Be Your Own Editor


This year, I learned that to have success and fulfillment, you don’t just DO, sometimes you have to UNDO. 


What do I mean by that? The process of undoing - or editing - it a key part of different areas of our lives. For example, we edit in medicine all the time. Think about the medical student’s SOAP note: the subjective story, the objective findings, the assessment and the plan. Imagine what a novel that daily note would be if in the subjective, details that weren’t pertinent to the current problem were included. “Mrs. S complains of shoulder pain, but likes mint chip ice cream over plain vanilla, and has a neighbor who has a dog named Scrappy.”  You may notice that the resident’s note is shorter than the medical student, and the attending’s note is even shorter. There is a reason that as we rise in the ranks of our medical training, our notes get shorter and more succinct. We edit. Even in surgery, as our skills improve, we edit out the non essential motions, making our moves more efficient. As Greg McKeown observes in Essentialism, “the best surgeon is not the one who makes the most incisions.” 


How do we apply this in everyday life? I, for one, realized this year that I definitely don’t edit enough. Earlier this year, I went to a life-changing conference for women in medicine - TransforMD in Cancun. I’ve always attended orthopaedic meetings, which means never ones where I was with solely women, and never ones where my personal and professional development were at the forefront. Here, not only did I made amazing friends in the women colleagues there, I also started the very important process to really examine my “WHY” in life.  


One exercise we went through was particularly poignant to me. My friends and colleagues always commented about my multitasking, and how I always had my hands in something - and I’ve always been proud of my ability to do so. Indeed, there are multiple “buckets” that I divide my time between and while there’s value in that skill, when I sat down and spent just 5-10 minutes listing each and every role I play, I was blown away by how many there actually were. 


Here’s my list. I came up with the obvious ones first, but I was surprised that as I paused and thought about how I spend my evenings, my weekends, as well as reasons for time away from my family, there were SO many more. 


The obvious:

  • Surgeon
  • Small business owner
  • Wife
  • Mother
  • Blogger
  • Speaker


The less obvious:

  • Volunteer with Junior League of Portland
  • Daughter
  • Granddaughter
  • Social Media Taskforce member with American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • Role Model
  • Educator
  • Science Communication Fellow at Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
  • Rodan+Fields consultant
  • Aesthetic medicine student
  • Team doctor for Multnomah University
  • Team doctor for local high school
  • Team doctor for US Ski and Snowboard
  • Tennis team member
  • Coordinator of multi-family vacations
  • Sports medicine committee for hospital system
  • Partner at ambulatory surgery center
  • Member of diversity committee at social/athletic club
  • Contributing writer for KevinMD, Medium and other online outlets
  • Medicolegal consultant and expert witness
  • Workers’ compensation independent medical examiner
  • Standup paddleboarder
  • Snowboarder


Although I knew this at the core, it took writing it down to realize this: I have the hardest time saying no. I’m constantly taking on more projects than I probably should. I like being busy - I thrive when I am busy -  but when I began to be forgetful, I knew I had taken on too much. Another exercise I learned at that conference was to define my core values - the values that guide me in all my life decisions, big or small. I was able to evaluate and rank these roles based on how much they subscribed to my values. As I was getting to the point of feeling like I was suffocated - all of my own doing of course - I found that this was a mandatory exercise to avoid drowning. Taking stock of all the roles I play in my personal and professional life allowed me to do the necessary editing. I admit, I’m a work in progress, but even the one or two obligations that I respectfully declined made a huge difference in avoiding feelings of being overwhelmed. 


You can start this process today:

  1. Know what your roles are, and hold them up to your values so you know where they stand.
  2. Edit out activities and commitments that are extraneous and don’t fit your values.
  3. Don’t be afraid to say no. 

To take a deeper dive, if you’re a woman physician at any level of training, I highly recommend the TransforMD conference. Read more with this link: TransforMD 2020.


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