8 tips for FOCUS – The modern day superpower

Results, incoming telephone calls, scripts to sign, screen messages, electronic tasks, supporting clinical staff, scanned mail, interruptions from reception, paper inbox… Let alone a new patient every 10 minutes….

Now add… email, online news, text messages, app notifications, eConsultations. Twitter is now a useful source of news and opinion. GP only groups such as Resilient GP and Tiko’s GP Group have even made facebook a (several times) daily work related destination for many GPs….

No wonder I find it so hard to stay on top of everything.

Dr Puddle has been using focus to unlock frightening new abilities...
Dr Puddle has been using focus to unlock frightening new abilities…

There is such pressure facing the modern GP to stay on top of multiple work streams. To be responsive. To stay connected. To be up to date with the latest news and developments. It can sometimes feel like we are drowning in work and information.

We know that if we just had some time and energy we could improve our practice systems. We could find better, smarter ways to work. But, life is just too busy. There are too many plates to keep spinning.

This week I stumbled across a useful concept which resonated with my feelings of information and action overload. Cal Newport is an academic Computer Scientist and writes about the impact of technology and how to learn successfully. I listened to a fascinating interview with Cal on James Altucher’s podcast.

Cal describes two types of work:

  • Deep Work: Activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push cognitive capabilities to their limit. Deep work is rewarding, generates real value and multiplies the return on invested time.
  • Shallow Work: Non-cognitively demanding repetitive tasks often performed while distracted. Shallow work is procrastination at worst and fighting fires at best and generaly mundane.
“Shallow work stops you getting fired. Deep work gets you promoted” – Cal Newport

Do you remember that essay you left until the last minute and the intense rush to complete it? The grade was as good, if not better than the essay you spent much more time on. How did that happen?

You did deep work and focussed hard. You were selective about sources, prioritised and worked efficiently.

High quality work produced = (time spent) x (intensity of focus)

We need to tame shallow work. We need to do more deep work… This much is obvious… But how?

Continue reading “8 tips for FOCUS – The modern day superpower”

The trouble with NHS Choices… And a better way to do feedback?

“This is the most mismanaged gp surgery I have ever had the displeasure to use. Difficult to get appointments, impossible to plan around work, rude receptionist…”

 

It is difficult to see how any surgery could use this sort of general criticism to achieve anything positive. More often I find that this sort of comment leaves staff demoralised and defensive.

The premise of NHS Choices sounds superficially sensible. Provide potential patients with honest, good quality testimonials about GP practices. These rational and informed consumers will then choose to take their business to the best practices. The good surgeries are rewarded with new business. The underperformers will respond to patient feedback and improve, or eventually lose patients and go broke.

In most industries and under normal circumstances this would make sense. But, General Practice is not a normal industry and these are strange times. In an environment of clinical staff shortages, many practices simply do not need or want to attract more patients. They simply cannot find or afford the staff they would need to look after them. In addition, due to practices boundary rules, patient choice may be limited to only a collection of equally poorly rated practices facing shared recruitment and demographic problems. 

Feedback is powerful. Thoughtful feedback given with good intentions by a skilled tutor or friend can encourage a student to improve and excel. But, careless feedback can hurt, demoralise and block progress.

Feedback is a useful tool when applied in the right way to a suitable problem…

Continue reading “The trouble with NHS Choices… And a better way to do feedback?”

The 4 NHS Ways to Work Framework

The fields of management and leadership are full of simple schemes and classifications for understanding how people and processes tick. These can be a useful tool to turn to when planning change or when there is problem that is difficult to put a finger on. They provide concepts and vocabulary to help us explain problems to one another and find solutions together.

I encountered a new leadership concept this week…

 

4-nhs-ways-to-work-sketch

Kurt Gebhard Adolf Philipp Freiherr von Hammerstein-Equord, the Commander-in-Chief of the WW2 German Army, had a fascinating system for classifying his officers.

“I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent — their place is the General Staff. The next lot are stupid and lazy — they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent — he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief.”

This system is amusing for its frank, perhaps outdated, description of most workers as stupid and the image it conjures of that much mocked workplace character – the “little Hitler”. We all recognise that person who enthusiastically applies rules and regulation without proper judgement or understanding of the systemic harm they are doing.

However, I think it is too reductionist, rigid (and rude) for the modern workplace.

Continue reading “The 4 NHS Ways to Work Framework”

4 Things the NHS could learn from Disney

Working as a GP in the esteemed but overstretched british national institution which is the modern NHS can be tough at times. I felt this a little more than usual last week having just returned from my summer holiday in the artificial bubble and pinnacle of one of America’s own national institutions – Disney World –  the “happiest place on earth”.

Since beginning this blog, I’m always on the lookout for innovative ideas. Free association of unrelated concepts is a great source of inspiration. So I kept my iPhone in hand to jot down any thoughts that might help improve life and care within General Practice or the wider NHS.

lesson-for-nhs-from-disney-sketch

 

Continue reading “4 Things the NHS could learn from Disney”

My free flu campaign art – Winter is Coming

Flu Campaign Sketch

 

The flu vaccine deliveries are nearly here and it is time to put this year’s flu campaign into action.

Feel free to use and share my sketch if it might help to fight flu!

Enjoy the end of August. For as the Stark’s of Winterfell would say – “Winter is Coming”…

Are NHS staff missing the Happiness Advantage?

Q. What do most want from life?

A. To be happy and successful.

Q. What should you do to achieve this?

A. Work hard, to achieve success, then feel happy.

 

The A-Level student knows they will be happy when they get into Medical School. The medical student will be happy when they graduate. The foundation doctor wants a good specialist training place. The specialist trainee will be happy when they complete training and find a permanent job. The GP/Consultant thinks they will be happy when they have saved enough money for early retirement….

Delayed gratification is certainly an essential part of the toolkit needed to achieve success. But, like me, you have probably learnt that there is more to actually being happy.

The obvious problem with the approach above is that happiness is all too often replaced by the next challenge. It is always in the future, when where we live is the present.

Evidence from the field of behavioural psychology suggests that this conventional wisdom about how to find happiness has even deeper flaws. And that the relationship between work, success and happiness is more complex than our instinctive, socially conditioned first thoughts might imply.

The Happiness Advantage Sketch

Shawn Achor, a Harvard Lecturer and psychologist, suggests in his book “The Happiness Advantage”, that the relationship between work, success and happiness actually runs in the opposite directions.

 

“People are smarter, more effective and resilient when they are happy”

Continue reading “Are NHS staff missing the Happiness Advantage?”