Get Your Game Face On

July 27, 2012
Eric Postal, MD

It’s just about time to sit down to your daily stack of cases. How primed are you for the work?

It’s just about time to sit down to your daily stack of cases. How primed are you for the work?

A lot of things feed into this - how you slept the previous night, whether your last couple of meals are agreeing with you, if you’re under the weather at all, and what sorts of phone calls, mail, or other human interactions you fielded before firing up your reading station.

If you work in a conventional brick-and-mortar job, you’ve got other potential factors: The quality of your commute and parking, how many issues were waiting for you when you arrived (whether verbally delivered by office staff or unceremoniously piled on your desk), etc. On the other hand, these daily routines can serve as an almost ritualistic series of events which get you “in the zone” so you’re tuned in to reading studies as opposed, say, to thinking about your plans for the upcoming weekend.

If, like me, you’ve switched to teleradiology and are working from a home office, there’s less of a routine to transition you into productivity mode; you just hit a button, and the caseload is ready to go. This is generally regarded as one of the strengths of a telerad position. Mentally, however, you might not be set to hit the ground running.

For instance, if you were just watching something on TV and had to pause because it was time to start working, you might be looking at CTs but thinking of whatever entertainment got truncated. Same thing if you were reading a good book or having a nice catching-up phone chat with a friend or relative. If you hastily scarfed down some food just before logging in, you might be in a postprandial daze.

Starting your daily work with a sense of being in mental slow motion might not bother you. Maybe the dynamics of your job don’t place much value on productivity (or you don’t mind getting behind the eight ball and routinely struggling to catch up during subsequent hours). Or you don’t personally care so much about your bottom line, and are willing to produce/earn less during the early part of your shift. I tend to get a little vexed when my first hour is gone and I have fallen behind the pace I like to maintain.

Slowly but surely, I’ve developed a little getting-in-gear routine that takes place over the course of the hour preceding my work. It’s not worth going into detail over it, because what works for me surely won’t apply to everyone. A fresh brew of coffee is involved, coupled with whatever minor tasks I have around the house that can get done in a matter of minutes - paying bills, taking out the trash, etc. I suppose such quickly dispatched chores get me in the proper frame of mind. I go from checking off my domestic deeds to signing off cases.

Not all that long ago, I heard about a professional writer (famous or not, I can’t recall) who does something similar. Even though his work is even less structured than ours - he can write whenever he chooses, as his publishers aren’t awaiting his output quite as eagerly as the ERs are for ours - he formally gets ready for work each day. Sets his alarm, has his breakfast, and actually dresses in a shirt and tie before sitting at his computer to begin the day’s typing. A perfect example of how individualized this prepping process can be: For me, the day I stopped having to wear a tie while working was one of the best of my career.