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Time, or lack thereof

Pretty much every clinician I know wrestles with time. Or, more precisely, lack of time: lack of enough time with patients; lack of sufficient time with family and friends; lack of adequate time for self-care. Lack, lack, lack! While we can’t expand time, there are ways to expand our sense of time. And that can make all the difference. Here are some pointers:


  1. Take the Long View: First, take the long view of things. Dr. Rachel Remen writes about visiting a cemetery where she saw a headstone with this inscription: Here lies George Brown, born a man, died a gastroenterologist.  What do you want on your headstone or said at your memorial service? Think about what you want to be remembered for. Take the long view, look at the big picture of your life, and see if it doesn’t change your relationship with time in the short run.


  1. Take the Short View: Secondhard days can feel like long days. When life is challenging, it feels as if time slows down. On these days it can help to shortenour focus — What do I need to do to get through this next hour? Or as our friends in AA say, “One Day at a Time… .”


  1. Anticipate and Reminisce: Physician and time expert Richard Swensoninvites us to lengthen our sense of time through anticipation and reminiscence. He writes, “Activity overload and calendar congestion have robbed us of the pleasure of anticipation. Without warning, the activity is upon us. We rush to meet it; then we rush on the next. In the same way, we lack the luxury of reminiscing. On we fly to the next activity.” (A Minute of Margin, Richard Swenson. 2003.) Swenson reminds us to take the time to anticipate upcoming activities that we are looking forward to, and remember those positive activities after they are over.


  1. Do Something for Someone: Lastly, practice compassion. Researchers at the Wharton School of Business,and discussed in Drs. Trzeciak and Mazzarelli’s book Compassionomics, found that compassionate interactions with others actually change our perception of time. Compassion makes us feel less rushed and hurried; it slows us down and expaaands our sense of time.


None of us controls how many hours in the day we get. But we all can make some choices that affect how we perceive those hours. Why not start now?

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