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Improve Your Medical Career, Work-Life Balance With Minimalism

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Mahmoud Abudeif, Sep 26, 2019.

  1. Mahmoud Abudeif

    Mahmoud Abudeif Golden Member

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    As a practicing physician, your life, home, and career are likely crowded with obligations, clutter, and commitments you wish you’d never made. However, the notion of implementing minimalism is something you might scoff at. You should know that being a minimalist doesn’t mean throwing away all of your possessions, wearing only sandals, and moving you and your family to a commune. The truth is that the minimalist lifestyle movement has a lot to offer for modern doctors.

    How do increased focus, an orderly home, and improved work-life balance sound to you? These things are within reach if you commit to making a few minimalist adjustments to your lifestyle and career. But before you go about making any changes, let’s briefly explore why physicians would benefit from minimalism, what minimalism is, and perhaps more important, what it isn’t.

    Why doctors need minimalism

    Simply put, the modern physician is maxed out. Doctors face more professional commitments and requirements than ever before. At times, they can feel like stenographers churning through EMRs, or insurance agents deciphering complex billing codes. This doesn’t even account for the obligations involved in managing a family or personal life.

    Unfortunately, these professional and personal requirements don’t appear to be changing anytime soon. Addressing them becomes a question of better managing them. That’s where minimalism comes in.

    Think of minimalism as a mental tool or framework to better manage your energy and your time. It’s a realignment of your outlook that orients you toward quality, not quantity. You have fewer things, but the things you own serve you and are high quality. Though you maintain fewer relationships, the ones you have sustain you and are mutually beneficial. You have fewer commitments and appointments, but the ones you keep are essential and advance you or your mission.

    Minimalism for doctors: Defined

    Driving the current popularity of the minimalist lifestyle movement are Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, the duo behind the documentary, Minimalism. Josh and Ryan were leading lives that might sound familiar to you: They were well-paid, had large houses, owned lots of stuff, but had this nagging sense of emptiness. Their solution for the emptiness was to make more money to buy more stuff to fill their large homes. But the emptiness persisted and their relationships with the people they loved suffered.

    Josh and Ryan found an answer in minimalism. While many of you might jump to the conclusion that this means they began living like monks, this is not accurate. Yes, austerity was and is a component of their minimalist lifestyles. However, the emphasis isn’t on parting with material goods, but on making room for more meaningful life experiences and possessions. In short, when you have less, you appreciate it more. Here’s how they define minimalism:

    “Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.”

    So, what does this mean for you as a doctor? Generally speaking, it means re-evaluating and perhaps resetting your goals and priorities. It also means (pardon the buzzwords) being more mindful and intentional about what you acquire, because if you’re like most Americans, your life and your home are very cluttered.

    Minimalism for doctors: Putting it into action

    For a doctor to begin putting minimalism into action, they need to begin by asking: What is cluttering up my life? Let’s start with literal clutter. Your closets are probably overflowing with it. We like the Marie Kondo approach to eliminating clutter. Kondo, who you might recognize from her bestselling book and Netflix show, says you should tackle one room or closet at a time. Pile up your clutter onto the bed or floor, and then go through it one piece at a time, asking yourself a simple question: Does the item spark joy? If it does, keep it. If not, donate it. Rinse and repeat.

    It gets a little bit harder when we venture into the realm of mental clutter. This clutter can take the forms of appointments, secondary business ventures, the distraction machine in your pocket (aka your smartphone), all the way up to something as serious as an addiction. For all but the last item on that list, a simple phrase will get you a long way: no. No, I won’t take that dinner meeting. I’m going to pass on starting a side hustle. No, I’m not going to check that text. You are clearing the mental clutter by choosing to respond only to what is essential, an approach covered at length in Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism.

    Making better use of your time

    The goal here is to get to a place where you are only saying yes to things that speak to your passions. Another way to frame it is, these aren’t things that if asked to do, you’d say, OK, sure, or simply yes. These are the things that you would say hell yes to. Sure, you’ll be doing fewer things, but the activities you engage in and commitments you make will be far more meaningful.

    A digital detox will also help you live a more minimalist lifestyle. Your digital life is an area where a little less translates to a lot more. What if, instead of spending an hour scrolling through social media each day, you used the same hour to call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while, play with your children, or connect with your significant other?

    Minimalism for doctors: A final thought

    Minimalism might conjure up images of ‘60s and ‘70s self-improvement types, or abstract art, or other things doctors generally don’t have time for. But there are elements of this lifestyle philosophy that are applicable. The important thing to remember is that you don’t need to go all in on minimalism. You can pick and choose what to scale back, using the examples mentioned above, to create more space for the things you care about. Think of minimalism as a spectrum, and apply it to your life, scaling appropriately, where needed.

    TL;DR

    Think of minimalism as the “disciplined pursuit of less.” It’s scalable. You can decide to give away all of your things, but you’d probably be better off clearing the literal clutter in your closet, and on your calendar. Part with the junk and be more mindful of what you acquire. Say yes to commitments that you’re truly passionate about, and no to the rest. And free up space for meaningful human interaction by putting away your phone.

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