7 tips to increase your professional happiness and productivity

October 22, 2010

Usually I am able to smoothly transition from daydream to reality without detection when patients go off on tangents. My secret involves attention to the lips. As long as patients' lips are moving, I am safe.

Key Points

Usually, I am able to smoothly and professionally transition from daydream to reality without detection when patients go off on tangents. My secret involves attention to the lips. As long as patients' lips are moving, I am safe. This time, I took my eyes off her lips and was caught crappie fishing again.

"Is it wrong to think such thoughts when a patient is in my office seeking my help and advice?" I thought. "It's what I do for a living. Am I getting burned out?"

In general, to avoid burnout in just about any occupation, it is important to 1) feel that your life is not meaningless, 2) maintain control over your destiny, both private and professional, and 3) appreciate, and have others appreciate, your work. If you keep those major themes in balance, you can avoid self-destruction.

To get the usual tips on how to achieve these goals, please refer to Dr. Phil or Oprah. I want to share some of the less common ways that are particular to doctors in practice. They may be controversial, and they may seem politically incorrect, but they work.

1. Say no more often. Most physicians are helpers. We want to help people, and often we start to help everyone around us, all the time. We bend our schedules to accommodate patients' schedules, stay late to finish some paperwork that isn't really a part of our jobs, or put up with unreasonable requests from patients that we normally wouldn't accommodate.

You must learn to say no, loud and often. If you don't know what to do, think, "What would Donald Trump do?" Would he stay late filling out a form for a vendor to get paid? I doubt it. Would he put up with patients arriving an hour late for their appointments and demanding to be seen even though it's time to close the office? No way. Get tough. People will push you only as far as you let them. Set limits, and stick to them.