For those of you who are new to the site, I am a plastic surgery resident physician, the founder of Med School Insiders, and I do several other things on the side, such as advising for another company
that I founded as well as performing clinical research
. I have learned how to get a lot done in a short period of time
, and I’ll show you exactly how you can do the same.
“It Seems too Stressful, I Want to Enjoy my Life”
One quick thing before I jump to the advice. A lot of you may be concerned that becoming so efficient and productive may drain the fun out of life. That could not be further from the truth
– this thought stems from ignorance
. When you achieve similar levels of productivity, you will open up so much free time
that you can decide if you want to have more fun or get more things done
. My balance between work and play may be different than yours, but by being efficient, you are actually able to decide how you spend your time
. Most people don’t maximize their efficiency and are a slave to time
. Becoming efficient will free yourself – you can decide if you want to spend more time in the gym and get jacked, or spend time with your family, or if you want to pick up a second or third side business like I did. That’s up to you. My philosophy is since time is limited, maximize it
. That means either fully enjoy yourself, or be fully productive and present in the moment. None of that nonsense in the middle where you are trying to relax and get work done at the same time – it just doesn’t work.
Time is limited, so maximize it.
1) Time is Money Time is your most valuable asset
, but the problem is that you don’t treat it as such. When you add up all the inefficienies throughout the day, you are wasting hours. Every. Single. Day. Begin to acknowledge the importance of time and treat it as such. A common mistake many people make is wasting time trying to save a few dollars. Does going out of your way to pick up dinner from the restaurant make sense, or should you spend the $3 for delivery in order to save 30 minutes of your precious time? Does signing up for a grocery delivery service like Google Express or Instacart make sense if it saves you a few hours every week? This analysis will yield different results day to day and depending on where you are in your life. Now that I am a doctor and no longer a student, I have an income and I can place a higher price on my time
. Ultimately, determining how much your time is worth is a very personal decision and I cannot make that for you. I personally would argue that waiting in line for 10 hours to get a good deal on a TV on Black Friday is a complete waste of time, but you may enjoy the experience see value in doing so. There’s nothing wrong with that – it’s your call to make. Just be deliberate.
2) Understand Parkinson’s Law Parkinson’s law
states that work expands to fill the time allotted for its completion. This means if you give yourself 5 hours for a task rather than 2, it will take the full 5 hours. If you give yourself 2 hours, you will be much more efficient and although you may go over the target of 2, you will still spend far less than 5 hours. This is a tricky technique because you have to purposely cut things close
and not give too much time for any one task. The down side is that it can generate unhealthy amounts of stress
if you don’t have good coping mechanisms or if you are too aggressive with your deadlines. This is something that takes experimentation to get just right. I use this regularly, including when researching and writing Med School Insiders content to keep myself efficient.
3) Identify Tasks You Can Perform Anywhere
I want you all to start paying attention
how much time is wasted waiting in lines, standing around, and not doing anything fun or productive
each and every day. I guarantee that you will be surprised how much time is sapped each day. The best way to navigate this problem is to have tasks you can perform anywhere
. In residency I still need to study to be a top performing plastic and reconstructive surgeon. I use Anki flashcards
(which I have made multiple videos
about) when I am waiting in line at the grocery store, waiting for someone at a restaurant, or other brief moments of down time. The brilliant thing about these flashcards is that you can do them anywhere
and in just brief spurts of free time
. You don’t need to set aside 20 minutes. If you only have 2 minutes, you get 10 flashcards done and they are still very effective. When I’m driving, I listen to audiobooks or podcasts. This allows me to consume valuable information when I would otherwise not be doing anything or just listening to music. Last year when I was finishing medical school and flying around the country for residency interviews, I maintained my productivity even while traveling for interviews
. When on the plane, I said I will either sleep
, read my kindle
, or do work
. I don’t watch TV or movies on planes – I can’t enjoy it fully anyway. By being productive, I step off the plane feeling satisfied and fulfilled. I feel like I spent my time the best way possible and it means I have more time to do the things that are important to me. I did the same thing when I was on vacation
. Flying to South Africa took about 30 hours. I rotated between working on Med School Insiders, research projects, and sleeping. When I got off the plane, I didn’t have to worry about work since it was done. I could truly enjoy my vacation and be present in the moment with my significant other. This is NOT stressful
if you do it right – it is just an efficient and optimized way to manage your time
so you have more flexibility to do the things you love. If you are able to squeeze in an hour of work every day during brief moments of down time, then that means you have 1 more hour free later in the day to do the things you love.
4) Optimize your Breaks and Switch Tasks to Maintain Momentum
Our brains cannot run at 100% intensity at all times. One highly effective method to maintain focus and avoid burning out is to use the Pomodoro technique
. However, even with Pomodoro you will be unable to maintain intensity later in the day. This is where I use two tricks: optimizing breaks
and switching tasks.
When I say optimizing breaks
, I mean doing the things you have to do every day as a break from work. If you’re getting fatigued from work and need some time away, then go shower or do the dishes or do laundry. Do tasks that you need to complete anyway and allow you to take a mental break. Switching tasks
is another trick I utilize often. If I find myself getting bored or my focus is slipping, I will switch tasks to something else. Let’s say I’m working on a research project for a couple hours and my rate of progress is sharply declining. I can either take a break or switch over to something else, like doing flashcards
or working on Med School Insiders. This keeps things interesting and I am much less likely to get bored and slow down.
5) Delegate Appropriately
No matter how efficient you get, there are always only 24 hours in a day
. Even Elon Musk has learned his own limits. He doesn’t pursue everything on his own, and has tasked others with working on his world-changing ideas. While I am far from being an Elon Musk, I too have learned the importance of delegating tasks. With Med School Insiders, I now have help with animating videos and social media. With the other company I started, I stepped down and allowed my former Vice President to run the show. With research, I have medical students help me perform chart review and other tasks that are less critical for me to be actively involved with so I can focus on the data analysis and writing the manuscript. For you, this may mean taking turns getting groceries with your roommate, or dividing up chapters in your study group and taking turns teaching each other the important concepts. Take a look at the Feynman technique
for more information on that time-saving study hack.
I would love to hear how you are going to apply these tips or what some of your own efficiency and productivity tricks are. If you had two or three hours of extra free time every day, what would you do? Let us know in the comments below.