This is a post by Dr. Dustin Lee PT, DPT
I am often asked the following question by patients, “How much do you exercise or run each week?” My immediate thought is that I should tell them four or five days per week for at least an hour each day. After all, I am a physical therapist, and I should be serving as a role model to advocate a healthy lifestyle. What I have learned, however, is that there is nothing valuable in telling people what they want to hear. So, my answer is always, “I just have not had the time, but I would love to be doing more.” It seems like the cliché answer, but it is a valuable answer when served on a platform of sincerity.
Something that I have enjoyed about writing blogs is being able to open myself up, whether by opinion or health information, to the judgement, criticism or education of others. It is quite terrifying at times to give people, even people I may never meet, a glimpse into my life and thoughts, but I often find it comforting that I am sharing something that may positively impact another’s life.
Recently, I have noticed that I am having difficulty balancing my life. First and foremost, I am trying to be the best husband and puppy-dad that I can be. I am then trying to put in the right amount of time to advance myself as a clinician through an orthopedic residency at Mercer University. I also care for patients during the week and want to make sure they are receiving the best care possible to get them back to the quality of life they deserve. The rest of my time goes into marketing for our company, participating in community events and just trying to stay afloat with the demands of life. I do not have any kids to throw into this mix, so I commend all of you who look at my “busy life” and say “just wait until…”
When I reflect on my list of responsibilities, I notice that I do not have anything mentioned about family, social events, friends, exercise or even free time. This is disappointing because I value each of these things, yet apparently I do not value them enough to invest my time in them.
This is where having a mentor, not only a professional, clinical mentor but also a life mentor, is beneficial. My mentor is Dr. Kate Edwards PT, DPT, OCS. She has not only taken me under her wing while at Precision Performance to develop me as an up-and-coming orthopedic specialist, but she has taken time out of her life to develop me as a balanced professional that can invest in his family, friends, residency, career and free-time. She is intuitive, as some of you very well know. She began noticing how tired and burned out I was becoming and wanted to show me a solution to a problem that she also once had. Her solution: “brain mapping.” Not the kind of brain mapping done in hospitals, psychologist offices or with MRIs. What she was talking about was taking a look at what aspects of life where cluttering my brain and figuring out how to prioritize and de-clutter.
Brain mapping is simply a way to organize your day, week or month to effectively and efficiently complete tasks. Blocking off time for certain activities directs and prioritizes your focus, but it also allows for closure, thus clearing your mind once that time block is completed. For instance, documentation is a large part of our profession, which is targeted at effectively communicating patient care. It takes me a long time to write notes describing the patient visit because I tend to put a lot of detail into my documentation. I am not saying that this is a bad thing at all, and it should be a standard in the medical profession. What I am saying is that I tend to put extensive detail into my notes, which takes more time to complete. That additional time documenting adds up at the end of a day full of patients – and I am sure some of you reading this can relate, no matter what profession you are in. The solution: setting a countdown timer instead of timing myself with a start-stop method. I used to time my documentation writing to see how long it took. Now, I set a timer, and when the alarm goes off I have two options: the note is completed and submitted, or the note needs to be saved because it is not completed. If the note is not completed, I ask myself, “What went wrong? Did I add too much detail? Did I examine too much during the treatment?” This process has allowed me to complete my notes in a timely fashion, has made my documentation of patient care more succinct (without sacrificing quality) and has allowed me to complete my notes faster than my original target time. The positive impact was almost immediate: these benefits came from having implemented brain mapping for just one week.
Another problem area of mine, because I like to put 100% into everything I do, is reading to advance my clinical knowledge to treat my patients with the quality they deserve. I typically spend twelve to fifteen hours reading each week, and during this time I tend to supplement my required reading for residency with other text to gain a further, deeper understanding of the material at hand. This tends to clutter my mind with information, and I also find that I do not retain as much information as I would like. The solution: set a timer for two hours, and when the alarm goes off I am done reading no matter the word, sentence or paragraph I am on. This makes me prioritize what I want to know and allows me to write down what I would like to know more about during my next reading block. I have found that I am more likely to remember the material, and apply it effectively, with the addition of brain mapping practice.
In summary, this is how I have applied the principles of brain mapping and the successes I have already experienced:
1. Prioritizing time – I can improve the quality of time spent with family, residency, profession and free time.
2. Improving efficiency – I have cut down on excess time spent on unnecessary things, thus allowing for quality time spent elsewhere.
3. Setting a schedule and sticking to it (including the use of timer!) – I find my mind is less cluttered with things that I think need to be done and instead is focused on things that actually need to be accomplished, I am actually finding rest and peace during my free time and I am sleeping more!
4. Blocking off quality time for those who support you – I can now invest 100% into my family, friends, etc. without being distracted by “what needs to get done next.”
5. Daily, weekly and monthly organization – I know what is coming up and how to plan ahead better. (Seems like common sense, but applying it has made a world of difference.)
Now that I have been open and honest with my challenges, I would like if you took the time to be honest with yourself. Where are you spending the most time? Who or what is impacted by your busy lifestyle? How can you apply brain mapping to help prioritize and improve the quality of your life?
My hope is that I have reached some of you and inspired a sense of change, just like Kate did for me. If you have any questions, or if you would like to share how brain mapping has helped you in your life, I would love to hear about it! You can contact me via email at Dustin@PrecisionPT.org.