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My 4 Secrets to Perfect Time Management for Doctors

People always ask me about my secrets for time management. The problem is that I usually don’t know how to answer them. I guess, to me, I don’t really feel like I have any secrets to time management. Or that I’m even that good at managing my time to begin with.

But since I keep getting asked about this, I started to think and try to dissect how I perceive and treat my time. I do appreciate that I get a lot of things done and do have a good amount of irons in the fire at any one time. That requires some effective time management.

time management secrets

However, I think what surprises most people about me is that I still rest a lot. The most common question I get after they ask about time management is if I sleep. Well, in reality, I am one of those people who doesn’t function well without sleep. I need to get at least 6 and ideally 8 hours a night. So in that sense, I guess I do manage my time well.

So here goes..

My 4 secrets to perfect time management for doctors

These are not necessarily in a particular order…

1. There’s always enough time for what’s important

This is a story that I always tell.

When Selenid was pregnant with Samuel, our first child, I can remember sitting at our kitchen table in New York City and freaking out. Because we were already so, so busy. How in the world would we be able to add in raising a kid to our already crazy schedules? It just didn’t seem possible! And we stressed about it.

But then what happened? Samuel was born. And we made time. It really wasn’t even a conscious effort. It’s more so that taking care of Samuel was obviously so important. We naturally re-prioritized the other things in our lives. Some things moved down the priority list and others fell off completely.

But we had time.

Then Selenid became pregnant with our second son, Emery. And we really started to freak out. How would we now take care of two kids in addition to everything else?! There was just no way. Keep in mind that we were still in NYC, me in training and Selenid finishing her PhD.

But then what happened? We made time. It really wasn’t even a conscious effort. It’s more so that taking care of Emery was obviously so important. We naturally re-prioritized the other things in our lives. Some things moved down the priority list and others fell off completely.

And then the same thing happened with our third son, Camilo.

This is a dramatic example

Few things in life demand as much immediate and necessary attention as a new child. They force you to make time. But that’s not the point.

And yes, of course we all use help in some variety whether it is family or a nanny or what have you. That is also not the point.

The point is that you do it. You make time. Somehow. Someway. Even when it feels like there is just no humanly way to make it work out.

You also need to do the same with other important things in your life

If something is important to you, whether that is a hobby, family, friends, side gig that makes you passive money, professional responsibility, sleep, or anything else, you need to make time for it.

And the way to do that is to re-prioritize your life. A baby forces us to do that. But if there is something that brings you closer to living your best and most authentic and fulfilling life, that is just as important and deserves the same immediate attention as a child.

Make the hard decisions. Fight the mere urgency effect to focus on what is important, not just what is urgent. Align your time and your life with what is most meaningful to you – personally, professionally, financially, and otherwise.

2. Work in the margins of your life

If I do have a superpower, I think this is it. But it doesn’t really take any effort or skill or luck to acquire, you can just do it.

Our life, especially as physicians, is full of margins. Or down time. Whatever you want to call it. Instead of wasting them, use them purposefully.

Here’s a very simple example

All surgeons hate turnover time. Turnover time is the time from when one surgery ends for the operating room to get cleaned and set up for the next surgery. I’ve operated at tines of hospitals and no surgeon has ever said that any turnover was fast enough.

It’s just the way it is.

However, the way that most surgeons react to it is to sit in the surgeon’s lounge in between cases and waste time. By complaining about the turnover time. By sitting on their phones mindlessly. Or even by spewing some pretty horrendous financial advice…

Basically, they do anything but be productive.


I spend that time writing blog posts, optimizing my real estate business, preparing for other surgeries, or actively relaxing. I make that time work for me. And yes, I very purposefully include relaxing on that list of things to do with the margins of your life.

One of my favorite things to do is read. One of the hardest things to do in my life is read. Because I have 3 kids at home. And by the time we get them to bed, we are exhausted. So, what I do instead a lot is read in the surgeon’s lounge between cases. And that is very productive for me. It brings me a lot of enjoyment. Much more than complaining, scrolling social media, or otherwise wasting that time.

Anything that you can accomplish in the margins of your life means more time that you have outside of the margins. Working in the margins is why I don’t need to stay up late and sacrifice sleep to get the things that are important to me done.

The same can work for you!

3. Be passionate about what you do

Time flies when you’re having fun.

We all know it. But I’ve never heard it incorporated into any time management advice. And that doesn’t make sense to me. Because if you love what you do, you will do it much more efficiently. But more importantly, it just won’t feel like work. You won’t feel like you are “managing your time” at all. Instead, you’ll just be enjoying it!

This sounds like really impractical advice. I can hear people saying, “Well, you can’t just do what you love all the time.” And that’s true. We all do some things that we have to.

But you can work to maximize the amount of time that you do things you are passionate about. And you can carefully choose and prioritize that things in life that bring you fulfillment.

The best example I can give is this blog. People ask me all the time how I do it, how I write all my posts, and if I ever get tired of it. And the honest answer is no! Because I enjoy it. I’m passionate about it. It’s fun for me. So I really don’t consider this time as time spent being “managed.”

4. Accept that you’ll never get it all done

Sounds contradictory. Because most time management advice focuses on trying to help you get it all done.

But the dirty little secret is that it’s impossible to get it all done. Being more efficient or getting more done just means more pops up to do. And usually the more that pops up isn’t stuff you really want to do or are passionate about.

Just take technology as an example. By all accounts, technology should have made life much simpler and more relaxed over the past 50 years. Think of all the things people used to have to do that we just don’t anymore thanks to technology. But, do we all know just get to relax with all our free time? Nope! Technology doesn’t actually save time. We just came up with more things to do!

So stop trying to force everything in!

Accept the fact that you will never get it all done. And stop making that your goal. Allow things to take the time that they require to get done right. Enjoy the process. Set aside a set amount of time in a day to do a non-urgent but important task. If it’s not done by then, set aside more time another day rather than rushing it to completion.

Practice makes perfect for these time management secrets

This will not happen overnight.

As humans, we are wired the way we are for a reason. There are evolutionary advantages to addressing urgent things first, even if they are not that important in the long term. Unfortunately though, those advantages aren’t needed as much today as they were in the savannah.

So practice these skills. And trust me it takes practice.

I’m still working on all of this.

But if you do practice, it will make a huge difference in your perception of time management. You’ll get better work done. And you’ll feel better about it.

As a bonus, you can also use these skills to help optimize your financial life as well on the path to financial freedom like this:

What do you think? Do you have any more secrets to perfect time management? How can we all be better? Let me know in the comments below!

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    Jordan Frey MD, a plastic surgeon in Buffalo, NY, is one of the fastest-growing physician finance bloggers in the world. See how he went from financially clueless to increasing his net worth by $1M in 1 year and how you can do the same! Feel free to send Jordan a message at [email protected].

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