Top 7 Strategies for Managing Chaos at Home and Work

parkinson's law provider care provider support revive physicians time management Dec 18, 2023

Drs. Sarah and Alicia come together to share some more insights from their work with Revive Physicians, a community raising up and empowering female physicians to become long-term change makers and leaders. They share their top seven strategies for managing chaos at home and at work, to avoid living in a state of constant hyper arousal, and practicing these strategies so they can be more easily enacted in moments of unavoidable chaos.


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[00:00:50] Dr. Sarah Lea: Hey everybody! We are all busy out there doing the best we can to get through our day to day and so we thought we'd share with you today top seven strategies to [00:01:00] manage chaos at home and at work.

[00:01:03] Let's talk about chaos. What is chaos? We all live busy lives, and that in itself can be completely overwhelming. But this can also be seen as our baseline regular lives. So getting this chaos under control is so important. Otherwise, we'll always find ourselves in a state of hyper arousal. We hope that you use these tips and strategies to help deal with your baseline life, and then you can also use them to help manage things when the unexpected chaos enters. This could be a challenging patient encounter in your clinic, an unexpected family emergency, or your dog eating your favorite pair of shoes. Did that happen to you?

[00:01:40] Dr. Alicia Power: It sure did, and I was planning to wear them to a fancy event I was going to. So our first strategy is to be calm. Take a breath and recenter. We know that those big, deep belly breaths really activate our parasympathetic nervous system and that kind of can get us out of that chaotic sympathetic system, that [00:02:00] fight, flight, fawn, or freeze. Oftentimes when we're feeling overwhelmed we don't react in a way that we would if we were feeling more centered and calm.

[00:02:09] So first things first, if you're feeling overwhelmed, if you're feeling like you're living in a state of chaos, take some big, deep breaths, get yourself out of this space. I was listening to this awesome podcast the other day that talked about this glitter bottle and they talked about this glitter bottle with teens. So the teenage brain it can't think, it can't comprehend, it can't make rational decisions when it's in a state of chaos. So they talked about this bottle of water that had a couple of teaspoons of glitter in it. And they shake it all up. And that's our brain when we're feeling overwhelmed. And we just need to let that glitter settle to the bottom before we can move on. Take those deep breaths. Allow that glitter to settle before you start to manage the chaos.

[00:02:51] Dr. Sarah Lea: That's such great advice. The next thing we recommend is be specific and be really clear about what is really, actually a [00:03:00] problem. It can often feel like everything is urgent, but if It all actually can't be urgent. So what do you actually really need to manage in the moment? What's important right now? And what can you do to make things better? Staying grounded and really noticing the needs that you have in the moment and the needs of those around you is really important.

[00:03:20] So think about at work. This might look like your office assistant just had a hard interaction with a patient and coming to you very upset. Helping her to calm down and settle so she can get back to work is probably the most important thing to do in the moment. You may not actually need to deal with that patient right now, if they're not in the office. Dealing with that chaos can wait until later. Deal with what's most important in the moment, to you at that point in time. At home, this might look like your kid's being rangy because they're actually just really hungry. So perhaps giving them a snack first so that you can then help them settle prior to moving forward with the day. [00:04:00] So thinking about in the moment. What's one small thing you can do that's going to help things moving forward, not trying to tackle everything at once.

[00:04:07] Dr. Alicia Power: Yeah, and this leads into the next one. Be reasonable. You cannot do everything and you cannot be everything to everyone. You need to prioritize where you can make a difference and where you actually want to spend your time.

[00:04:20] What is a reasonable expectation in this moment? People around you might be scared, they may not be reacting well, and you may not be able to get to all of the things right now. But what can you do that is a priority to you in this moment to help move the situation forward. Like you might not be able to get through your entire inbox right now. It'll still be there later when you can get to it. So just do what you reasonably can now. Try delegating some tasks to kids, partners, your assistant. Do you really need to be doing the laundry right now or can your house cleaner or your kids do it? For that matter, do you love cleaning a house? Or can you delegate that to somebody else? Can you hire somebody else? Now, [00:05:00] everybody is very different on what they're willing to trade off. Time versus money versus outcomes. So you really need to dig deep inside yourself and understand what your priorities are in life. And where you really want to be spending your time and energy. And what you're willing to give up for that.

[00:05:15] For example, some people I know are hiring a scribe for their medical notes because it's really important to them to have very well documented notes and they spend hours and hours every night. So they can actually hire a scribe or get an AI scribe to do that for them. It costs money, but for them, that precision is really valuable to them and so they're willing to spend that.

[00:05:35] Dr. Sarah Lea: The next thing that we think is a really great strategy is to be mindful of your time. You can even go so far as to use a timer, understanding that not everything will ever get done. There's always something left for you to do, be it emails in your inbox, your ever overflowing pile of laundry. So just think about setting a timer and work to get the thing that you were [00:06:00] specifically about to get done. So think about you've got a huge pile of laundry, set a timer for 20 minutes. You're going to fold laundry for 20 minutes and when that 20 minutes is up, you're going to move on to your next task. Because otherwise that laundry is going to keep piling up and keep overflowing.

[00:06:15] This is actually Parkinson's Law. You may have heard us talk about this before. And the idea behind this is that things will expand to the time that they are allotted to them. So we've talked about this in more detail. And if you're interested in learning more about time management tips, you can check out our podcast on that topic or head to a free download we have on our website, which has www. revivephysicians. com backslash time. And we can also throw that into the show notes as well.

[00:06:40] Dr. Alicia Power: So the next strategy is be done. Good and done is better than perfect and not done. Set a realistic goal and finish it. Don't move on to the next task until you're done, either with time or the task is complete, because that whole shift, task shifting, takes a lot of time and a lot of [00:07:00] mental energy, and it actually makes tasks take longer than they would if you just sat down, finished one task, and then moved on to the next one.

[00:07:08] Be done and be okay with it being done. Your job is to complete a task, it doesn't always have to be perfect. Take a break, take a seat, go outside and take a breath once you're done the task and really relish in the accomplishment of just being done. Now, you may have to come back to it another time, but for now, set a limit, set a goal, and finish it up. And for those of you who get overwhelmed with tasks seeming really big, chunk them down into smaller, more manageable tasks, and be done with each of those smaller pieces. And over time, you will accomplish the bigger task, and it will be much easier for you to do that.

[00:07:42] Dr. Sarah Lea: Yeah, you know what, I'm gonna think of, I can think of a great example around this. We just, we've been working with our kids and cleaning their room, right? So here's a great example. If you tell your kid to go clean their room, that can be fairly overwhelming. But if you say, Put your blankets on your bed, put your books on the bookshelf, put your toys in the toy bin, put your laundry away, put your [00:08:00] dirty clothes down the hamper. Those small, actionable steps can actually be achievable for them if they do them one at a time.

[00:08:05] Dr. Alicia Power: Totally. It's a great example. Thanks, buddy.

[00:08:08] Dr. Sarah Lea: This next one is something that we are both trying to embody more of in our lives, and that is being compassionate to yourself. You're only human. Do what you can, and if safety is not an issue, leave things for another time. You can't be everything to everyone, and if you try, you're going to burn yourself out, and you'll be good to no one, not even yourself. So really embodying that self compassion, and when you're feeling overwhelmed, or you think you haven't done a good job, or you didn't get what you wanted accomplished, say to yourself what you would say to a good friend. We are often so much harder on ourselves, that inner critic or that nasty voice. Try and shift it and say to yourself what you would say to a friend.

[00:08:49] Dr. Alicia Power: I used to think about this when I used to do locums up north and I would go to do emergency and I do not like the emergency room. And frankly, I don't think I'm great at being in the [00:09:00] emergency room. Certainly wasn't. I'm not now. I was better back then, but I would often say, you know what, if I wasn't here, there would be nobody here because I would pick up these last minute locum. I am doing the best I can, maybe I'm not as good as somebody, like a full fledged emergency room doc, but I am doing the best I can, and for now that has to be good enough.

[00:09:16] Dr. Sarah Lea: Yeah. Totally. Yeah. That's a great example.

[00:09:18] Dr. Alicia Power: Yeah. So the next one is be proactive. I love this rule. What can you do now that might help you later on? Oh, you love this one. I do love this rule. So if you can deal with one small thing now for a patient or a client to reduce their need to come back to see you later. Or a last minute call to your office as you're trying to leave the door? Do that. Do they need a prescription refill? Can you order an x ray for their knee so when they come back to get their exam done, you have that information so you can send off a consult right then if you need to. Can you order groceries online at your break during your lunch? Although it would be better to go for a walk. But can you order them? What can you can pick them up on the way [00:10:00] home to avoid having to actually go into the grocery store and spend half an hour, 45 minutes picking up the groceries? Can you plan your meals this week so that similar ingredients are used to decrease prep time or that you just buy the groceries for that meal and you make extra food on the weekend to have dinner ready for a couple of those really busy days that are upcoming this week?

[00:10:20] What can you do now that is going to help you later in the day, week, or month? So there you have it folks, our top seven strategies for managing day to day life and the unexpected chaos that we know is going to come our way. So this was inspired by the book, The Lazy Genius by Kendra Adachi. Now the book is written mostly for kind of tips around the house, but as you can see, these can be applied anywhere.

[00:10:45] So if this podcast resonated with you, I highly recommend reading or as I do listening to her book. And you can certainly check it out in our Amazon store and we'll link that in the bio.

[00:10:56] Dr. Sarah Lea: Thanks for listening!


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