Making the Most of Your Day at the Office: Efficiency hacks for #MedEd

By Jonathan Sherbino (@sherbino)

HT: “How I work smarter” Series from ALiEM (Full disclosure:  I basically stole this idea.. sorry, Michelle)

One of the unifying features of being a Clinician Educator is that we all have numerous overlapping roles – clinical, administrative, academic, etc. In fact, if you ever talk to normal people (i.e. people who don’t work at a teaching hospital / academic clinic; often your family; hopefully some of your friends, etc.) and describe your numerous funded and unfunded roles they begin to worry that you are unable to add to 24 – the number of hours in a day.

Of course, there are ebbs and flows to any typical week. Yet, if you don’t pay attention it is easy to quickly get swamped.  All of us attempt to manage our list of projects using processes to improve efficiency.

Here’s my list of hacks.  Maybe there are a few you will adopt.

Physical Layout

  1. StaOffice 2nding desk (actually it’s a bar table from Ikea that I modified with metal feet
    to make it high enough for me): Sitting is bad for you.  Standing also helps me think. (Don’t ask me why.)  Get a mat to stand on.  Saves your feet and back.
  2. Multiple displays: At my sitting desk (for when I shake things up… I know an
    emergency physician with attention issues) I have two displays. This is essential.  I have no idea how people function using one screen with multiple windows tiled on top of each other.


3. Macbook Pro (Retina, 13 inch, 3 GHz i& processor, 8 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 memory, flash storage.): Fast enough that I’m never waiting for anything to load. (See #2 above.) Also, small enough to be functional on a plane and portable to my hospital office. (I have multiple displays at my hospital office too, so using a laptop doesn’t mean that I’m regularly using a laptop screen.)  I’m never stuck with having information on a different device.  I don’t love cloud backup.  Wireless can sometimes be wonky at my hospital. (Shout out to hospital IT.

4. Apple AirPort Extreme: Fast wireless with real time backup (Time machine). Solves the problem of data security cause by #3 above.

5. iPhone 6: Yeah… there’s a trend here. But it allows me easy synchronization of contacts, calendars, music, podcasts.

6. Scansnap scanner: It scans documents directly into Evernote.  (See #8).  For the last 6 months I have been taking notes during meetings / calls using a pen + paper.  I know old school.  But it’s faster because I can use my own short hand and diagram ideas quickly.  (Don’t even try and sell me on a digital device for this task.  I’ve owned multiple styluses and hand helds. They are universally lousy for capturing free form writing.)  Afterwards, I scan the document into Evernote and I have a digital, plus easily searchable, file.

7. Blue Yeti USB mic: Good quality.  Makes you sound like a late night FM radio blues host on your podcast.


  1. Evernote: This is my external brain.  This cloud-based data management software is synced between my computer, iPads, phone, web site etc.  It handles all forms of media.  The browser extension even let’s me clip and label anything I find while surfing.
  2. Slack: This DM system allows connects you to individuals or teams and holds multiple types of files. Cloud-based, it lets you catch up on team discussions asynchronously and has a great archive feature.
  3. Basecamp: Best project management software. Ever. It’s hard to explain.  Check out the website.  But if you work on multiple projects, with multiple teams, with multiple schedules, you need this.  But there’s a subscription cost.
  4. Wunderlist: Simple, free to-do list where I jot down all the flotsom that I’m trying to keep straight for the coming week/month.
  5. Buffer: An email and Twitter app that allows you to schedule responses. Helps you to prevent a distracting, endless cycle of back and forth messaging by pausing a response, while still continuing the conversation.
  6. Calm: A great mindfulness app that I use for 10 minutes (as best as I can) before starting office hours.


  1. In box zero: My inbox only contains emails that require a response or action from me.  The longer an email is visible (signaling inaction), the more irritated I become with myself.
  2. Two-minute rule:  Any task that I can complete in two minutes or less I will do, regardless of how undesirable it is.  Filing the task, recalling the task, and remembering the response to the task at a later date is far less efficient.
  3. Turn off email / Twitter while writing: This is me.. “Squirrel!”
  4. Write in the morning. Meetings in the afternoon. Block out a minimum of 2 hours for any required creative /thoughtful process.  Make it the first task of the office day.

Last but not least…

  1. Bulletproof coffee: Trust me.

So…what efficiency hack should I add to my list?