by Dr. Tandi Wilkinson, Thriving Project Lead, RCCbc
When the world came to a halt at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was scheduled to travel for work 11 of the next 12 upcoming weekends. It was all for very rewarding work – teaching, presenting at conferences, participating in innovative projects, and all with people who I love to spend time with. But I didn’t actually miss doing any of it. Before COVID-19 came along I did not realize how crazy I was at managing my time. I didn’t realize that the reason I didn’t like to cook, or talk to my neighbours, or have a house plant was that I just didn’t have the time for it. My family has long been telling me I worked too hard but I didn’t see it and so I didn’t really believe it. This whole story might be very familiar to you.
Recently I was discussing the hectic world of medical culture with rural physician and professional coach Cecile Andreas, who pointed out to me our collective magical thinking about time. We believe, at some level, that time magically expands, and we can fit in everything we want to do. I’m sure you know that is not true, but most of us live as if it is. As rural physicians we love to get creative around problem solving, and we are very used to stepping in, taking on more, and filling gaps in the system. This has worked for a long time, and indeed it can be satisfying, but it’s clear that we can no longer keep doing this. Rescuing the system will not help us flourish in our work. In might in fact kill us.
If you had more time, what would you do with it? What do you long for? Right now, list three to five things you wish you had time for. Write them down on your phone. Consider that list the next time you get asked to take on something new. When you say yes to something, you also say no to something else. Saying yes to that new thing might mean forgoing one of the items on your list. It might mean denying a piece of yourself. There are no right or wrong answers, but I encourage you to make sure you are saying yes or no for the right reasons, not for the magical ones.
The best resource I can think of for you, should you wish to further explore this topic, is to talk to your loved ones. Ask them what they think of how you use your time, and what they wish for you. Your job is to then take that in and believe it. Step back, and really look at how you are using your time. Make sure some of that time is spent on feeding your hopes and dreams.
About Dr. Tandi Wilkinson
Dr. Tandi Wilkinson is a Nelson, British Columbia-based emergency medicine physician with a generalist background. At RCCbc, she leads the Thriving Project, which facilitates unique wellness offerings for the province’s rural healthcare providers. These include the Providers Thriving Together Wellness Conversation Series—free monthly virtual drop-in sessions for rural healthcare providers to experience camaraderie and peer support in the service of activating their collective resilience. Read how Dr. Wilkinson’s journey to wellness became the impetus for the Thriving Project.