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?

Author: CT Lin

CMIO, UCHealth (Colorado); Professor, University of Colorado School of Medicine

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