Demystifying Physician Mindfulness: a 12-Part Series
More and more, popular culture is catching on. Mindfulness leadership for physicians is a game-changer. I work with physicians to support greater health and vitality, and I have found that mindfulness is one of the most essential tools in the toolkit.
I’ve put together this series exploring how mindfulness is beneficial for busy physicians battling stress and burnout. Through the series, you get a taste of real-life stories from physicians, and learn actionable steps to integrate a mindful approach into your practice. These are practical, accessible resources to help you be a happier and more balanced version of yourself, in the workplace and at home.
In this installment, we explore how mindfulness leadership can be applied to the challenges that show up among physician leaders, helping them be more organized, clarify priorities, and reserve energy for what matters most.
Today’s Topic: Mindfulness Leadership For Physicians
Our physician, Dr. O, is overwhelmed with responsibilities.
“I’m completely overwhelmed. My days are full of meeting after meeting. When I finally have time to sit down to work on projects, my mind just seems to flit here and there and I am too scattered to be productive. Then, when I finally have time to get something done, someone calls and needs something — and they always say their need is urgent. It’s like they all want a piece of me! I feel like the days just keep getting away from me, and I’m just not getting things done. I’m so stressed that I’m worried I’ll develop an ulcer.”
Dear Dr. O, mindful leadership course
Thanks for your query. You’re not alone. It’s understandable to be feeling overwhelmed because of your many responsibilities. I often hear from physician leaders that they feel pulled in too many directions, get caught up in fighting fires, and struggle with competing priorities. Everyone needs something from them, and they never have enough time to focus on their own priorities.
Professionals who’ve incorporated a mindfulness leadership practice share a different story. They’ll tell you it’s possible to find more time in the day, create more room for priorities, sustain more direct attention in conversations and meetings, and establish clearer boundaries.
Most basically, mindfulness is about presence. Because of our endless to-do lists, because colleagues and patients are constantly pulling us in all directions, we rarely find ourselves actually being present with whatever it is we’re doing.
Mindfulness Works for Physicians
Bringing mindfulness into your work has significant impact on these patterns.
It’s critically important for leaders to find calm. Have you considered meditating? Many physicians tell me that their mind is too busy to meditate, but a busy mind is actually the best kind to work with—it gives you a lot to practice with! Through meditation, we learn to quiet the busyness of the mind. But it’s called a practice for a good reason. I’ll give you some pointers in a bit.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have the clear mind needed to apply yourself to the task that’s in front of you? With meditation, we’re building the muscle of focusing so we can apply our attention exactly where we want to focus, tune out distractions, and be present for whatever task is in front of us.
Recognize and appreciate what’s truly urgent and what is not. Be more discerning with how you apply your energy.
Whether it’s during meetings, one-on-one with employees, or struggling with the never-ending demands of your inbox, greater presence improves the quality and efficiency of your work.
A steady pace.
I’ve shared before about the purposeful pause, a structured intervention to increase clarity and perspective. Consider the S.T.O.P. protocol:
- S. Stop. Actually pause. Mindful Leaders
- T. Take three slow, deep breaths.
- O. Observe. Shift your perspective to see the situation as if from an outside observer. Notice how your situation appears from this vantage point.
- P. Proceed now with more clarity and attention to the best next steps.
Improving Physician Leadership
Mindfulness, and mindful leadership training is now taught in business schools across the country. The Institute for Mindful Leadership has been a pioneer in growing awareness of mindfulness leadership practice for leaders in a wide variety of fields. A survey of 123 General Mills directors and managers gathered data before and after a mindful leadership course. The results demonstrated significant improvements in leaders’ self-assessment of their ability to:
- prioritize work, Mindful Leaders
- eliminate meetings that have limited productivity value,
- be fully attentive in meetings, and
- notice when their attention had been pulled away and redirect it to the task at hand.
Furthermore, there was an impressive decrement regarding “running on automatic, without much awareness of what I’m doing.“ (Source: Finding The Space to Lead. A practical guide to Mindful Leadership by Janice Martuano.)
The impact of mindfulness for those in leadership is significant. One of the biggest impediments to creating these results for yourself may be a voice that says “I’m just too busy. I have too much responsibility.” But aren’t you to busy not to? Don’t your responsibilities deserve your best work? Wouldn’t you like to experience significantly less overwhelm?
And, is it true that you don’t have time? Consider for a moment how much time you spend checking social media or getting lost on the Internet. You don’t have to wait for a holiday or vacation to get started. Here are three ways you can begin to build mindfulness today.
Take Action. Build Mindfulness.
- Utilize the purposeful pause S.T.O.P. protocol. Schedule these pauses into your day, between meetings and projects, and keep a reminder around so you have these steps as a resource when overwhelm hits.
- Start meditating today. Download my Daily Dose of Calm free 14-day meditation series, designed for healthcare providers and leaders to get started with meditation. course
- Consider a mindful leadership course.
- Create a community of mindful support by encouraging your staff to practice purposeful pauses and mindful meditation as well. It may just change your workplace.
Build your physician mindfulness leadership muscles, and transform your professional and personal life by creating time and energy for your real priorities. Feel free to check out other posts in this mindfulness series to learn more ways to apply mindfulness in your life.