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Let's Own Our Work

Once I was mentoring a junior colleague on a direct admission to the hospital. She called asking for advice on what she should do, as there was an issue with the patient's insurance. The hospital was out of network for the patient’s insurance, which meant that the patient could not be directly admitted unless the patient wanted to pay for the hospital stay out of pocket. My colleague spent significant time and effort looking into other options, as well as talking with the case manager, the primary care doctor, and the patient about these other options. Ultimately, the patient decided to go to another hospital. Before this choice, however, my colleague wasn't sure what the patient would decide or what else she needed to do regarding the situation. I encouraged my colleague to document & communicate the work she had done by adding a note into the patient's electronic medical record.

I was taken aback by my colleague’s response.

"But I didn't do any work."

Given the lack of tangible written orders & the ability to examine the patient (& thus the ability to earn compensation), my colleague discounted the time, effort, & mental energy she used in helping the patient and ensuring that the patient received care within the scope of the insurance coverage. Once her efforts were reflected back to her, my colleague realized & owned all the work she had done for this particular patient. From our conversation, she saw the value in communicating this work with a quick note in the patient's chart.

In medical school & training I learned the phrase "if it's not documented, it didn't happen”. Writing a note into the medical chart is a testament to what occurred.

I also find this statement, "if it's not documented, it didn't happen", applicable to everyday life. Sometimes when I'm at home taking care of items for the house … or exercising, volunteering, or connecting with people … I don't as easily count these activities as something productive that I had done for the day. This omission is especially true if the item wasn't documented on my list of things to do.

Then I realized the amount of things I do in one day.

It's a lot.

I bet the same is true for you.

Before this realization, I might be exhausted at the end of the day & respond like a kid in middle school when asked what I had been up to all day: ”Uh, nothing" or "I don't know”. After my realization, I decided to keep track of all the things that require my time, effort, & mental energy throughout the day.

I chose to do an experiment for a couple of weeks. If I completed a task that wasn't on my to-do list, I would add it to my documentation (AKA notes app) & put a nice big check mark next to it. ✔️ I admit, I was impressed with how my list grew. There were a few days when I’d review my list and think, “Wow, I did a lot today”.

All of us do so much within the span of 24 hours. Next time you feel like you haven't done anything notable, I challenge you to make a list of everything you have done that day whether you think it's big or small: walking the dog, stopping to chat with a neighbor in the community, paying a bill, consoling a friend, being present with a loved one, sitting down to write (even if you don't complete the item in one setting), sending an email, picking up the kids up from school, studying, going to a networking event, mentoring a colleague, making dinner for yourself or loved ones, going to dinner with friends.

All of the items you list count as creating your life, and your life is valuable.

Owning our accomplishments is one of the most important things any of us can do in claiming value in our life. It helps us to recognize how we spend our time and the associated quality and costs of that spent time. Furthermore, owning the work we do within a day creates an inventory of progress towards life intentions. It can identify activities that are in service towards our intentions & those that are not. By clearly seeing what we do within a day, we can make informed shifts in how we use our time the following day.

It’s also important to define work. I like to define work as anything that we’d pay another person to do ... and yes, this includes coordination of care for others, house cleaning, and even pregnancy.

Work is also defined as an activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result. I really love this definition, as being creative, resting, or taking a bubble bath in an effort to take care of oneself sounds like amazing work. Let’s include this type of work, aka self-care, as an intention on our to-do lists. This inclusion recognizes that self-care is essential to doing all those items on our lists, taking care of others, and creating value in our lives.

Questions to consider:

1. How about trying the challenge in this post for 2 days?

2. What self-care can you provide yourself today?

3. What is one way that you can celebrate and reward yourself for all the work that you do?

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