Attn: Overwhelmed Residents & Med Students — Just Do The Freaking Work

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • This one little trick will boost your productivity 1000%.

    I followed this one weird tip — and my to-do list disappeared.

    The secret of the world’s most successful people is now being shared.

    In an era when our attention span is about 6 seconds, shortcuts are becoming the new methodology for progress. Instead of taking care of business the old-fashioned way, we search for “hacks” to get the job done. If you are struggling with making progress on anything, whether it is studying for Step 1, writing a research paper, or completing your progress notes for the day, then this call to action is for you.

    Just do the *freaking work.

    It may sound trite. It may sound useless. But the one impediment between you and your goal is doing the work required to get there. This is something you already know, a simple reminder when you fall off track. Come back to these 5 words, putting in whatever expletive suits you best.

    But work is hard. And you’re tired. And you already put in 14 hours at the hospital today. How could you possibly get any of that paper done?

    It’s simple. You open up your laptop and you start typing. The process could not be more straightforward. The real challenge, the actual value that you add, is all on you. It is the act of putting away the excuses. It requires taking the hand that you would otherwise use to pat yourself on the back for weathering a long day, and instead, using it to get down to business.

    Taking ownership of your circumstance is key. You must never descend into the “poor me – look at all this work I’m saddled with” framework. No one is going to do your work for you. You knew medical school and residency would require a lot of you, so now it’s time to show both yourself, and the world at large, your true ability, character, and fortitude. Sublimate the challenge into action, and just do the freaking work.

    Get inspired by those around you who seem to have 30 hours in their days. A close friend of mine is an orthopedic trauma fellow. With an unpredictable call schedule. And a 3-week old daughter. Last week, he gave departmental grand rounds on interview day, helping to determine who would succeed him as next year’s fellow. How did he finish crafting his presentation by the deadline? By staying up past midnight every night to work on it. By getting tougher. And working harder.

    The secret is that there is no secret. When you make the firm decision that you won’t take “no” for an answer, the work gets done. When you change your language from “I’d like to work on X at some point today” to “I will complete X today,” X gets done. All too often, the pain of actually doing the work pales in comparison to the anxiety generated by a lengthy to-do list.

    Get fired up about getting things done. Embrace the challenge. Since when is working hard a bad thing? Once you get started, everything should become easier and solutions will pour out of you.

    A dogged work ethic is accessible to everyone. It is a question that you answer, a decision that you make. Say yes, have some confidence in your ability, and the secret to greatness will reveal itself, as though it was there all along: Just do the freaking work.