By Heather Hammerstedt, MD, MPH
The following content is adapted from a presentation at Vituity Women in Medicine’s leadership development conference in March 2017.
There are so many productivity apps out there, and devices running those apps, that it can be a major headache to find them, learn them, and tailor them to fit your own unique work and lifestyle. Productivity software is meant to make our lives simpler. But it can often lead us down a rabbit hole of “software bloat” and “feature creep” — in other words, productivity software originally designed to make our lives less complicated often achieves the exact opposite, as successive app upgrades tend to pack on evermore features with dubious user benefits.
I’m a busy working mom in emergency medicine (EM) and lifestyle medicine, a CEO of my own company, and an executive for an EM education nonprofit in Uganda. Needless to say, my attention is constantly being pulled in multiple directions throughout the day and night. Just when I have a fleeting moment to sit down to collect my thoughts and attempt to get organized, life inevitably grabs that attention and pulls me away from whatever I’m working on at the moment: Patients with acute care needs. The needs of my family. Or various administrative tasks and paperwork that anyone working in EM or business is probably familiar with. So, when it comes to the technology I use to keep myself organized, I follow one simple rule of thumb:
One step and forget.
Let’s say that I’m building a to-do list or maybe saving a long clinical article that I want to read over the weekend. My “one step and forget” rule works like this: I should be able to create that to-do list or save that article with no more than one or two presses of a button on my smartphone or other device. If I’m between patients in the emergency department, or enjoying leisure time at home with my kids, I need to be able to quickly make a note and then forget about it until I have some future downtime to return to it with less divided attention. One step and forget.
At Vituity, I’m part of a network of women in medicine who band together to advocate for our needs and unique roles as working parents and emerging leaders in our physician-owned Partnership. Vituity actively encourages dialogue and provides tools of support for women in medicine so they can excel personally and professionally. My peers at Vituity often ask me how I stay organized. So in that spirit, I’ll share a few tips that I’ve learned and put to good use:
- Email: I don’t recommend reading your email until you have sufficient time to respond to at least a few items. You should aim to “touch it once,” which means that you either respond, delete, or delegate the email the first time you read it. This keeps your inbox empty and ensures that tasks get assigned in real time.
- Reading lists: Do you ever surf the news and social media and find so many interesting articles that you want to read but never have enough time? I’m sure I’m not the only one. That’s why I look for apps or web browser extensions that will let me save an article with the single press of a button to return to later. One step and forget.
- Projects: I have seemingly countless projects and tasks to accomplish, so I need apps that will help me keep focused and mindful of what I need to do and when it needs to get done. I suggest looking for an app that syncs between all your devices and automatically sets recurring tasks for you. Does one single task seem overwhelming? No problem — try to break it up into smaller tasks and you’ll be on track to complete what you’d planned.
- Notes and reminders: My main takeaway for taking notes and setting reminders is simple: digitize! Paper notes are easily lost, sometimes illegible, and not very secure. Find a note taking app that will allow you to press one button and start typing your content. The best note taking apps will even create a title based on your content so that you don’t have to waste time thinking of one. The app should also have solid integration with the voice memo software on your mobile device so that you can quickly dictate notes and reminders on the go.
- Calendars: Make sure that your different calendars (work, personal, family, shared) are synced on a single app. Switching between different calendar apps is time consuming and may lead to confusion and missed appointments. Having a single app to house all your calendars will give you greater visibility of your holistic schedule and, therefore, your life.
Getting your tech life organized is like building any other habit. Be intentional and consistent, and the results will show. If you make a mistake or fall behind, that’s okay. Find an equilibrium to anchor yourself and get back on track.
Women in medicine work especially hard, and we support each other to foster success in a challenging and rewarding profession. When you start to get organized, find supportive tech solutions that will work hard for you — and share what you find so we can all rise together!
Visit Vituity.com/careers for more information about support and leadership opportunities for women in medicine.