How to Actually Focus on What You’re Doing (NYTimes)

Cal Newport interviewed in the NYT

In the blizzard of our daily work and internal and external pressures, maybe think of putting the blizzard aside at times, and focusing on Deep Work (which I reviewed previously) or pursuing ONE Thing (also previously reviewed). Sometimes it takes a second or third exposure (or many more) to have a new idea really stick. Well, here it is again.

When I have the discipline to be present, to be aware of the cacophany that constantly blares and swirls around my head and consciously place it to the side for a few hours, or even an entire morning or whole day (what a luxury, but also a necessity), then I feel like I can accomplish something substantial.

Here are a few distractions pulling me away:

  • Post-office syndrome: 4000 items in my email inbox, 1000 unread.
  • External crisis: Colleagues whose Citrix or EHR (electronic health record) or Dragon (speech recognition) or other EHR-related tool does not work and “DON’T YOU KNOW I CAN’T TAKE CARE OF PATIENTS RIGHT NOW?”
  • “I would like a report pulled from the EHR and my request is too low priority, can you fix that?”
  • “I need something fixed in the EHR, can you help me?”
  • Shiny new object: “Hey, here’s a new opportunity to collaborate on a project!”

Here are a few BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals) just begging for time and effort from quadrant four (Low urgency, high importance, from Getting Things Done) :

  • Design and write a follow-up paper on EHR optimization through Sprints
  • Write the next QI/research proposal on patients viewing images online
  • Write the next QI/research proposal on using speech recognition tools in the examination room
  • Help an innovation partner company deliver a minimum viable product related to new prescribing tools linked to the EHR
  • Help an innovation partner redesign physician training for EHR
  • Help craft the vision and curriculum of EHRs role in telehealth for a national organization
  • Help craft the vision and curriculum of informatics training for medical students
  • Learn to be a better mentor: improve the quality of meetings-with and benefit-to mentees and direct reports

CMIO’s take? I realize that any ONE of my BHAGs could be THE ONE THING that I focus on and made substantial progress on. What are YOU focusing on?

“We have an electric planet” –NYTimes

Each wire runs vertically up through the mud, measuring up to two inches in length. And each one is made up of thousands of cells stacked on top of each other like a tower of coins. The cells build a protein sleeve around themselves that conducts electricity.

This is incredible: the discovery that bacteria can form chains, build a protein sleeve around themselves, and create electrical wires. I’m grateful for the clear-eyed journalists who find and write about such scientific discoveries for us lay-persons.

I’m excited to for 50th grade! (Re-inventing myself, via NYTimes article)

This is brilliant. Kids re-invent themselves each school year.

As a parent, I see my kids reinventing themselves every school year. They’ve gone through their Lego phases, their sporty phases, their drama phases, their communicating-only-via-eyerolls phases. 

Mary Laura Philpott, NYTimes

Why not, us, as adults? What a great way to encapsulate the neuroplasticity of our minds; we do know that our brains do not stagnate in adulthood, but continue to mold and change:

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/talking-back/new-clues-to-just-how-much-the-adult-brain-can-change/

So, why do we continue on in our jobs without considering the annual-beginning-of-school-year re-invention? Remember in medical school learning Prochazka’s Stages of Change model: how our patients who smoke would go from Pre-contemplative to Contemplative to Preparation to Action to Maintenance? We see this in EHR adoption. Or perhap some go through Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief. OK, however you slice it, perhaps we do each need time and space and permission to “start fresh.”

CMIO’s take? I’m excited to be starting 50th grade! How about you?