Physician burnout, Einstein's lesson #2 and 30 minutes that can change your life

Posted by Dike Drummond MD

physician-burnout-einstein-action-plan-150W.jpgPhysician burnout, Einstein's lesson #2 and 30 minutes that can  change your life

We all know Einstein's famous definition of insanity:

"Doing the same thing over and over
and expecting a different result."

The Insanity Definition is LESSON ONE in preventing physician burnout. 

Not only is that obviously crazy, it is one of the core causes of physician burnout. When the going gets tough, our workaholic programming only gives us one coping mechanism - work harder. So that's what we do until we can't keep going any longer.

Einstein's Lesson #2 is the escape hatch on the insanity trap

Here it is:

"No problem can be solved
at the same level of consciousness
that created it"

Here's how this saying applies to a practicing physician

When you are up to your neck in the whirlwind of activities that make up your busy day - it is easy to see the problems in your practice. You know the things that are not going the way you would like them to. What you want to change is crystal clear.

How to fix these issues is nearly impossible to figure out from inside the whirlwind - from this level of consciousness. There is too much going on and too many things coming your direction all at once. You don't have any time or energy for change when it is all you can do to keep up.

You need a different level of consciousness to figure out the solutions

You must position yourself outside the whirlwind

You have to get out of the day to day activities and look down on your practice and your life from a new perspective. From this strategic viewpoint and with a little free time;

  • You can see patterns that are not obvious during your practice day
  • You can see new actions that would get you different results
  • You can plan to change what you are doing on your next office day and see what difference your new actions make

This is why a vacation, a sabbatical, a coaching call, even a monthly staff meeting ... are where your new ideas seem to bubble up.

This new level of consciousness is absolutely required to solve the problems the whirlwind creates.

physician-burnout-einsteins-insanity-definition.jpgThis is the way out of the Insanity Trap

And yet ...

Most physicians think they are either too busy or too tired to take the extra effort to work ON your practice rather than just IN it.

Many have time to vent - expressing frustration with EMR to anyone who will listen - yet miss the opportunity to examine your life from this new perspective and fail to make meaningful change.

So you keep on runnin' and the gerbil wheel of the insanity trap just keeps on turnin'.

Which brings us to:

30 Minutes That Can Change Your Life

All it takes is 30 minutes to get started.  Honest.

It does not take a huge time commitment or any special skills to lower your stress levels and build a more balanced life. 

Take this 30 minute challenge and notice how things can be different for you THIS WEEK. The simple action plan below is exactly how you change your life and your practice going forward.

30 Minutes to a Better Practice 


Find 30 minutes, this week. Block it off and defend it with your life. Plan to spend this time in a location away from your office or the hospital. Literally anywhere else will do. It is so much harder to establish this different level of consciousness when you are sitting in your office with the door shut.

On the weekend, at home is ideal. Make sense?

If you happen to be reading this blog post at home, grab a piece of paper RIGHT NOW and follow the steps below. You are already at the different level of consciousness - outside of the whirlwind. This is the ideal time to get started. Do not put it off. This is a potential golden moment for you to make a real change. Take a big breath and dive in.

2) LIST 

Get a piece of paper or fire up a document on your computer and write down everything about your practice and your life that you would like to change. Set a timer on your cell phone and give yourself a full 15 minutes.
- Write it all down.
- Dump it all out of your head

This is not venting ... it is building a comprehensive list of change opportunities so you can take step three below. Making a list is always the first step in making change.

body scan guided imagery audio


Look at your list. Select one item on the list you would like to address first.

I encourage you not to take the biggest item on the list. For sure, don't take the one that the little voice in your head tells you is unchangeable - like the topic of "Obamacare" if that happened to make it on your list. Honestly, what can you change about Obamacare? Take a breath and let that one go.

Instead, pick something you can make progress on quickly so it will feel good right away.

Circle that item or highlight it in your document. JUST ONE ITEM.


Write your selection at the top of a new page.

Set a 5 minute timer on your cell phone and take 5 minutes to brainstorm a list of different actions you could take in this area. What might you do differently that could make a difference to this area of your practice and your life? This is brainstorming. More ideas are better. See how many you can write down before your five minute timer goes off.

Power Tip:
Show your significant other or a friend or colleague what you are doing and have them brainstorm with you.

Now circle or highlight one action ... just one ... you will take this week. JUST ONE ACTION.

I encourage you not to pick the biggest, hardest option. Pick a simple, easy step to get you moving. 

5) ACT

If you can take this action now, do it now. If you need to take it on some other day this week, schedule it in your calendar now and set a reminder.

Remember, you must take new actions to get new results and escape the insanity trap. The action step is where all improvement begins.


As soon as you complete action step #1 above, go back to your brainstorm list and select another action. Circle or highlight this action step ... then ...
- do it 
- or schedule it
and take the next action.

And the next, and the next ... until this change you want in your practice or your life is complete.


If a little voice in your head is telling you something like, "Make sure you pick the right one",  you can let that go. It doesn't matter what action you take so long as it is a different action that what you are doing right now. Take a different action step and you will either;

  • Produce the change you are seeking
  • Have a learning experience and know exactly what to do next time


If you are looking at the extreme simplicity of this process and thinking that somehow this is "beneath you". That is the hypnotic voice of the Insanity Trap lulling you into complacency. 

This IS simple. It HAS TO BE SIMPLE to fit into the overwhelm of a busy doctor's life. This Simplicity Is POWER. Do not stop when you understand this process. Grab a piece of paper and get started.


einsteins-insanity-definition-stop-physician-burnoutThis whole process won't take longer than 30 minutes

It can change your life - starting this week

It will start you down a path of taking your practice and your life back. After just one session, you will have one aspect of your practice or life where things are changing and making progress. Keep going on that first action item until you get the results you are seeking, then REPEAT the process in step three above. 

A typical rhythm for many people is to schedule the 30 minute session above about twice a month to keep this ball rolling. 

Step out of the Insanity Trap NOW

Get going on YOUR 30 minute Burnout Prevention Action Plan


Tags: Physician Burnout