3 steps for doctors to better manage free time

By Physician Sense, for MDLinx
Published July 19, 2019

Key Takeaways

It’s possible that there isn’t anything more vital to the mental health of the American physician than free time. Under the increased pressures of modern medicine, this time to decompress, recover, and recreate is essential. Time is our most precious resource, and time away from work is even more finite. Here’s how to better manage free time so that you enjoy life more and come back to work refreshed.


The first step to better free-time management is to identify what you do not want to do. As a doctor, you’re among some of America’s highest earners. That means with a careful review of your budget, you likely can free up the funds to outsource some of your more loathsome chores and obligations.

Hate scrubbing toilets? Hire a cleaning service. Would you rather be poolside than cutting the grass this summer? Hire a landscaper. Too much time shuttling the kids back and forth to games, practices, or playdates? Arrange a carpool with parents, or barring that, use a ride-sharing service to send them on their way.

As parents and homeowners, many people fall into the trap of feeling like they are failing if they don’t fulfill all of these obligations themselves. But by trying to fulfill all of these obligations, they end up failing at most, or doing at best a poor job of all. Figure out what you really don’t like doing, and hire someone else to do it to create more free time.

Set priorities

After eliminating the time-consuming things you loathe, it’s time to determine what brings you joy. Here, an overload of options is frequently a problem.

In our free time and in our work lives, many of us are often paralyzed to act by the sheer number of choices we have. We want to hit the gym, spend time with our children, visit aging parents, romance our significant others, and somehow fit in 8 hours of quality sleep. We set out with the good intention of doing it all, but this often creates an all-or-nothing proposition that results in, you guessed it, nothing. We wake up on Saturday morning and sit stupefied, sipping coffee, and binge watch the day away.

You need to triage your free time just like you would a patient. Ask yourself, what would bring me or others the most satisfaction if I were to do it in my free time? This is your priority. Focus on it exclusively until it’s done. Only when it’s complete, or you’ve exhausted the amount of time that you’ve allowed for it, do you move on to something else.

You might not fit everything you want to do into your finite amount of free time, but at least you will have done something that brings you joy.

Schedule it

Once you set your priorities, you need to carve out time to do them. Many skip this step and fall back on bad habits. Perhaps your medical training is a source of the problem.

For the most part, modern medicine is reactive and doctors are trained to be cool, calm operators in the face of pressure. Whether a patient presents with a bizarre, befuddling rash, or blunt-force trauma, physicians are poised to react with logic and precision.

Continue reading on Physician Sense >

Share with emailShare to FacebookShare to LinkedInShare to Twitter