Does charting weigh you down? Does it feel like it will never end that you’ll never be able to go home?

Do you want to finish charting faster.

I want to invite you to join me January 4 for a free webinar designed to help you do just that.

You can sign up today by going to the link in the show notes, or Again, January 4, I look forward to seeing you there to help you finish charting faster.

Welcome to the MedEdWell podcast. Empowering physicians to get work done at work, then be able to reflect and choose what is important for both their life and medical practice. I’m your host, Dr. Ryan Stegink, general pediatrician and life coach for physicians.

Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of the MedEdWell podcast where physicians come to be encouraged and equipped to take the next step in their own wellness journey. Thank you so much for subscribing, for sharing these episodes and for engaging with these concepts. I’ve been so excited to just welcome a number of amazing guests. And today I’m honored to have as a guest, Dr. Jia. Dr. Jia is a board certified nephrologist, and an assistant professor at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra Northwell. She is also the founder of published MD, where she coaches clinicians on how to build their authority and achieve their academic goals.

Dr. Jia, welcome to the show. Thank you so much. It’s such a pleasure being on this podcast.

So tell us a little bit more about yourself and your journey to becoming a nephrologist and a researcher.

I, I started I joined residency in a community program. And through that, despite being a community program, they had multiple quality improvement projects from day one, we were paired up with first year, second year, third year, and the second year would always start project and the first and third year was held up with the project. And so at the end of the year, we had six, actually yes, six projects under our belt doesn’t mean that it’s a full paper. But we were at experience in terms of how to think about questions, how to think about a project, all the different elements in conducting a project. And so I felt like I needed more and I did a master’s and also went to pursue nephrology at the same time. So I did nephrology training, and also Master’s in clinical epidemiology. That’s how I went to both the clinical site and the research site. That was my initial journey.

But what people don’t realize is, when I finished my master’s, I had zero publications. That means it’s almost like you finish your medical school and you can’t even see a patient, you don’t know how to diagnose a patient. So I felt like such a failure and could not really find a proper research job. I mean, they don’t give you protected time, you mainly have to see patients. And so I was very fortunate that our division chief, we had philanthropic funds, people who wanted to support a young researcher, and they gave me three years of protected time 50% clinical 30% research and said, I’m going to invest in you one more time. And that was how I really took that opportunity and said, I’m never going to waste this time. I’m like, I’m going to probably use this. And and that really jumpstart my journey published 15 papers within two years, and got a grant within the first three years actually, yeah, two and a half years, which was close to a million dollars of NIH funding. And so that made me realize that sometimes, first you need a second chance. And second, if you get the right mindset, you get the right strategy, and you plan your days, right. And finally, the right skills, you can jumpstart your your career really quickly. Doesn’t matter how badly you have been zero publication you can you can go very far if you get all the right strategies. So that’s kind of my journey in a nutshell.

And thanks for sharing that. I heard in there. You mentioned mindset, just saying at the end of your masters, you had zero publications and what you were making that mean about potentially it being a failure or just some of those things and really, the number of publications was just a number and then I

As they invested in you, like you were able to

transform your mindset, but I am interested to hear about some of those habits, and some of those intentional thoughts that you had to kind of transform your mindset to tell me a little bit more.

No, absolutely so important.

Maybe let me share my mistakes first, during my masters, then you can see why I have to change. So first is I took the work life balance a bit too far, I just had a baby two years, you know, and, and during masters, you suddenly go from 100% clinical time, when you get masters, you get 75% research, coursework, and 25% clinical time. So this major shift was so difficult for people who see patients all the time. And whenever I have free time, and I’m not seeing patient, I felt like I’m not doing anything. So I and in later I realized it was because clinical work is very reactive. And research is very proactive, you almost have to switch your mind to a different framework to be able to fit that in. So why I say clinical work is very reactive is because most of the time, you just need to show up to the hospitals, patient come to you, you get the pages, you get the calls, you write the notes, and you’re done, you go home, right, you don’t have to plan your days, okay, I need to plan to see five patients. So it’s patients come to you same as clinical work in clinic, you go there, you show up, you have a patient’s, then they come in no show fine, you know, but the patients that come in research, if you don’t do anything, the paper doesn’t get written, the data doesn’t get collected, and nobody holds you accountable. And, and if you don’t plan it, right, people don’t really have a good timeline for you. So one project could take one year, one project could take five years, and nobody can know two projects at the same. And so nobody can say you are actually slow to only you know, and you can forget your time, you can not do anything, and nobody realized you’re not doing anything.

So I took the work life balance came in at maybe 930. Left for an in between, I would check a few emails, I would check my topic inbox, which is the charting thing and realize, and I wasn’t doing my research, proper paper production activity. So so that was kind of my that was my mistake. And to answer your question, the big mindset was switching that I now need to take control of my own schedule. No longer wait for people to schedule me at a schedule it I have to create my own curriculum, I have to create my milestones, my key performance indicator, how do I get all the steps to achieve that paper and reverse engineering? That was the biggest changing habit that I have to make.

So yeah

, so that’s, that’s a really powerful shift to go from a more reactive approach, where you’re kind of responding to what’s coming at you to a proactive approach where you’re driving the ship, you’re setting the agenda, you’re creating those goals. And that’s, that’s a big shift. And it’s interesting, you mentioned this idea of, you know, the research can take a long time. And if you don’t really take control of it, it can just kind of stretch on and on. And so I’m curious, how did you practically start to implement that? How did you start to take control of your schedule and make sure that you were working on the things that you needed to be working on to achieve those research goals?

So first thing is I have to say, you know, I would not know what I’ve done. If I didn’t start looking into productivity strategy. So a lot of people don’t really know, you can take it you know, you you can take a step further, and you can say, Okay, I’m going to start planning my day in time blocking, what does that mean? Instead of you waiting for somebody to schedule that meeting, you’re going to say, Okay, I need to have this meeting, what time is good for me to say, okay, you know, Monday is 10 to 12, I’m going to do clinical work in the afternoon, I’m going to set another block for two to four, that’s my research time, and Wednesday, I’m going to have a block of time from 10 to 12, because that’s when I have some free time. So so by saying you are creating blocks of time, and you assign your task to that time, versus, I’m just going to be free at time that is good for other people. So that’s that’s a big step.

The second thing is understanding that most of the time in your calendar is not going to be research time. And so the first thing to do is to know where your time is going. So I asked people to do a time log. So I’ll send you the time log, you can put it in the show notes, and you basically put 30 minute block, one hour block, you don’t need to do anything more granular than 30 minutes. And throughout the day, you just go look at Okay, what time did I start working? And what time did I stop? And you look at the 30 minutes? What did I do? Did I go to meeting? Did I go you know, listen to something? Did I do research? Did I write a paper? Did I do charting? And you realize, Oh my god, I only have three blocks of 30 minutes research time, the whole day, right? It’s only an hour and a half and whole day, versus I have 10 blocks of meetings and you know, so suddenly you realize why I’m not productive is because I’m not really doing the work that matters.

So so that’s the first realization. And so once you have that realization, you then can say, Okay, my first goal is not to grow my research time from three blocks to 10 blocks, because that’s not possible. My goal, though, is to say, out of the three blocks, how can I make sure they are the highest quality block. And that’s where I teach the concept of deep work, because a lot of people don’t realize deep work is what create value, not sitting in front of your computer and I you know, pass through this paper, right? So how do you make that three blocks into a super high quality work? And how do you know what to do, when and what are the skills that you need to get there? That’s kind of the next step after you figure out where your time is going.

And so, so that’s that’s really powerful.

You know, I was gonna say, and that that’s really powerful, because I think it helps to remove some of the guilt that can come when you’re not able to dedicate an entire day to research, or even an entire afternoon, but to recognize that, you know, you’re not necessarily striving for this complete shift, but just maximizing the quality of the time that you can dedicate. And so what are some of those things that you have found that help people to maximize that quality of the time that they are dedicating to research?

Absolutely, so the first thing is to realize that most people who work, even if they said I’m going to sit down for two hours, because it’s such a, it’s like a marathon, you can’t run a marathon for two hours, right. And so, and, and what’s even worse is that, imagine somebody’s running a marathon, and there are so many obstacles, and there are people interrupting them, they have to do other things. And they’re like, okay, I stopped for five minutes, I get up, I sit back down. So when you’re, when you’re in deep work, it’s like a marathon, you really have to sustain that. And so you really need to say, I can do for a marathon for two hours, the most research, quality research, deep work you can do is four hours. And so you need to really manage your energy, you need to do some strategies in terms of saying, Okay, what am I doing before deep work, what am I doing during deep work? And what am I doing after the work and the recovery? So you need to kind of have a better understanding of the energy pattern in terms of during the work, you want to be extremely focused, and you want to know how do you set up the environment to do that. And what are some of the practices to do that, and I can share with you a lot of those strategies, if you’re interested. And the last thing is how do you recover, and the recovery is actually the most neglected part, people forget to rest, and they don’t actually take the time to say, after you do deep work, you do need a rest. And so and then I have the strategy for that as well. So that’s kind of that’s kind of how you manage the energy during that time.

I love that and I love that, you’re talking about the importance of the recovery time as well. Because I think that can be easy to overlook, you know, you feel like, oh, I’m dedicating this time to deep work, and I just have to keep pushing, pushing, pushing, but recognizing that that recovery time is so important. And I’m wondering if you could share a little bit about what are some of those strategies or what are some of those things that people can do during that recovery time to make the most of it?

Yes, absolutely. So the one thing I want to share is, it’s very counterintuitive, but it’s also very much based on scientific research is that, you know, there’s something called active recovery versus passive recovery. So passive recovery is like, I’m just going to sit on the couch, I’m just going to do nothing. But that’s not how our body works. Our body is a system of systems, you need to, you need to still be active, but you’re not active in the same kind of work. So active recovery actually means you are doing something like taking a walk, you’re

still moving, but you’re not doing the same work. So that’s the first thing is recognizing that taking a walk, even for 10 minutes, or 15 minutes can be extremely helpful, versus just sitting down and taking a break, especially you know, with the concept of Zoom fatigue. You can’t just sit and watch Netflix, because it’s still your brain is still engaged, you know, you need to do something else.

The second thing is what I call restoration of attention, it’s like you you spend a lot of attention, how do you bring that back. So anything that deals with a different modality of attention can be very helpful. And so in the book, I talk about the Pomodoro technique, which is a technique that a lot of people know, which is you do 25 minutes of work, and then you do five minutes of break, and that five minutes of break can be extremely helpful to restore your attention. The challenge with that is that it’s still work. So what I would suggest is, in that five minutes, do a different modality of attention. So for example, if you’re reading a lot, and you’re doing a lot of reading, and you know, chart reviews, and you’re doing a lot of that, then don’t read during the break, maybe you can do something visual, maybe you can look at some images. So that’s, that’s kind of one strategy.

The other thing is, there’s a lot of research on what’s called attention restoration, which is when you’re in nature, you’re looking at a lot of greens, that can be extremely helpful. So one of the strategies is what I call the three by three strategy, which is, you take three minutes, every 30 minutes of work, and you go and you look at something that is green. So it could be you know, looking at a plant, or it could be looking at some pictures, or it could be looking at something that is that has that quality. So so that’s kind of that’s another strategy.

The last strategy I would share is deep breathing. And, and I know, a lot of people, you know, I used to think that’s just you know, what is it just breathing, you know, what is it going to do? But deep breathing is one of the most effective ways to actually help you recover. So one of the techniques I share is 4-7-8 technique, which is you take a deep breath for four, you hold your breath for seven, and you exhale for eight. And that technique is extremely effective, it actually changes your physiology, it changes your body from the sympathetic, which is the fight or flight, to the parasympathetic, which is the rest and digest. And it actually helps you to be much more in a calmer state. So that’s that’s kind of another strategy that I share. So these are just a few of the strategies, but there are a lot more that you can you can learn and and the idea is that you need to do one of them, you don’t need to do all of them. But doing one of them can be very helpful to help you recover.

Absolutely, I love that. And I think those are some really actionable strategies that people can take away and start implementing right away. And so, you know, as we’re kind of wrapping up here, I’m wondering if there are any final pieces of advice that you would offer to researchers or academics who are looking to be more productive and more effective in their work, whether that’s in their research or in other areas of their academic pursuits?

Absolutely, I would say the first thing is recognize that this is a skill, you know, a lot of people think that it’s something that some people are just born with, some people are just naturally good at it, and it’s not true. This is a skill like any other skill, and it takes time to learn it, it takes time to implement it. And it’s, and it’s not easy, it’s actually challenging, because you’re kind of changing a lot of things that you’re used to, and you have to, you know, deal with some of the challenges and the resistance to that. So that’s the first thing is recognizing that you need to learn the skill.

The second thing is recognizing that this is an ongoing thing. So you can’t just read a book and expect to suddenly be productive, you need to actually implement, you need to take the time to practice, and you need to take the time to, to make it a habit, and that’s actually the hardest part, you know, a lot of people think that motivation is what’s going to drive them, but it’s actually habits that drive us. And so you need to make it a habit. So it takes time, it takes practice, and it takes a lot of iteration, you know, what works for me might not work for you. So you need to find what works for you.

The third thing is getting help. And so that’s why I created the program that I created is because I realized that a lot of people need help. And so you can’t do it on your own. And so finding a coach, finding a mentor, finding a community that can support you can be extremely helpful. So don’t try to do it on your own. Because, you know, we’re not built to do things on our own, we’re built to do things in groups, in a community. So so finding a community that can support you can be extremely helpful.

And the last thing I would say is recognize that this is a journey, and that it’s not about just becoming productive for productivity sake, it’s about becoming productive so that you can do the work that you love, and you can do the work that is meaningful, and that’s going to make an impact. So, so it’s not about, you know, doing more for the sake of doing more, it’s about doing more so that you can create the impact that you want to create.

I think those are fantastic pieces of advice, and a really great note to end on. So thank you so much, Dr. Hamdy, for joining us today and sharing your insights on productivity and how researchers and academics can be more effective in their work. I think there’s a lot of valuable information here that people can take away and start implementing, and really start making a positive impact on their work. So thank you so much for your time.

Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure. And I really hope that people, you know, get some value out of this and, and I’m here to help. So if anybody has any questions, feel free to reach out to me. And I’m really happy to help. And I love to hear feedback as well. So thank you so much for having me.

Thank you. Take care.

You too. Bye bye.