching is like lifting weights, right? You don't just learn something one time and then go apply it and you've got it forever. It's like exercising. You have to keep practicing. You got to make mistakes. You got to learn and unlearn, learn and unlearn and then relearn things that you've taught yourself.

And so, as I've personally gone through this journey as a client, on the client side of things, I just want to let you know that even though I podcast about stuff, I'm totally swimming in the pool with you here. I am in the muck, in the mire, in the arena with you, and so I just want to pitch that out there before I talk about this topic today, because this topic is really important.

It's something that hopefully you'll relate to, but it continues to be part of my journey as I fail at this all the time. I fail at it all of the time and I have to remind myself of what's important and being intentional. So as we dive into this, I just want to let you know, I'm not preaching at you from up on a soapbox. I'm standing right next to you and just saying, "Hey, this is what's worked for me in the past." Let's remind ourselves of that and the truth that's there so that we can hold each other accountable, that we can become better partners, parents, and physicians. So as we dive into this topic, I'm just going to unapologetically admit that I'm totally here with you. But that said, what I'm about to discuss has been really life-changing for me, so hopefully it will be for you, as well.

And as we start, I was reminded recently of one of the first clients that I worked with as a coach, and he would constantly come to calls and be like, "You know, I just feel like there's never enough time in the day. There's always something to be doing." He constantly felt like life's happening to him and that he was never able to be in the moment. And usually when he made those comments, what he meant was that when he was home, he wasn't really home. He was still at work. He was still doing things. He was still checking his emails. He was still on his phone. He was never actually present and able to enjoy the moment.

When we dove into these topics through coaching, what was revealed was that most of his time was being spent on administrative tasks at the hospital, clinical work, book chapters that people would ask him to write, and other projects, and research, and teaching, and meetings.

And when he sat back and thought about it, what was being lost, or time spent on those things was costing him time that could have been spent with his wife, who was also a busy doc, and his kids, and that he had other habits or things, goals that he wanted to accomplish that he wasn't accomplishing or really focusing on, like getting healthy and exercising more, and eating better, and things that have been a goal of his for some time now.

And so it was really actually pretty interesting because coaching revealed what was happening in his life unintentionally, and then he realized, "Oh, that's not actually what I want. Let's see if I can fix this." And what was happening to this doc was that by saying yes to everything professionally, he was implicitly saying no to so many things personally, and that is super interesting because that happens to all of us.

And I could totally relate. I'd been through some of the same experiences a couple of years before and if I'm being honest, this is one of the biggest struggles to this day. This is something that I have to remind myself to fight the good fight on all of the time. I'm totally in the arena dealing with the same problem all of the time. And the reason why is because for the majority of residency, my fellowship, and even my first year or two as an attending, I was really considered the go-getter. I was the person that you come and ask if you really wanted to get something done. In the research arena, I was doing research as a resident. I published multiple randomized controlled trials in my first year as an attending. I was working a lot clinically, more than one FTE at the time, winning teaching awards, and I was still married to an amazing wife. And Kristen and I, we have three kids, and I was running the Physician Philosopher business.

I had so much going on. And before I realized that, all of these things that I had going on, all these things I was saying yes to were making me say no to other things that on paper were important to me, but my life wasn't reflecting that. During that time, I, outwardly, at least, seemed to have it all figured out and I was just being able to balance all these balls in the air and doing it relatively well. And actually, I didn't feel too overwhelmed. I'll admit. I was busy. I was always busy, but I didn't feel overwhelmed at that point.

But then we made a change as a family. My wife, Kristen, is an educator and she's always worked. I guess there was a year after our first kid where she stayed home, but she's always worked and she is a gifted teacher. She's a gifted educator. I always tell people that she's a better educator than I am a doctor. And I'm no slouch. I'm actually pretty good at what I do, but my wife, it is what she was born to do. She is a gifted teacher.

And so Kristen had been working part-time and made the decision, she found a job that sounded just perfect, too good to pass up in terms of her professional fulfillment, and so she started working full-time as an educator. And so all of those things that I mentioned above that I was doing, the work on the business, the research, the clinical work, the teaching, all of that stuff, that all stayed the same for me. And when Kristen went full-time, what changed is that my responsibilities as a dad tripled.

I was now picking kids up. I was dropping them off. I was cooking dinner, cleaning dishes, helping with laundry, all things that should absolutely be expected of me. I was glad to do these things, but now all of these additional responsibilities and bouncing even more balls in the air and to-do lists and details. And I'll be honest, my personality, normally I'll say that, and this thought is not very helpful. I'll throw that out there. But details normally stress me out. Big picture, abstract stuff, philosophical stuff, concepts, constructs, those don't bother me. I can do that all day. That stresses some other people out. Not what stresses me out. What stresses me out is details, right. So, big picture stuff, patients dying in the operating room, doesn't stress me out. I can sort through that. I can figure it out. It's something that I actually really enjoy doing, helping people in their worst moments, but man, details, when to pick kids up, when to drop them off, meal prep, oh gosh.

So when that happened, for the first time in my life, this go-getter, this person who always got things done, was the person people came and asked to figure out how to find balance and just constantly be productive, I couldn't hack it. For the first time in my life, I couldn't hack it. I couldn't balance everything and that's when my burnout started to really peak. I'd already started to burnout at work with additional tasks and things that were asked of me, but when that happened, it really felt like any additional thing that was added to my plate was like another 50-pound boulder that was being placed on my back. I just couldn't carry the weight anymore.

And so I started noticing that because little things started getting magnified, little things that I didn't like, like additional emails or additional tasks at work, or how I felt was that everyone else was causing my misery, that the other people in my life, the culture in the operating room or whatever, was causing my burnout. I started blaming everyone else, basically. And I'll reference you to episode number 10 on It's All Your Fault to deal with those thoughts.

But I basically was the victim of burnout. It was everyone else's fault, and I slowly realized that I'd given my power over to everyone and everything else in my life and I started realizing that I felt powerless. I felt like there was nothing I could do. I felt like I had all these responsibilities that I should say yes to, and it was making me say no to so many important things in my life, including my health, including exercising, including my kids, including my wife, including just so many things that on paper are my top priorities, my faith.

And so I realized after working on my thoughts that I was giving my power over to all of these other things that actually, in real life, are optional. They just never felt optional before. Then I also started to realize that there are some circumstances, after you do the thought work, that make it easier to have healthier thoughts and to have healthier feelings and the actions and results I wanted in my life.

And so the problem was this. Time is one of those truly finite resources. We only get so much of it. None of us know how much that's going to be. You could get hit by a bus walking out after listening to this podcast episode. I could walk upstairs and trip and break my neck. We just never know. Accidents happen. Life happens. We're in a pandemic. So, as an example, we just don't know, but we only get so much time.

Now, money is not that way. Publications are not that way. Awards, accolades, all of those things are potentially limitless. You can earn as much money as you want in this world, believe it or not. And that's actually a healthy money thought to have, that money isn't scarce, that you can just go out and create value and earn money. I could publish more papers, I could do more research, I could win more awards, but I only get a certain amount of time. It's finite.

So, put your money where your mouth is, where are you giving most of your time? Or sometimes better said, who is getting most of your time? And that is what is important. Having the unintentional thought examination, like that doc that I was talking about at the beginning of the podcast, right. Once he figured out, "Oh gosh, I'm saying yes to all of these things. I'm saying no to my wife, and my kids, and being in the moment and being healthy."

That was the fundamental examination and the same thing happened to me. I started realizing I can't deal with all of this stuff. I'm truly overwhelmed. I cannot hack it anymore. I have too much stuff going on and my mental health started to deteriorate. I started getting burned out. I found I had Graves' disease. I got put on an anti-depressant for the first time in my life. When all that was happening, I just couldn't deal, right. And this is when it occurred to me that when I was saying yes to one thing, I was saying no to something else that really mattered, and I realized that is just not who I want to be or where I want to be.

And so what I did, at the time, is that I built a hell yes policy to fight back. So I started saying no to things that don't make me say hell yes, and that included lots of nos. And they were very strange to lots of people because I was pretty young in my career and they're like, "Wait." This go-getter, this young person in their career who we normally asked to do a bunch of stuff because they have that energy, they have that charisma, they have that go getter attitude, I started saying no to committees. I started saying no to lectures, and meetings, and book chapters, and research studies that I wasn't interested in, and people started giving me a really weird side-eye like, "Ah, what do you mean?" No, no, it's not a priority to me. This is not what's important to me right now.

And I started saying yes to more things like, at the time, taking kids to school and picking them up, or cooking dinner and doing dishes, and I started try to really hard to make my kids T-ball practice at the time. I really wanted to go every time I could, or taking my girls to gymnastics.

And really, that is what helped move me in the right direction, was this hell yes policy. So I want to talk to you a little bit more about that. And really, where that comes from in coaching, is that coaching is all about recognizing what we're doing unintentionally and then asking if we really want it to be that way. Finally, if we don't, making more intentional decisions to better reflect our priorities.

So the first way to really help get a better grasp of this is to really be specific about what's happening in your life. Get some coaching. Write down your thoughts. Break out pen and paper and figure out what are you currently spending most of your time on, actually, not what do you think you're spending your time on. Write it down, be specific, go through your last week, and hour by hour, think about what you're spending your time on and write down the facts.

And then after doing that, have a honest reflection on whether those hours reflect your priorities, right. So if you're spending five hours in the week on meetings that you don't want to go to, accomplishing things that you don't really care about, does that align with your priorities? Now, if the meetings are about things that you are passionate about and they're accomplishing things that you really want to accomplish in your life, then absolutely be honest about that, too. But if they're not, it's time to be honest. It's time to face the music and that's the next step. So get your thoughts out about pen and paper, then be honest. Get coaching. Figure out, okay, I have an idea of where I spend my time. What are my actual priorities?

Is it your friends? Is it your family? Is it your business? Is it research? Is it the residents or fellows or students that you teach? Is it your kids? Is it your wife? Is it your partner, your parent, your spouse, your whatever the people are in your life. What is important to you? What are you currently saying no to? Are those the same things? Does your priority list look a whole lot like the people that you're in things that you're saying no to right now?

If you write down your priorities and your priorities are, for example, for me, it was Kristen, my wife, our three kids, my business, so the Physician Philosopher, and because we're trying to help as many doctors as we can build the life they deserve and we're trying to help people figure their way out of burnout and find options and autonomy and freedom. It was my residents and fellows at Wake.

And when I was being honest, I wrote down these priorities, and my faith, and I was not meeting those things. I wasn't doing what I wanted to. My health. Those are the four or five things that made my list and I wasn't doing those things. I looked at my list of priorities and then I looked at the list of things that I'm saying no to, and man, they looked really similar, and all the stuff I was saying yes to did not at all look like the priority list I had just laid out. So I had to be honest. And then I had to ask myself the really tough question, "Am I okay saying no to these things?"

When I look back on my life five or 10 years from now, am I going to be glad that I did another research study with my name on it in some journal that I don't care about that I don't read, instead of going fishing with my kids or playing golf with them or painting at the table or going to gymnastics practice, or T-ball practice back before there was a pandemic. Am I okay saying no to that? And I had to be honest, the answer was no.

I wasn't okay saying no to Kristen. I wasn't okay saying no to my three kids, or the Physician Philosopher, or my residents at Wake. I felt like so many things were getting put on the back burner because of other opportunities I'd said yes to. And let's be clear, just because you're saying no to something doesn't mean it's not important. It doesn't mean that someone else isn't interested in doing it. It doesn't mean it's not a priority for someone else. It's just not a priority for you.

And that's not selfish. It's actually selfless because you're trying to show up authentically as who you are and what you are and accomplishing the goals that are important for you in your life. And I had to let go of that. I honestly, one of the big things that I had let go of was this idea of letting other people down because I'm such a people pleaser. It's so hard for me to say no to people and it's hard for me to not accomplish things that people recognize that I can accomplish because there are a lot of things that I'm good at.

And all of you listening feel the same way, right? There are a lot of things you're really good at, so when someone comes up to you and says, "Hey, can you help me with X, Y, or Z," and it happens to be in your wheelhouse of things that you are good at, you feel bad saying no sometimes because you're like, "Oh man, it really is in my skillset and it really would be helpful for them. Why am I saying no?"

And the reason why is because when you say yes to it, you're saying no to other things that .you have explicitly and intentionally said are more important to you when you say yes to one thing, you are saying no to another. So just because you're good at it, just because you can, does not mean that you should. Those are very different things. And should statements can be very, very powerful because at the end of the day, they're judgemental statements, right. "Ah, I should do that. I could do that and be really helpful with that research project that they asked me about because I've gotten a bunch of IRBs is through, and I'm used to dealing with all this stuff and conducting clinical trials."

Just because I can and just because I would be good at it doesn't mean that I should. But when I think in my mind, "Man, I should do that because they need help," if I don't, I'm doing something that I just said that I shouldn't. So it's a judgemental statement. And so I'm going to feel bad about it instead of saying this doesn't align with my priorities. Just being honest. What that means is that you need to be intentional, be honest, and then create your hell yes policy.

So I mentioned some things that are on mine, my wife, Kristen, our three kids. I started trying to be a little more intentional about that, scheduling time dates with Kristen, breakfasts, for example, that we could eat outside, having talks, that sort of thing. The Physician Philosopher, I started asking for more time off work clinically so that I could work more on that.

My residents and fellows at Wake, so being a fellowship director at Wakes continues to be a priority and I really enjoy doing that, so long as my department will let me and I can balance all the things that I'm trying to do, but the second that they don't, it's not, that may be something that gets left by the wayside if, at the time, it's not grooving with my other priorities, right.

So this is something that's in flex. It can work. But the important part about the hell yes policy is not just to list the things that are important to you, right, so that you can say hell yes. Basically, you're saying no to anything that doesn't make you say hell yes. That is a hell yes policy. Say no to anything that doesn't make you say hell yes. But that first part is equally important as defining what should you say hell yes to, what are your priorities, is saying no. So say no to anything else. That's the other part of the hell yes policy.

And I'll be completely honest. I'm unapologetic about this at this point. So I recently got asked to help with the social media lecture for teaching faculty how to brand themselves better online with social media, and the person was like, "Hey yeah, I noticed you have 4,000 Twitter followers and a successful online business and a website, and that you are also on Facebook and running webinars and all this other stuff. It'd be great if you could help with this lecture." And I basically told the person like, "Hey, I appreciate you noticing that I might be helpful in that role. I don't have the time right now. This is not a priority for me. I've got a lot going on and I'm going to focus my time elsewhere."

And the person, it's like their jaw dropped, like, "Oh gosh." That was really raw and honest. I just told them like, "My priorities are elsewhere right now." Now that doesn't mean I couldn't have done it. That doesn't mean I wouldn't have been good at it. It doesn't mean I couldn't have given the lecture. And in times past, I've been like, "Oh gosh, yeah, I really could give that lecture. That might be helpful for people. I should say yes," but now I'm saying no, because I know that the second I say yes to that, I'm saying no to something else that needs to happen. I'm saying no to my clients that I'm coaching. I'm saying no to things that I'm building for them. I'm saying no to my wife and my kids because of time I'd have to spend prepping for that lecture.

And so I also started saying no to non-priority tasks like research projects I'm not interested in. I used to be involved in a bunch and now I'm only involved in the ones that I actually really care about, and they're becoming fewer and fewer by the day. I'm saying no to unnecessary modules that every workplace makes you do. I got a module on how to deal with heart attacks, for example. I'm an anesthesiologist. If I can't diagnose and treat a myocardial infarction, I should not have a job. No, I'm not going to do the module on heart attack recognition. Not going to happen. That's meant for people that are not physicians who commonly do that. I said no to added steps at work. If you're going to make me click more clicks, every single patient that I have, I'm just going to say, "Hey, you need to do that for me."

I started saying, "No, that adds time to my day, and patient after patient, that might be hours of my year. No, not doing it." My emails, I stopped looking at them all the time. I started batching them. I started actually, to be honest, I handed my business emails for the main account over to my business manager because they were taking up so much of my time with things that we could build a process around to respond to people, and then when I was really needed, they could let me know. I'm freeing up my time to do other things that I want to say hell yes to. I want to say hell yes to my clients in my coaching program. I want to say hell yes to creating content that's helpful for them. I want to say hell yes to this podcast. I want to say hell yes to a variety of other things, my family, my health, exercising, all of this stuff. But in order for me to do that, I have to say no. I've got to be honest about my priorities and say no to things that don't make this list.

And so I encourage anyone listening to examine what you've been doing and where you're spending your time. Maybe write down a list of priorities first, these are my priorities in my head, this is what matters to me most in my head, and then take a look at your schedule over the last month and be honest about whether that matches and aligns with the priorities that you've set. If you're like me, you're going to find out that they don't. And if you're like me, you're going to constantly have to battle this and fight the good fight to make sure that your priorities do line up with what you are doing in your real life, and when they're not, to remind yourself to get back in pace, to get back in line, to go back and exercise that muscle again and write down your priorities and make your life reflect that because at the end of the day, time is one of the only finite things that we have. You only get so much of it.

So that means you probably want to be spending that time doing things that are priorities to you and not living in an unintentional life that happens to you, where there's so much to do and there's always something to do, you're never in the moment, you can't enjoy right now. That can be accomplished using a hell yes policy. So start saying no to anything that doesn't make you say hell yes because, as today's thought says, "When you say yes to one thing, you're saying no to something else." So before you say yes, consider whether the new opportunity is worth the cost. Until next time, my friends, start before you're ready. Start by starting. Start now.

My dad, Dr. Jimmy Turner, is a physician first personal finance blogger and a life coach for doc. However, he is not your physician or your life coach. He also isn't a financial advisor, financial planner, or accountant. Anything discussed in this podcast is for general education and entertainment purposes. Life coaching's not a substitute for therapy, medicine, or medical treatment. However, if you're a doctor looking for a life coach, you can reach out to my dad at [email protected]

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