life Work


June 9, 2021

I have been writing about time off lately. Time off is amazing.

Now that I am back in the swing of things, I am struck by how rushed my days are. Today, for example, I cannot really figure out when I will eat lunch.

I am up now, and will do my tempo run in a few minutes. From there, there will be mad dash to get ready and drive the kids to school (2 drop offs – but it’s Annabel’s last day at her school so I can at least celebrate not having to deal with that blasted car line probably ever again!).

I will likely arrive at work at ~8:25 (if lucky). I have patients (in person) from 8:30 – 11 (meaning last patient at 11), tightly packed for my specialty. I did not finish yesterday’s notes (whoops). I will probably be more behind on notes by the time the day is done!

I also have a resident during this time which I do enjoy but it does hinder the flow a bit.

I have meeting (Webex) that was just “urgently” added that will take place somewhere between 11:30 – 12:30 pm. I am already concerned I will not be done with patients in time for said meeting.

I have CCC (big residency meeting where we look at evaluations/comments from all 24 residents) at 12:30 – 3 (on Webex).

I have another PD meeting at 3 (Webex).

I have an actual social event to attend at 5:30 pm that I will be driving to.

So like, margin. It sounds great in theory but where is it in my actual life? And how do I get it? I couldn’t have said no to the urgent midday meeting.

And when do I eat lunch?

I actually ENJOY pretty much all of those things. The run. The patients. Even THE MEETINGS. But I would enjoy them more if they were not so . . . back-to-back.

I recognize part of my problem is that I always want to do slightly more than I “should”. (But life seems so short and there are so many things I want to do!)

On that note, I will leave for my run so perhaps the morning can be a little bit less hectic.

basically meeting-palooza


  • Reply Gillian June 9, 2021 at 6:56 am

    I would order something to be delivered and eat during the 11:30-12:30 meeting…but point well taken, this is a challenging day!

    • Reply Michelle June 9, 2021 at 8:01 am

      Agreed! If anyone schedules over my lunch period, I take the liberty of not using my web camera and eating on mute. If that’s not possible (an interview), I hope the meeting ends 5-10 minutes early and squeeze it in then.

  • Reply gwinne June 9, 2021 at 7:37 am

    Yes….very full day once you get to the office. I’d find the back-to-back meetings super challenging, too. Agree with Gillian about delivery.

    One of the things that I’ve noticed–and long admired about you!–is that generally you DO have some balance and space in your days. You get through the amount of items on your lists (or seem to), which suggests you’ve hit on generally what you can get done. To my mind, the fact that you can fit in a blog post, a run, your morning routine, etc. suggests there is some cushion/leisure in your day…..just not ‘margins’ between activities at work. Not saying this as criticism at all. Just that today seems like an anomaly more than the general state of things.

    I’m thinking hard about this question as my routine will be something resembling “Before” in the fall, with in person classes for me and the kids. I’ve been outsourcing grocery shopping for the most part during pandemic, which seems to save me time and money. I might continue that, at least some of the time…

  • Reply K June 9, 2021 at 8:50 am

    Some ideas:
    – can you request the 11:30 mtg end at 12:15 so you can squeeze in lunch?
    – can you start treating notes like a time block/meeting? So that each clinical day has to have a 30-60 min block for notes.
    – is there anyway for you to work one of Laura‘s tranquility by Tuesday tips into your schedule to leave a back up slot? Perhaps an hour or two in the afternoon or morning that can be you time if you finish early?

    But honestly you are so impressive

  • Reply Kate June 9, 2021 at 9:09 am

    Definitely get delivery, and maybe ask someone to grab it for you to bring to your office. Do something that is one hand friendly and not too saucy. Think a simple wrap.

    Last minute lunch meetings should definitely allow for this, even if it’s an interview (just a few bites to stave off hunger).

    If I know a day like this is coming in advance, I bring cold compatible lunch – like some salmon and potatoes. Big chunks, not saucy, not too much chewing. Definitely not ideal, but better than no time to eat.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns June 9, 2021 at 9:25 am

    100% get delivery. People will understand and like someone else said, you can turn off your camera during the Webex. Other colleagues do this when we have a lunch meeting and everyone completely understands. You have to eat at some point! That is a really really bad day of back-to-back stuff. I have fewer days like that in the WFH environment but it does still happen.

    Good luck surviving today!!

  • Reply Katie June 9, 2021 at 1:33 pm

    Omg, Sarah — I could have written this myself. This is EXACTLY the season of life (if you can call it that) that I’m in too, and I feel so run ragged. I don’t even have kids yet but I do have a small puppy and a job that requires me to work with many, many students at different school sites at all ends of my city. Every day is a puzzle that I’m stressed I won’t be able to fit the pieces into. Yesterday I had straight meetings from 8:30-3:00 (most of which I was presenting or speaking in), and I also had to figure out how to somehow drive 20 minutes across the city to my other worksite during that time (and eat lunch!). I find it a bit addicting to be so busy, and I always assume I don’t need margin, but I do. Eager for any tips you or your readers may share!

  • Reply Christine June 9, 2021 at 9:41 pm

    “I recognize part of my problem is that I always want to do slightly more than I “should”. (But life seems so short and there are so many things I want to do!)”

    Oh my goodness, this line resonates with me SO much. I don’t even have anything constructive to say about it – I guess I am more just stopping by here in the comments to say thank you for putting into words pretty much exactly how I feel about life. I often feel completely depleted by the end of any given day, between having a multi-faceted freelance situation that may add up to more than “full time”, working towards a masters’ degree at the same time, and still trying to cram in exercise and other pursuits…but then when I try to think what I should give up to make life less hectic, to perhaps even have the luxury of being bored (!) every once in a while rather than screeching into every potentially free moment with a list of a zillion backlogged things I probably should already have done… I just seem to come back to the fact that I really ilke all the things that I do, so I honestly don’t know what I would want to give up!

    Anyway, as has already been said above, despite what you may feel about your day today, you are absolutely an inspiration in the realm of fitting many and varied meaningful things into your days – one of the reasons I really enjoy your blog!

  • Reply Elisabeth June 10, 2021 at 11:44 am

    I agree with another reader – most of the time you seem to do a great job balancing it all, Sarah, and usually have a bit more buffer in your schedule, so hopefully this is an anomaly. Kinda stinks to feel this rushed right after vacation, though!

    Lunch delivery is on point for a day like this!

    I don’t have any great words of wisdom, but I have been purposely looking to add more buffer to my days. I actually just blogged about this last week!

    As a 20-something I was always early; then I had kids and I felt I couldn’t justify the luxury of arriving somewhere ahead of time (and there was usually some last-minute blow-out or vomit to contend with). Unfortunately, I don’t have that excuse anymore and overbooking/not leaving enough buffer has become a habit for me. I’m rarely late, but I almost never get somewhere early and so I’m constantly anxious that I WILL be late. I suppose some people don’t mind perpetually being in that state, but it really wears me down emotionally and physically.

    Just this morning I had booked several commitments in too close. I was finishing an e-mail as I was running out the door; checking the clock the whole way to the first appointment, then rushing to the next. I even purposely made the decision to be late to one commitment because I wanted to close the loop on my current task. Sigh. It all worked out in the end, but it left me feeling anxious…and rushed.

    Ironically enough, I HAD factored in buffer in to my day, just not enough. I think that’s a key consideration. At a certain point we have to realize we can’t make contingencies for everything. If we’ve managed to leave some buffer or white space, great, but that doesn’t guarantee it will be enough…

  • Reply GRL June 10, 2021 at 1:54 pm

    I can really relate. This is often an apt description of my day as an Assistant Dean at a R1. I just don’t always have control and, combined with a feeling that I “should” be doing more, I end up running myself ragged and having to regroup a lot. I also don’t have the stamina of some colleagues who appear to put in incredible hours and function with much less sleep, exercise, and general order than I need. Like you, my spouse works an even more demanding job, and there is only so much you can outsource/delegate before managing the outsourcing becomes a chore. That said, I generally like what I do but do not thrive on rushing.

  • Reply Katie June 10, 2021 at 4:28 pm

    I can so relate to this and it actually seems much worse lately with all the flexibility and remote working. It seems like people schedule a lot of meetings during what I’d consider normal lunchtime (12-1) or sometimes for several hours including lunchtime but also want your webcam on the whole time. I don’t mind eating lunch together like in a group lunch meeting, but I HATE eating on a webcam and will just go hungry before I do it. No tips really, especially when you don’t have a choice re: accepting the calendar invitation, but solidarity!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger June 10, 2021 at 4:35 pm

      Omg same I will absolutely not eat on camera.
      I also feel oddly more pressure as a female to look happy and put together on camera – more so than in real life. It’s a weird phenomena and it’s exhausting.

  • Reply Tram Nguyen June 20, 2021 at 10:17 pm

    Ah! I must know! Please share what you ended up doing! 🙂

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