How to be an Authentic Doctor #16: Respect Time


We live by the clock.  In fact, no profession may be more of a prisoner to it than being a physician.  Our life is broken down into 15, 20 or 30 minute increments.  We have been doing this since we started and though there may not be a bell, every doctor innately knows when time is up or when she is running late.  It is a never- ending treadmill and Jane cannot get us “off this crazy thing”.  It stresses us out and burns us up.  This is the system we created, unfortunately, and the only way to survive is to blow it all up and go Direct Primary Care or, if you are not a family doctor, then stay on time as best as you can. My recommendations are:

  1. Be respectful of your own time – Don’t be bullied by patients who want everything done at one visit.  It dilutes your effort and makes you feel like you did a terrible job, which you probably did.
  2. Be respectful of the your patient’s time – Get to work on time.  Be able to shut off some people (see above) so that you don’t run late or rush for others.  The patients that get shut off may complain but that is life.  On the other hand, I have seen doctors run late for no other reason then they just don’t care (I will discuss this another time).  These people are douchebags.
  3. Be respectful of your family’s time – Try to stay on time at the office so you can see your family.  You are more than a doctor.  There are others that need you.  There is more to life.
  4. Respect time in general – In the big picture, there is no real race.  You can only do the best you can to satisfy numbers 1 through 3 above.  After that you have to realize that all you have in this life is this moment.

I enjoy the author Eckhart Tolle.  In his book The Power of Now he said:

Learn to use time in the practical aspects of your life — we may call this “clock time” — but immediately return to present-moment awareness when those practical matters have been dealt with. In this way, there will be no buildup of “psychological time,” which is identification with the past and continuous compulsive projection into the future.

The enlightened person’s main focus of attention is always the Now, but they are still peripherally aware of time. In other words, they continue to use clock time but are free of psychological time.

If you set yourself a goal and work toward it, you are using clock time. You are aware of where you want to go, but you honor and give your fullest attention to the step that you are taking at this moment. If you then become excessively focused on the goal, perhaps because you are seeking happiness, fulfillment, or a more complete sense of self in it, the Now is no longer honored. It becomes reduced to a mere stepping stone to the future, with no intrinsic value. Clock time then turns into psychological time. Your life’ journey is no longer an adventure, just an obsessive need to arrive, to attain, to “make it.” You no longer see or smell the flowers by the wayside either, nor are you aware of the beauty and the miracle of life that unfolds all around you when you are present in the Now.

In summary, respect time but don’t let it own or destroy you.  And, if you can, get off the damn treadmill.

Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD is a full-time practicing family doc in Forest, Va. He started Forest Direct Primary Care where he takes no insurance and bills patients a monthly fee. He is board certified in the specialty of Family Practice. He is the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers. He is also the inventor of the CryoHelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. Dr. Farrago is the author of four books, two of which are the top two most popular DPC books. From 2001 – 2011, Dr. Farrago was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, he and the Placebo Journal were featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times. Dr. Farrago is also the editor of the blog Authentic Medicine which was born out of concern about where the direction of healthcare is heading and the belief that the wrong people are in charge. This blog has been going daily for more than 15 years Article about Dr. Farrago in Doximity Email Dr. Farrago – [email protected] 

  1 comment for “How to be an Authentic Doctor #16: Respect Time

  1. Ken
    May 16, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    Absolutely agree. I always try to run on time, and when patients bring in a list of complaints I often tell them I have to go see my next patient. Most understand, the few who don’t switch to another physician (who usually keeps them waiting). I have no idea why FP residencies don’t spend more time teaching time management. And spending enough time at home is of paramount importance in keeping one’s sanity.

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