Dose + Scale

April 11, 2023

Dose matters.

I am on call (days only this time!) and was thinking about this.

The AMOUNTS of things in life matter a lot. Medications. Food. Sleep. But also more intangible things . . .

WORK: A ‘right amount’ of work is a wonderful thing. It’s also extremely unlikely that a given job will contain exactly the right amount for a given person. Most people probably have more work than truly feels good and right. This leads to burnout and feeling like work is an inherently unpalatable experience.

Example: Each call shift I took in residency was 30 hours and I can tell you with confidence that was too much work.

When I am on call and it is days only, I have approximately the right amount of work. And it’s great!

In a utopian health system, night call could be covered by a physician each week from someone who is ONLY on at night. They could work from home and yes, they would work far less than 40 hours, but they could recover fully after all interrupted nights of sleep. Unfortunately economic forces mean this is highly unlikely to ever happen, especially on a larger scale.

An endless to-do list that you are always behind on feels terrible no matter what is on it.

TRAINING: A ‘right amount’ of training volume would promote athletic progress without inducing injury. The participant would look forward to most workouts. There would be some less intense periods between more serious training cycles to promote both mental and physical recovery. There would be a good balance between types of training (cardiovascular, strength, flexibility, balance, etc).

FREE TIME: A ‘right amount’ of free time would mean enough down time to feel relaxed, time to reflect, and a volume of time for hobbies and socializing (or quiet time!) that feels adequate. And yet limitless free time (no structure, no activities with a purpose — think some retirees with an empty nest, few hobbies and a limited social circle) would probably feel unsettling or even depressing.

STUFF: Think extreme minimalism vs someone with hoarding tendencies. I feel like right now, our house contains more stuff than I would like it to. This is definitely a matter of preference but also of practicality – if there is just truly too much stuff it is hard to find/use the things you do have and the environment will start to look cluttered and chaotic.

And with that, I will keep the dose of this post low.

I just think it is interesting we do so much thinking about what comprises a good life without a lot of attention to amount and scale. And often the scales/amounts are quite arbitrary and set by others or historical norms that may not apply anymore.

DC Stationery Purchase:

Available here online

The notebooks above are even prettier than they look in the pic above and the paper is lovely. Using them on call to write my to do/to see list each day!


  • Reply coco April 11, 2023 at 5:42 am

    good food for thoughts. I think it’s hard to find the right balance for life, but rather for period of life. I used to work more, now I work less by choice and have more time for hobbies (running more?) and for family. In other times of life, maybe in retirement, I’ll have more time to read? to watch movies?
    avoiding burn out is “easier” when we have a choice and we are not afraid of feeling less important (FOMO). I know we are probably the fortunate ones that could choose to work less while maintaining certain life style, most of others need to work to make the needs met.
    my attitude is always ready to change/adapt my mind about things.

  • Reply Elisabeth April 11, 2023 at 5:49 am

    I’m curious if you keep pretty notebooks like this that are used for daily to-do lists? I assume not…but they’re so pretty!!!

    On a related note – and I’m sure you’ve mentioned this before – but what do you do with old planners? I recently threw out my 2022 planner and my husband was shocked but I was like: what do I need it for now?! It did feel sad since I spent so much time in that planner over the year, but also…why keep it? My FIL, on the other hand, has monthly planners that he has kept since the 1970s!! CRAZY!!! He has boxes and boxes of them sitting in his basement.

    • Reply Marcia Francois April 14, 2023 at 1:09 pm

      You didn’t ask me, Elisabeth, but I use pretty notebooks for everything – daily to-do lists, work notes, everything. Life is too short to use ugly stationery 🙂

  • Reply Jenn N April 11, 2023 at 6:22 am

    This is a really clever premise that I think could be a fun structure for a productivity book if you ever wrote one! You could use medical analogies and “prescribe” things at the right dose, “take three times a week” etc!

  • Reply Chelsea April 11, 2023 at 6:31 am

    Our local hospital system donates a bunch of money every year to different things which everything thinks is – yay! – great, but it always irritates me that they don’t just spend that money 1. Making care less expensive and 2. – As you say above – making better working conditions for the staff. ***angry face***

    With the stuff thing, I bet G is just about to age out a bunch of the plastic crap, which will make things seem less crazy and cluttered. I’m going to keep the mountains of plastic stuff through the summer because we’ll want all the indoor novelty we can get, but I think next year is going to be the year to start phasing it out. We’ll keep stuff like building toys but the Ninja Turtles that used to be D’s that no one plays with… I think they can go.

    • Reply Coree April 11, 2023 at 11:56 am

      My son is a bit older and we are pretty moderate with toys, but I’m hoping he ages out of some of this stuff soon.

      I’m home a bit more than usual lately and whenever I’m home for a longer chunk, I start throwing stuff out. I got rid of a giant bag of handmedown clothes, and a bunch of stuff for the zero waste. I’ve also been talking with T about books we don’t read and whether they’d be good for the classroom library.

      • Reply KGC April 11, 2023 at 2:36 pm

        I do this too! Sometimes when I’m alone in the house, I just walk around with a bag and collect things that no one will notice if they disappear. So far, I have never been called out on it and I agree that it is mostly plastic crap from McDonalds or birthday goody bags. Around their birthdays and Christmas, I also try to do a big assessment of toys and have the kids help pick what they’re ready to part with. My older one (7) is pretty good at it! I just canNOT with all the clutter so this is my solution thus far. I definitely have the most minimalistic tendencies in the house and am trying to bend others to my will, so far relatively unsuccessfully…

        • Reply Coree April 11, 2023 at 2:38 pm

          I joke that I could live in a tiny house, but without my family 🙂

          • Sarah Hart-Unger April 12, 2023 at 9:42 am

            hahahahah me too

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger April 11, 2023 at 12:17 pm

      Hmmm. C’s room is still bad (games, building type toys) and A’s is too (craft supplies, half-done projects, etc). The content has definitely shifted but the volume is still a lot (and primarily stuff not being used – just sort of sitting there). But true the tiny plastic toy phase is the ultimate worst and we are sort of nearing the beginning of the end there . . .

  • Reply Shelly April 11, 2023 at 7:25 am

    I would also like to know what you do with old planners, notebooks and pens. My mom writes everything in super tiny writing in a 12 month calendar. She has those dating back to the early 1970’s. But those are flat and store easily. She often pulls them out to look something up.

  • Reply gwinne April 11, 2023 at 9:18 am

    Yes, love this! I particularly appreciate the fact that the “dosing” is not standard but personal.

    RE: free time / leisure. I have read in multiple places that the sweet spot is 2-5 hrs/day.

    [I had a whole thing here about Tiny Boy’s stuff and visual clutter but accidentally erased it and don’t have the energy to go back! Suffice to say I hear you.]

  • Reply Tierney April 12, 2023 at 5:16 pm

    The Happier Hour is premised on the idea of a free time sweet spot (well, sweet range). I’m excited for your take on the book if you’re willing to share once it goes from TBR to read!

  • Reply Marcia Francois April 14, 2023 at 1:11 pm

    Ironic since you’re not on IG any longer, but there’s a meme that I saw about two weeks ago: I put such good boundaries into place and now I’m bored because I do nothing LOL!

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