018: Lessons From a Workaholic: How to Do Less and Get More Done
If you love what you do, it’s easy to become a workaholic. Between creating resources for patients, teaching clinicians how to grow their practices and provide better care for their patients, and keeping my practice running smoothly, it’s easy for a 40-hour week to turn into a 55+ hour week, leaving little time to take care of myself. And that’s definitely not practicing what I preach.
And when you look at the statistics, the motivation to get a handle on our over-burdened schedules is even more compelling. It’s a fact that 4 out of 10 Americans work over 50 hours a week and as a result, have a 33% increased risk of stroke and a 13% increase in coronary artery disease – just to name a few.
So if your work-life balance could use a tune-up, today’s episode is for you. I want to help you rethink what brings value to your life, reduce the number of hours you work, and learn how to achieve more by doing less.
- How working long hours is doing real damage to our physical and mental health.
- Why multitasking hurts your performance and can result in missing important details.
- Why clinicians should take breaks throughout the day.
- How to set hard limits and stop working at established cutoff times.
- Five things you can do right now to get off the working-too-hard treadmill.
TweetableVery few appear to be able to engage in more than four or five hours of high concentration and deliberate practice at a time.- @HarvardBiz Click To Tweet Every time I stop what I'm doing to do something else, and then come back, I've reduced my productivity and caused mental exhaustion. - @DrRondaNelson Click To Tweet
- CTA: Schedule Your Free Business Strategy Call With Ronda
- Book: Bronnie Ware – Top 5 Regrets of Dying
- Long Working Hours and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke
- Book: Emotional Intelligence 2.0
- Multitasking is a Myth
- Why Your Brain Needs Downtime
- Multitasking Damages Your Brain
- The Making of an Expert
- Book: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
Connect with Dr. Ronda Nelson
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Dr. Ronda Nelson: Well, hello, my friend. Welcome to The Clinical Entrepreneur Podcast. I’m really thankful that you are taking some time to hang out with me today. The topic that we’re going to be talking about, I have to admit, is probably more for me than anything because I’m so guilty of being a workaholic. I know that this is not great for me but it’s a little bit of a quandary because I really love what I do. It’s easy for me to spend a lot of time working on the things that I love: Creating resources and support for clinicians, providing better clinical care for patients, teaching other clinicians how to do that, and teaching them how to grow their businesses so that they can provide those great clinical results for their patients. I love every part of all of that and it’s what lights me up. So, for me, to draw a line and say, “Okay. You have to stop doing that,” is like to a gardener, telling someone who loves to garden, “You can’t work in your garden anymore.” They think, “Ah, there’s just a few more hours of daylight. I want to get out and work just a little bit more, just that one more little thing.” That’s me.
What happens is my 40-hour week turns into a 50-hour week, which turns into some more time on the weekend. Before I know it, I’ve spent way too much time working and not taking enough care of myself. That’s why I thought this topic of doing less was very appropriate for me, and many of you are probably in that same boat. So, if this is right for you, listen up because I’ve got some facts that should make you stand up and pay attention because this is no laughing matter. We have really got to dial in our obsession with working and achievement and what we think brings us value, notoriety, self-approval and self-acceptance. We all have some messed up thinking around this, and I’m guilty, 100%. So, here we go.
As I was researching this, I found the statistics sad because I fit right into them. The statistic was that the average person who works full-time in the United States right now is working roughly 47 hours a week. But of those people working full-time in the US, four out of ten work over 50 hours a week. I have to raise my hand on that one because I do often put in more than 40 hours a week, and I justify this by telling myself, “I really love what I do. I like planting that one more plant before the sun goes down.” I just want to take advantage of every moment that I can. There was a study that came out in The Lancet, some time ago, and they had 600,000 men and women. It was a pretty large cohort, and they found that in those men and women who worked 55-hour workweeks (4 out of 10 people) led to a 33% increase in stroke and a 13% increase in coronary heart disease.
This is not good, my friend. This is not good at all. In fact, another study also showed that even working 49 hours a week resulted in poor mental health, especially in women. I want to protect myself from having poor mental health, not to mention coronary heart disease or a stroke. I don’t need to be going down that road, that’s for sure. Those are all things that I want to avoid.
We’ve got some nutritional support we can do that will help nourish, strengthen, and support those things in the body, but the long-term effect is pretty dramatic. There was a book that if you haven’t already read, is such a great read. It’s called Emotional Intelligence. One of the authors is Dr. Travis Bradberry and I read this book at least once a year. One of the things that he says in the book is, “Experiencing stress actually makes it more difficult to deal with future stress because it diminishes our ability to take control of the situation, manage the existing stress, and keep things from getting out of control. It really creates a vicious cycle,” which I think is so true.
We know the power of herbal adaptogens that help the body adapt to stress, therefore there can be a little bit of a crutch, right? We can use an adaptogenic herb like Rhodiola or ashwagandha to help adapt to stress, but that doesn’t change the fact that we may not be taking as good care of ourselves as we need to. Again, we try to take advantage of that last little bit of daylight, that last little opportunity we have to serve patients or work on the business or whatever it is that you’re doing inside your craft, and that’s where we get into trouble. It was a Harvard Business Review that stated, “Very few people could remain in a high state of concentration for more than about four or five hours a day,” and those were people who were really trained and very disciplined. So what they found was that if you want it to get “the deep work” done, according to one of my favorite books called Deep Work, it really has to be done in like two-hour increments.
Say you’re focused on solving a problem or thinking about how you’re going to serve your patients differently, what your next business growth strategy is, how you’re going to attract more patients, and what your next big push on social media will be. Maybe even how you will solve a relationship problem in your own life, with your family, your spouse, or a coworker. There’s always something that requires our mind to be intentionally focused and thoughtful about finding a solution. What ends up happening is that we get so busy and we’rerunning, running, running, going, going, going, and trying to multitask, which is a huge myth. You actually cannot multitask. We can only do one thing at a time. If we try and do multiple things simultaneously, it drops our IQ and we miss important information, leading to more mistakes. But as clinicians and business owners, we are always running, running, running, trying to do so many things that we miss the important things.
You can ask my team and they will tell you that I miss stuff all the time because I’m skimming an email, or I tell myself that I’ll get back to it and then I don’t and they’re re-pinging me saying, “Resending, resending.” I think, “Oh, I saw that.” But because I’m doing too much all at the same time, trying to cram 10 gallons of water into a five-gallon bucket, it just doesn’t work. It just doesn’t work. This is how our society rolls. We’ve been programmed that the more you do, the harder you work, you just put your head down and you just go, baby, go. You don’t come up for air. We go, go, go because productivity is what it’s all about. Study after study after study has found that the more often we take breaks, that our productivity actually increases. So, if I’m spending all this time working all week because I love what I do but because I’m trying to fit 10 gallons of water into a five-gallon bucket, my productivity goes down, and the stress on my body and mental exhaustion goes up. I don’t want that. I don’t want to have that happen. So, I have been very conscious about taking breaks, more frequent breaks.
For instance, when I’m writing emails or working on a new patient case, I can feel when my brain starts to get tired. I can feel myself begin to lose focus. You begin to not think about the things that you need to be focusing on, and sadly we’re thinking, “Oh, maybe somebody responded to my Facebook post or commented on my Instagram story.” Our brain gets distracted. Part of that is our instinct and is based on survival because we have to be on constant alert. Where’s the bad guy? Is there someone coming? Is there someone around me trying to hurt me? Where’s the lion? Where’s the tiger? Some of it is instinctive, but when we stop and interrupt what we’re doing and check our phone, it takes 25 minutes for you to get back into deep focus on what you were doing before. 25 minutes, that is crazy. Why would we ever stop? I just lost 25 minutes. So every time we try and multitask or stop what we’re doing to do something else, then come back, I’ve now reduced my productivity, and I’ve caused mental exhaustion.
I’ve been trying to stop and take a break. I work from home so, I’ll go out in the kitchen, I might refill my water, go out in the backyard, take a few laps around the pool, maybe I’ll step outside, walk up and down the street a few times just to get some oxygen and air, even if it’s just for five minutes. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, just a short little break so that my brain can stop having to think and create some space in there before I come back. What I’ve found is I can jump right back in where I left off and I don’t have that mental fatigue. There are some countries now that are actually going to four-day workweeks, like Sweden. They’re making it a national mandate, or they at one time were thinking about it, six-hour workdays. That’s it, six hours. And some countries are looking at four-day workweeks because they found that when the brain knows that I only have X number of hours or a set amount of time to get something done, guess what your brain does?
It kicks into overdrive because you’ve told it, “I have to have this project done by the end of the day,” and all of a sudden, it happens. You get it done. It wasn’t out of balance. You’re good to go. Off you go. Your brain will start to do what you tell it to do, given the confines of time that you have set. When I want to reduce my workday, I’ll say, “I’m really going to stop at five o’clock,” which is unheard of for me. I always work until 6:00, 6:30, sometimes 7:00, and then go eat dinner and hang out a little while, and even then, I’m checking my phone or I’m thinking about something. Sometimes I’ll grab my computer and keep working into the evening. It’s a bad habit. What I’ve done now is I’m starting to really say, okay, by 4:30, 5:00, I’m done. But what I’ve seen is that my brain has started to be much more efficient with my time as far as what I’m able to get done in the last three, four, or five months. I’m actually getting more done in less time. So, it’s true, by golly, it’s true. There was a book written by Bronnie Ware, and it’s called the Top Five Regrets Of Dying. What she found while interviewing people who were dying is that they did not have regrets about being more successful. Nobody said that. No one said, “Oh, I wish that I would have achieved more. I wish I would have been more successful. I wish I would have had more accomplishments.”
The top five things that were said were this: Number one, they wished that they had had the courage to live a life that was true to themselves, rather than what other people expected. When we work so hard, are we trying to prove it to ourselves or prove it to someone else? That was me in the early days. I had someone in my life who told me that what I was doing was only going to be a hobby and that I would never ever be successful. Well, I’m the wrong person to say that too because for me, that was a challenge, and I knew that if I didn’t make the decision to do something different, I had to show that I was achieving this but I had to make the decision to do that. I’m glad I did because it’s landed me where I am, but at the time, I made the decision based on what somebody else said. When these people were dying, they said, “I wish I had the courage to live a life that was true to who I am than what other people thought.”
Number two, they all wish that they hadn’t worked so hard. And when I read that, I literally stopped in the book. This is what has taken me on this journey, but I thought I’m working way too hard and I don’t want to have regret. When I die, I don’t want to look back and say, “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” And I’m probably going to say that now but it’s never too late to make a change. That’s what I’m about right now, making that change.
Number three, they wish that they had had the courage to express their feelings, and probably more so for women. It might be easier for us to express feelings, probably a little harder for men, and I am being very general. It’s not all the way true across the board. But to express how you feel doesn’t mean we have to break down into tears in a sobbing fit, but it means we have to be true and speak how we feel. I don’t like being treated this way, or I’m frustrated about, or this hurts my feelings, or this is not the way that I want things to go in this relationship. To have the courage to express feelings.
Number four, they wish that they had stayed in touch with their friends. I will say for me, I’ve let some friendships kind of go. It’s not that I’m not still friends but I’ve let some of that go because what am I doing all the time? Working. So, if I can curtail the work that allows me the time, I can spend the weekend with a friend without work running in the background in my mind. I set those boundaries so that my work can be more efficient, more focused and more concentrated in a reduced amount of time and I don’t have to work all weekend in order to get the to-do list done.
Number five, all of them said they wish that they would have let themselves be happier. We often have too much of a sour face. We’re just thinking about how life is so hard. I have so much to do. The patients are hard. I can’t find good staff. I’m working really hard. I’m not paying the bills. There’s not enough money. All of that comes into play and it starts to wear on us. But happiness is a choice. I have a picture in my office that says, “Happy is a choice,” and it’s always a choice. I’m not great at choosing happiness all the time, but I think happiness comes from the process of progress and growth rather than the result of progress and growth. Let me say that again. When we work so hard, we’re more focused on the results of our progress and our growth rather than choosing to enjoy the growth process. And that’s where we can start to refine how we think about our work life. In the clinical setting, if you’re jamming those patients in every single day, every 10 minutes or every 15 minutes, not allowing any breathing room for yourself, you’re going to wear yourself out. And it makes it harder to be happy. It makes it harder to enjoy your life and to be able to smile and say, “I’m going to take the day off. I’m going to go do this and that. I’m not going to worry about it.” And some of you might be super awesome at this. I am learning it, I’m telling you.
So, here are the five things that I would say you could start weaving into your life to be able to start changing this overworking achieving, got to do more, more, go, go, go, plant every single plant before the sun goes down and then the minute the sun comes up, you’re back at it again. So, here are your five things that you can do, any or all of them, but just choose something. I want you to choose one thing that you can start doing right away that will help you get off this treadmill of working so hard. Let’s do less in order to have more. Let’s work less and have greater health. Let’s work less and have better mental sanity and a mental space. Let’s work less to have better relationships.
So, number one, you have to be in control of your time. No one else is in control of your time. Time is a commodity. Everyone has the same amount. It’s free for everyone. How you use your time is entirely up to you. So, create space within your schedule to allow for mental refueling. Go for a walk, get water, have a little chit chat with someone, get yourself out of that patient space just for a few minutes and let your brain refuel. Stop at a reasonable time, whether it’s 3, 4:30 or 5. You’re in control of your schedule. Make it work for you. Number two, make sure that you plan and build in some quiet time. This is really hard for me because if I plan in quiet time, it allows my brain to think. After all, the chatter stops. Email makes my brain chatter. Social media makes my brain chatter and I don’t want that. I want to schedule in time to think, time to problem-solve for a really tough patient case, or just let my brain rest because we are on overload. It’s like stimulus after stimulus. It’s just constant all the time. So you have to plan in those blocks of time to allow your brain to rest. That’s number two.
So number one, you be in control of your time. Set those things in your schedule so that you have control and you can stop when you need to, take the breaks when you need to. And number two is make sure in that schedule, you are planning time to think to let your brain have some quiet. Number three, make a commitment to work less than 40 hours a week. This will allow you to increase your efficiency and get more done. Your brain starts to go to work and solve those problems. Number four, take care of yourself. As clinicians and practitioners, this is the one thing that we’re not really great at. We know how to take care of everyone else, but we often don’t know how to take care of ourselves. So, make sure you’re sleeping well. Make sure you’re taking your supplements, your herbs, your nutrients, make sure that you’re exercising, make sure that you’re getting support in your life that allows you to take care of yourself.
Number five is to ask for help. If you get stuck and need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it because everyone else is probably stuck at some point or place along their journey as well. If I can help, as a coach and mentor, to get you focused on what it is you need to do next or where you may be spreading yourself too thin, sometimes it just takes an outside perspective to look in and say, “Oh, there’s the blind spot. There’s your problem. That’s what needs to change right there.” Sometimes, it’s that simple thing you change that can make all the difference in the world down the road as far as efficiency goes, as well as your mental and physical health. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Hire more help inside your office. Outsource some of your work. Delegate it out. Hire a bookkeeper instead of you doing it yourself. Network with other practitioners because they’re going to have something important to give you. Things they’ve done that work well for them might really work well for you, too. Or even an idea about a great social media post inside the Mighty Network Group.
Just a few days ago, someone said, “I just made a post and it was great. It’s gone wildfire on my page. I loved it.” Grab that and share it on your own page because it’s that community, it’s being in community together that makes each one of us a better human, a better individual, and so much better for our patients. When we take care of us, when we’ve stopped the chatter, when we’ve taken control of our time, we’ve made sure that we’re nourishing and taking care of ourselves, we’re sleeping well, taking our supplements, and we’re in community…we can then show up for our patients in a much better way and have better clinical outcomes. What comes from that, my friend, is a better business, better income, more referrals, and at the end of the day, a happier doctor.
That’s really what we’re all about. You may need to listen to this one again, because that was a lot. I’m probably going to listen to it again, too, because this is such an important topic. I’m making a commitment to you, in front of thousands of doctors. I will start working no more than 40 hours a week because I need my mental health to stay strong and don’t need to be croaking over from a stroke or coronary heart disease.
That’s a big motivator for me and I don’t want to have any regrets. I’d rather spend the time with my family, my husband, my kids, than to be working all the time. So, I’m going to let my brain do what it’s designed to do, which is work efficiently by doing less so that I can get more done.
All right, my friend. Take care. I’ve got some of the notes and resources you’ll find in the show notes as well as a link, how you can reach out and get in contact with me. If you haven’t already, I’d be happy to schedule a strategy call with you absolutely free. It is 15-minute call. All you have to do is click the link in the show notes, pick a time and I will see if I can get you off a high center and get you moving towards your best world in your business, your clinic, and your financial success. All right, my friend. Take care. Thanks for joining me on The Clinical Entrepreneur Podcast. I’ll talk to you next week.
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