The Physician Philosopher Podcast

TPP #74: Finding Work-Life Balance as a Physician

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Physician Disability Insurance

Life as a spouse, parent, and physician is busy. Period. Add in there an entrepreneurial effort like the online business I run at The Physician Philosopher, and now it feels insane. What about that master’s degree I am thinking about? It can feel overwhelming pretty quickly. No two ways about it. How can we find balance when we have all of these responsibilities?

When I think through the current asks on my times, I tend to break them up into a few different ways of thinking about them. In this post, I want to teach you three ways to prioritize your time as a busy physician by taking a look into my own life right now as I sort through this decision on what to pursue moving forward.

Here are the things I am currently working on and or considering pursuing:

  • My book, Determined – fortunately, this one is getting to the stage where I will not have to be pouring a ton of extra time into it. So we can check this one off.
  • Medical Degree Financial University (or MDFU) – the product I am creating to teach doctors how to create an FU account so that they can practice medicine because they want to and not because they have to. I am currently in the process of building the website for this.
  • The Physician Philosopher Podcast – we produce one podcast episode per week. And soon I’ll be introducing a co-host for a new segment we will be creating on money! Stay tuned for that.
  • The Alpha Coaching Experience – our coaching product for doctors who are trying to create a life they love in medicine.
  • A Master’s Degree in Medical Management – I am pursuing this for my brick and mortar job as an anesthesiologist at Wake Forest. The hope is to use the skills I learn through the MMM degree to improve things at Wake.

Alright… so those are the things that are on my list professionally. Then, there are the other non-urgent, yet highly important asks on my time. Things like pursuing my wife, Kristen. And being an involved dad for my three kids. My emotional, physical, and spiritual health.

Can I fit it all in? Will I be able to master this schedule, or is it going to master me? Are all of these things really on my Hell Yes Policy?

Remember Your Overall Purpose

A great place to start when sorting through things like this is to step back and remember your “why”. What is the reason for all of this madness in your life?

On the professional front, my why is very specific. It is a two pronged attack. First, I want to improve the systemic culture of medicine. In other words, I want to end moral injury and work toward a field that doctors love working in when they take care of patients. One with work-life balance, full engagement at work, and chalk-full of intrinsic motivation.

The second why is to empower individual doctors until the medical system is fixed. This is accomplished in my business through teaching doctors about mindset, money, and time management.

So, when I look back at my list of potential asks on my time, how do they stack up to my two “why”s? Do they fall in line with my overall purpose?

Do My Projected Tasks Accomplish My Purpose?

Well, the book is all about accomplishing both purposes, honestly. So, continuing to work on that makes a lot of sense. This podcast where you are listening to me now does the same. What about the other things?

MDFU is specifically meant to empower individual doctors by teaching them how to become financially literate and to use financial independence as a weapon for personal and professional autonomy. It also helps solve a current situation I have since I am now being asked to speak about personal finance all over the country.

What about my coaching program, ACE? Well, the Alpha Coaching Experience is changing doctors’ lives. It is clearly accomplishing my second goal of empowering individual doctors by helping them create a life they love inside and outside of medicine.

What about getting a Master’s Degree?

And that brings us to this master’s degree. How does this fit in? Well, it will certainly teach me the skills that I need to lead in medicine. So, if I ever wanted to become a leader in my department or a Chief Operating Officer or a Chief Wellness Officer to move the needle in medicine at the hospital where I work, it would prove helpful.

This could allow me to understand the inner-workings of administrators and their plight in medicine. It could help me understand the pressures they have and the tools they are taught to deal with them.

But this begs the question, is it really accomplishing either of my two purposes? Do I really need to check that box in order to help change the systemic nature of moral injury in medicine? Could I do that in my business without the master’s degree through my books, podcasts, and products?

Is it helping me empower individual doctors? Possibly. I could have the opportunity to change cultures where I work. But that is a big machine and a hard needle to move as anyone who has worked in this space knows. Medicine tends to have a very reactionary culture… one that says “this is the way we have always done it.”

So, maybe I’ll chalk the Master’s Degree up to a “maybe” on whether it would truly help me accomplish either of these larger “why”s in my professional life.

Stephen Covey’s Time Matrix

This leads us to a second tool that I used to think through things. It is a tool that is powerful in determining what things we are saying “Yes” to right now that are making us say “no” to the things on our Hell Yes Policy.

Stephen Covey breaks time management tasks using two different sets of categories: important/non-important and urgent/non-urgent.

This, in turn, creates four quadrants: important and urgent; important and non-urgent; NOT important and urgent; and NOT important and non-urgent.

For example, in the urgent and important quadrant, you might place things like an emergent medical problem or death in the family.

Yet, it is the second quadrant that becomes important when you think about saying yes to something new. This is the quadrant that involves important tasks that are non-urgent. For me, this includes date nights with Kristen. Quality time with my kids. Reading scripture and praying. Exercising. Eight hours of sleep. Traveling to see family. Calling friends and family.

These tasks usually have zero urgency to them, but if they go ignored for too long, it can cause catastrophic consequences in your life. These are the things that get put on the back-burner if you say “yes” to too many things.

Is the Master’s Degree a Hell Yes?

It is in this second light that I realize that doing a master’s degree right now doesn’t make a lot of sense. Maybe it will make sense a year from now. Or two years from now.

But right now, with all of these other things going on, it seems like something that would be a large enough ask on my time that I would have to start saying no to many of these non-urgent yet highly important tasks in my life. In addition to that, it could also make me sacrifice this podcast,my coaching program, MDFU, or promoting my upcoming book – which are all certain Hell Yes opportunities for me.

Maybe the best course of action is to ask the master’s program where I am applying to hold my application for the following year. It sounds like that is what I am going to do.

…but man this has been a tough decision. This master’s degree is not a cold-hard “no” for me, but if I am being honest it also isn’t as high up on my priorities list as the other endeavors I am involved in at this time. But if I am going to hold to saying “no” to anything so that I can say Hell Yes to what matters most to me in my life, this needs to be a no – at least for now.


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