Jun 24

Adventures in Full-Time Work

 full-time work

Adventures in full-time work

 

I’ve been doing a part-time job share for almost 4 years now and have quite a few observations about work. If you are new to the blog, I’m a physician; a radiologist to be exact. My backstory is here if you are so inclined and have had enough coffee. In short, I burned out from my job a few years out of training and eventually stumbled into a part-time job share opportunity. I love the flexibility of this work arrangement and the space it opens up in my life. Life was good.

 

Nobody working part-time is really excited about having to go back to full-time. When my job-share partner announced her impending maternity leave last year it took me a few moments to process. I was both happy (for her and her husband) and a little anxious (for me).

 

I did this a couple years ago, returning to full-time work for a 3 month maternity leave. It was absolutely terrible, as it coincided with some medical problems (now resolved) that made it much worse than it had to be. That is a story for another day perhaps.

 

In fact, my last experience with going back to full-time was worse than full-time work when I was in maximum burn out mode. I kind of blocked that episode out of my mind in a way so I haven’t written about it. I’m not a psychiatrist, but I think I may still have post-traumatic stress disorder from that stretch. I’m not even sure my memory would recall the event with accuracy.

 

But now I am a semi-professional blogger*, and I feel it is my duty to journal my experiences and report back to you, my loyal readers. So as the date drew near, I broke out a fresh notebook and sharpened my pencils.

 

 

Social Commentary

First of all let me get this out there; I am a big fan of extended maternity leave. I think it is better for mom, baby, family and society at large to give a mother and her baby that time together. It’s just not natural for a mom to go back to work a few weeks after giving birth. Unfortunately many women feel like they have to go back to work before they are ready, both physically and psychologically. The fact that I am working part-time meant that my group was able to grant 3 full maternity leaves in the last 4 years with minimal disruption (well, to anyone but me that is). I feel great about this. This is one of the benefits of part-time work.

 

What I did not feel great about was the first 5 (should have been 4 but my partner delivered a week early) weeks of this transition. I was looking at four five weeks straight front loaded with two weeks of back-to-back call. I would have one period where I would be working 23 of 26 days. This is a bit rough even for someone used to working full-time. I’ve had a couple stretches like this in the past and they are just terrible.

 

The Complaining Philosopher

Now I know some of you probably work many more hours than me and have more demanding jobs. This is not a contest to see who works harder or has a crappier life. Remember it’s all a single player game. The suffering that happens between my ears is unique to me, just as your suffering is unique to you. Take what I say with a grain of salt and realize it is my unique experience. My purpose here is both to entertain you and inspire you to think more deeply about your relationship with your job, and, if appropriate, make changes in your life that increase your happiness.

 

The fact is I’m used to working a couple days a week, and this was a big change for me. Some Wednesdays I wake up and do nothing but write, play guitar and destroy people online playing video games. Often I’m not even wearing pants (I know, TMI). Let’s face it; I’m a wimp (but happy AF).

 

How would I adjust to drinking out of the fire hose of radiology again?

radiology work

Diagnosis?

Week 1 – 50 hours

I received a text that the baby was inevitable and I would be heading back to work a few days earlier than I had planned. It was a week earlier than I expected, but that’s just how babies work. Sometimes they are anxious to get into the world. I purposefully went into my first day with a great attitude, assuming that everything would be awesome. I told everyone who asked that I was looking forward to diving in again and embraced the challenge. My face hurt a little from smiling all the time. Maybe I could overwhelm reality with gratitude. After all, this is the kind of crap I write about every week on my blog…

 

I kept this facade up until roughly Thursday, which is when I broke a little. This day was absolutely exhausting. It was an 11 hour marathon and I was spent afterwards. There was no break. The day was relentless. I felt like I brought a knife to a gun fight. Friday was pretty brutal as well and after I got home I reflected upon the damage.

 

One week in and I was exhausted. I already noticed less time spent with my family and felt disconnected. My kids wanted more of my attention, but I didn’t have a whole lot of energy to give by the end of the week. I had a party to go to Friday night and to be honest it depleted what little energy I had left. I’m an introvert, so parties drain me anyway, but having one after a hard 50 hours of work was about all my brain could handle. I didn’t lift weights, run or do yoga once all week. There was less time to eat healthy, think, write and do the day to day minutia. I had to cancel an appointment due to work.

 

After that first week I started to question why ANYONE would want to work full-time unless they absolutely loved their job – even IF they loved their job. It’s like The Matrix, people accept the reality they are given. I’m not like that anymore; I just don’t accept that program. Now that I’ve seen both worlds I can’t be fully happy plugged back in. I know the freedom that exists when I’m unplugged.

 

11 weeks to go…shit.

 

Week 2 – 57 hours

The hours someone works are ultimately a factor in the quality of their life, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Not all hours worked feel the same to everyone. Some of you probably work 57 hour weeks all the time and are just fine, but 57 hours of intense radiology in a week is about all I can handle. The extra hours were due to weekend call. This week brought into focus the fact that there is very little down time in my job. I use my short lunch not so much to eat (although I’m usually starving), but to take a few moments to turn my brain off and not think about radiology for a while. I think of it as rebooting the computer when it just doesn’t seem to be at peak performance.

 

By Tuesday night I was pretty worn out, but surprisingly calm. I’ve been doing some yoga this week with my daughter which has been great. One not great thing I’ve noticed though is I am now forced to live my life “on-peak”, which means I have to do stuff when everyone else is doing it. All of my shopping and errands are in the evenings and weekends…when every other wage slave is forced to do these menial and joyless tasks. I forgot how annoying this is. Stores and roads are all more crowded and I have to wait for things. I absolutely hate it.

 

Actually this is half true. I don’t hate standing in line and waiting. I’ve become as calm as a Hindu cow thanks to mindfulness, meditation and gratitude, but this is when there is space in my life. Now that I’m full-time again, and on call this week, there is no space. My time is suddenly rare and standing in line reminds me of this fact. Standing in line instead of playing basketball with my kids or playing guitar is just making me a little annoyed.

 

Tonight it’s 6:00 and I’m standing in line at Safeway with a head of cabbage in my hand. Apparently the recently purchased cabbage in our fridge was moldy, and this was the primary ingredient for tonight’s dinner. A frantic text from my wife requested I stop by the store on my way home. I cursed the microbes that conspired to ruin my dinner as I drove around the parking lot looking for a parking spot. Eventually I enter the store and find the cabbage, organic and free-range of course. Everyone in line around me looks just as pissed off as me. Maybe I’m just projecting my emotions because the last 20 lines I was standing in didn’t look like this. I don’t even like cabbage.**

 

I got home around 6:30 and had a revelation. I hate getting home at 6:30! Maybe this is your baseline state, and if it is I feel for you. My question is why do we accept this as normal? We should get home at 2:00 and spend our afternoons playing beach volleyball and mountain biking.

 

I think this week inspired this Tweet to ferment in my brain:

 

 

Pretty pithy right?

 

Maybe not, but it’s true.

 

Pre-modern humans didn’t work 50 hours a week. They worked a few hours a day. Kill some big animal, forage for a few berries and then spend the rest of the day sitting around, having sex, pillaging the village next door; you know – fun stuff. But at some point in the past some do-gooder decided it was a great idea to have everyone working 8-12 hours a day, preferably with a long, nasty, dangerous commute thrown in there. I guess there was less pillaging of villages this way as everyone was too worn out afterwards to do anything but watch TV, drink beer and drive kids to soccer practice (not necessarily in that order).

 

Left Turn

Why do we accept this as normal? I’m sure school and society help condition us, but this is a crazy way to live. The problem is it seems rational when you look around because everyone else is doing it.

 

It reminds me of this crazy study where they drew lines on a piece of paper and asked people if they were the same or different lengths, and not surprisingly everyone got the right answer because it is the easiest question in the world. But when they put people in a room with confederates (actors) who all intentionally got the wrong answer only 63% chose the right line.

 

You heard that right. 37% of our brains completely malfunctioned on the simplest, most strait forward observation because everyone around us was messing with us. How do you think we do with complex problems with hundreds of variables and subtle nuance?

 

By the way, if you are ever feeling rational just start reading random psychological studies dealing with cognitive bias. Your brain is completely messed up (as well as mine and everyone around you).

 

My Wednesday schedule looks horrible. Oh well, at least I’m getting decent sleep. I’ve made it my goal to help my daughter learn old Beastie Boys flute rifts so she can be the coolest and/or dorkiest kid in her school. And no, she doesn’t really know how to play flute, but we are going to learn these rifts before moving on to scales – which are boring.

 

 

 

It’s Wednesday and in spite of trying to cheer myself up with Beastie Boys videos I’m cranky by the end of my workday. Nine and a half hours a day of stressful, intense work is taking its toll on me. I feel like I need a few days off, but I’ve got three more hard days ahead of me. I’m too tired to try and come up with something clever or insightful right now.

 

Over The Hump

Thursday and Friday were actually better days. I got out of work about an hour earlier than the last few days. My nervous system is jacked up though. I’m anxious and my heart races a bit. I sort of feel like my cat when he runs around the house; looking around at stuff that none of the rest of us can see. We always laugh at him and suddenly I feel a little bad about that. WTF is wrong with me? I’m feeling bad about laughing at my cat? I may need an SSRI.

 

Saturday was one of the busiest call days in a long time. I’m exhausted when I walk out of the hospital and am so thankful no one can touch me until Monday. On my way out I run into one of the physician assistants I know. Apparently I did a biopsy on her patient and she made a point to tell her how kind I was during the biopsy. As a radiologist I almost never see patients again or get feedback like this as everyone is just too busy or forgets.

 

Sometimes we take for granted what we do and forget how scared people are that are going through the medical system. I really appreciated the gratitude of this patient, and the fact that she made it a point to mention it in her appointment. And I’m really happy I could make her feel comfortable during a procedure that may be routine for me (I’ve probably done thousands) but unique and terrifying for her. This little exchange made my day.

 

I have one day off before next week starts. I haven’t appreciated a day off like this in a while, I forgot how this feels. When things are rare our appreciation is often brought into focus. I noticed I really relish the days off more during full time, but it is different. I crave them in the same way an alcoholic craves a drink, not the way I crave a beautiful day or a sunrise. Although my appreciation was more intense for a day off when working more, it was not as deep. It was sugar; empty calories instead of nourishment. An odd realization as I drift off to sleep preparing for another week.

Week 3 – 43 hours

Days are starting to blend together and I’m not mindful or Zen anymore. I’ve lost about 3-4 lbs either from chronic dehydration or the fact I’m not eating well. Stress decreases my appetite. Some may find this appealing, but with an abnormally low BMI to begin with I can’t really afford to lose weight. I feel crappy when my weight drops too low. It’s like I’m an anorexic without the anorexia if that makes any sense.

 

I made a careless mistake this week. Thankfully it was of no clinical consequence, merely something that made me look like an idiot. I’m feeling the daily grind and accepting my fate simultaneously. Wife and kids are doing fun stuff this week like riding bikes and going to waterparks. (It’s spring break.) Life is too short to waste it working…

 

It’s Thursday again. I was supposed to be on call this weekend but I sold it to one of my partners. I just need the weekend off. This was an expensive choice but I enjoyed every second of the relaxation. I also realized today that I’m a total asshole when I’m working a lot and stressed out.

 

A woman came to my door to sell some overpriced crap I didn’t need. Although I was marginally polite at first I was in no mood to listen to a pitch. She persisted. I went into alpha physician domination mode (the kind that makes residents and medical students IQ drop 70 points and become unable to talk in coherent sentences) and made her leave my porch. She may have been crying as she left but I’m not certain. I hated myself a little for that one, but I just couldn’t deal with it. I had a minor family crisis to attend to.

 

Friday.

 

Tedium.

 

Tedium.

 

Tedi…

 

You get the idea.

tedium

Week 4 – 42.5 hours

The workload hasn’t been bad these last couple of weeks. I am in a rhythm working full-time. I don’t love it but it is not terrible without weekend and night call.  For some reason, these last two weeks have been a bit less busy. Radiology is like this – unpredictable.

 

I savor my time off though and want more of it. I’m more efficient. I have to be. When working 40+ hours a week you have to start prioritizing. You have to figure out what your values are and make them priorities. I value things like:

  1. Having dinner every night with my family.
  2. Spending time with my kids. My daughter and I started doing yoga together which is quite awesome.
  3. Going on walks.
  4. Writing.

 

I’m becoming more aware now that everyone I know worships at the altar of productivity. Everyone is trying to figure out how to do more, be more productive, generate more RVU’s (relative value units – the currency of the medical industrial complex). Those that are not a part of this cult are generally shunned. There is a certain implied shame in being less productive or slower than average, even though it is statistically impossible for us to all be above average (as physicians we all think we are). Reach upwards or die trying. Productivity, doing and having more, doesn’t equal happiness though.

 

I watched this film about minimalism and it could not have been at a better time.

 

My fitness has suffered. Although I value it intellectually, I am beginning to wonder if I really value it because it was one of the first things to suffer when my time was sequestered by the additional work. I’ve stopped running. I’ve stopped with the weight work. I’m too tired. It’s only yoga now. Only one more week left until I have some time off. I don’t know how or why I did this for 8 years. I cannot fathom doing this for 30.

 

Week 5 through 12…

Blah, blah, blah, blah

 

My journal gets pretty sparse here but it’s the same crap as before. Let me sum things up for you: Full time work as a physician sucks, at least for me. This model may have been psychologically healthy back when being a doctor was awesome, but, simply put, it is no longer awesome. All Most of the awesomeness has been replaced by more regulation, documentation, tedium, liability, administration, bureaucracy, etc. Grinding through work at top speed is not fun at all, and 40 plus hours of not fun stuff every week is a horrible way to live life.

 

We accept this state of being where we give 5 (or more) days of ourselves to our job and get a couple days of weekend as compensation. Next, we numb our minds with television and alcohol and then grab some overpriced corporate free-trade legalized stimulant on our way to work Monday to start it all over again. We know something is wrong deep down inside, but we suppress it, refuse to believe it. The cognitive dissonance between what really makes us happy and what we are told should make us happy is too painful to accept.

 

Three plus years of part-time has spoiled me shown me the truth. I am fully unplugged from the Matrix. There is no going back. I’m winding this experiment down and will start another journal as I transition back to part time.

 

Of note, sometime between week 5 and week 8 I totally jacked up my lower back. This definitely made everything worse. I would rather work full time until 65 and be free of pain or chronic medical condition than retire tomorrow in pain. I’m aggressively trying to fix it through a combination of physical therapy like stuff, strength work and angrily shaking my fist in the air and yelling Kaaaaahhhhhhnnnnnn!

 

Ok, I made that last one up, but I am re-watching all of Star Trek: The Next Generation with my family. For some reason I keep imagining Donald Trump as Captain Piccard and thinking about how differently the episodes would have turned out. I’m wondering if Deanna Troi would have snapped and stabbed him in the throat with some Betazoid ceremonial dagger. I have a total crush on her. How deranged is that? I need sleep.

 

Live long and prosper.

 


*I’m not sure when an amateur becomes a semi-professional or even professional blogger for that matter. I’ve been doing it over a year so I’m giving myself an upgrade so my ego doesn’t quit on me.

**Actually I do like cabbage when properly prepared, but somehow the story seemed funnier if I didn’t like it. Please forgive me for this little white lie and thank you for the suspension of disbelief.

 

Please share your experiences with part-time work in the comments below.

36 comments

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    • VagabondMD on June 24, 2017 at 3:33 pm
    • Reply

    My part time role is supposed to begin this fall, 10/1, to be exact. For reasons that are beyond the scope of this conversation, I am seriously considering leaving 10/1, either retiring or doing locums. Something awful happened at work this week, and I am not sure how much longer I want to continue. But more likely than not I will.

    When I do go part time (even on the approach), I plan to journal extensively. Perhaps a blog/guest blog will be forthcoming. Right now, I am on the floor with one of my dogs, the little one, rubbing her belly, which seems to make us both feel happy ?, which is the point of all of this, right?

      • hatton1 on June 25, 2017 at 7:26 am
      • Reply

      Please let us all know if you start a blog. Bad things certainly do happen at work. Sometimes it is hard to let them go. Love on your dog my puppy got hit by a car and died last weekend. Life is short.

        • VagabondMD on June 25, 2017 at 10:03 am
        • Reply

        @Hatton1,
        So sorry for the loss of your dog. ?

    1. I’m sorry about your week Vagabond. Sometimes being a doc sucks. I would highly encourage writing about your experiences and submitting them to me for a guest post 🙂

      Happiness is the end game, but most of us keep chasing it, thinking that it is just around the corner. Sometimes it is lying on the ground right in front of us wagging it’s tail.

    • RadOnculous on June 24, 2017 at 3:34 pm
    • Reply

    As a solo doc having my partner leave without resigning and being solo for 7 months I feel your pain. I told my administration a few weeks ago I was having burnout and my schedule was adjusted asap. Things are marginally better but new doc comes in a few weeks full time. Yes!
    However, I do think you are used to working less than “normal”. This makes your unhappiness magnified compared with mine but I can see myself also getting used to part time and feeling as you do about full time work.
    I agree with you completely about medicine being less fun than I thought it would be, although not necessarily less fun than I used to be. I’m
    not sure the “good ol days” ever existed in medicine.
    Sure, one can look at turn of the 19th century docs that were pioneers. That seems so charming. Just get your black bag, cook up some medicine using organic chemistry, put some reagents ina tube to diagnose a disease etc. do some “research” on a few of your patients on a hunch. But patient mortality was high, substance abuse due to self prescribing amongst physicians was rampant and research didn’t exist in its current form to protect patients. I feel as if I’m in a golden age of my specialty (radiation oncology). Technology is soaring, outcomes are improving and patients are happy. I dislike documentation to the extent that it’s not scientific, and about 50% of what I document is not. I also dislike regulation because it generally takes me away from patients. I think the pendulum will swing the other way, it always has. I have been and will be working full time (actually 2-2-5 full time equivalents) for a few more months and then go part time. I have good energy now and my kids are very young. But I’ll be writing the same style post in a few years (hopefully).

    1. The good old days were never probably as good as we imagine them. Our brains just work that way, we tend to remember the good things and minimize the bad. Talking to older docs in their 60s and 70s though, not many of them say medicine is more fun today than when they were younger. Also you are right, I definitely got used to working less and the relative increase of 100% was tough – especially those first few weeks. Having done this twice now (going back to full-time for three months) I feel like I have a great perspective on the differences.

      Oncology is in an amazing place right now. The treatments have come a long way since I was in medical school.

  1. I hear you man. I am In full time mode and hope to go to part time mode in the next few years. It blows,particularly as my so. Gets older. I look forward to the days of working a half day 5 days a week and 7 weeks of call.

    1. Family was a big reason I wanted to go part-time as well.

  2. I’m still very early in my medical career, so I likely have at least a few more years of full-time work ahead of me, but I can appreciate how nice it would be to work part-time. After a work week that was long, but not extraordinarily so, I’m lying on my couch binge-watching Breaking Bad because I just don’t have anything left. The idea of doing any of the should-do things (laundry, dishes, shopping) just fills me with dread.

    1. Lol! I’m sure you are not the only person who has done that. When I was in max burnout mode I had no energy left for anything. I felt like an old cell phone that was unable to hold a charge.

    • Daniel Hough on June 24, 2017 at 11:20 pm
    • Reply

    This was a good read. I agree, our suffering is subjective. Our actions are mostly churn – Meaninglessness. A return to simpler nomadic life would be the end of blogs (production of computers to write them, etc.). Perhaps blogs would not be necessary though. Your blog is churn too – Trying to make sense of our meaningless behavior. You would likely not be as compelled to put pen to paper in a different circumstance. We won’t be reversing the unsustainable chaotic course we have set as humans any time soon, so thank you for taking your time to promote self-reflection in the chaos – It’s essential, lest we entirely lose vision of sanity.

    Also, we are lucky that working ~50 hours yields a liveable income for us. Think how many people can’t even eat healthily for 50 hours of work because of our broken economic construct. Once we climb past the base of Maslow’s Hierarchy, we all suffer the same human experience, like you said.

    1. Thank you. That is really my goal, to induce self-reflection. So much of what we do is subconscious, programmed into us by society. There are few absolutes, and everyone has unique problems. Most human activity is quite meaningless to be honest. We attach significance where there is none.

      I will quibble a bit though. I think it is actually cheaper to eat healthy. Processed food and fast food (in my opinion the most unhealthy) is quite expensive. Rice, beans, oats, potatoes, eggs, bread, vegetables, oils = cheap. This is what poor people eat in other countries and they are often healthier than us. We spend less on food as a percentage of total income than anywhere in the world, and the trend has been cheaper over time.

      That said, I agree with you there are some real structural problems and true poverty does exist, even in the United States. There are many ways to address it, but none are likely with our current political model.

  3. Even though I was attracted to radiology in part for its lack of entanglement in the “social side” of medicine, I find that the relative isolation of my office, which I once considered a positive feature, can be an energy drain. Days when I work a shift that is physically away from other radiologists, lacks procedures, and I’m just slogging through a long list of plain films are the WORST. Even small interactions with patients, staff, and other radiologists provide a welcome mental break from the screen.

    I am a human (I scream to myself)!

    1. I hear you. What I really loved about radiology at first was what I think contributed to my burnout.

    • Scott on June 25, 2017 at 4:28 am
    • Reply

    “The cognitive dissonance between what really makes us happy and what we are told should make us happy is too painful to accept.”

    I know that I have felt like this a very long time! You start to turn on yourself and question why everyone else can seem to hack it but you struggle just getting up in the morning trying to muster up enough will to start your day. You ask yourself…maybe it’s me. Maybe I just need to be mentally tougher? What if I find a new job or career and I’m still not happy…and those thoughts prevent you from taking any action to better your situation. You have all the things that society deems necessary to be successful and happy, but you feel completely the opposite. Then you wonder…well if the successful career and large pay checks won’t do it, what will? Where do I go? What do I do?

    Still struggling with it all but it’s refreshing to see someone capture that desperation/frustration that you can’t quite gets your arms around and put it into words like you do.

    1. Thank you. For me the first step was accepting that my feelings were legitimate. Acceptance is true freedom, and paradoxically what ‘mental toughness’ is. When we try and force ourselves to feel something that is not true, we suffer and it wears us down. Keep asking yourself the hard questions and you will get there.

  4. Im exhausted just reading this! Once you’ve lived a life of part time (or semi retired as I like to say) it is hard to go back to full time. Your full time is my full time on speed! I travel for a living and, for better or worse, am able to make my own schedule. Last year I worked a bunch and this year I am burnt out as a result. The money didnt make my job any more alluring than the time off has so this year I have cut back. It’s been a couple months, but finally I am beginning to see the fruits of my non labor. Less work and my brain is slowly starting to untangle the threads of creativity. I am writing more and am much more productive on a day to day basis. Of course, my semi retired life sets me back a few years in terms of financial independence but I would much rather live these years feeling refreshed than beaten.

    I hope you get some much needed rest and your back is magically healed!! Enjoy Star Trek in the meantime. 🙂

    1. Haha! Yeah it was a bit exhausting to write as well.

      I’m realizing that FI is not really a good goal in itself. It has to be in the context of happiness. Better to get there slower and be happy than sprint to the finish line. The back has been frustrating for sure. i look at it as an opportunity to reflect more deeply upon pain, aging, limitation, etc. My suffering will hopefully result in some good blog posts ?

  5. Oh boy, the back issue on top of the work issue is rough. I injured my back last March and although I’ve had back issues since the age of 12 (good old gymnastics), it was pretty miserable until the pain subsided about 3 months later (though never fully went away and then I re-injured my back a few months after that).

    At least for my injury I had to stop doing my normal yoga. I know do what I call granny yoga where I”m basically seated for every position. I even sit down to put on socks and shoes. It’s pretty amazing how quickly you can feel yourself age with a major injury. However, my chiropractor and massage therapist were the only reason I was able to function during those first dark few months.

    Best of luck continuing to find and live in your happy place while you are stuck in full-time employment (with a bad back!).

    1. Thanks! The upside of having pain is greater understanding and empathy for those in a similar situation…although I would still prefer to by pain free 🙂

    • Kelly on June 25, 2017 at 2:33 pm
    • Reply

    Thank you for this post. I’m a radiologist in the military a little less than 2 years from military retirement. I have been struggling with what I want to make of my civilian career… between part time telerad or finally going after the big bucks all us military docs dream about. I’m pretty sure that I would feel exactly the same way you discribe in your post if I were to go full time. I think you really helped me make my decision.

    1. Glad to be of help Kelly. Telerad definitely has it’s perks, although I think I would miss the procedures and minor patient interaction.

  6. Great post and it’s very useful to hear your perspective from full-time to part-time and then back to a stint of full-time. It’s very interesting how your perspective changed. You’re now very aware of the negative of full-time work now. You have just seen a better way now and can’t go back.

    This is very encouraging to me as I am currently still working and sometimes wonder if having more time will really make me happy. I’m 99% sure it will though because I see a clear difference between 40 hour weeks and 60 hour weeks. At 60 hours, I get tired, unhealthy (diet and exercise suffer badly), and very, very grumpy. At 40, life seems quite good, although I still feel I don’t have enough time for cooking, exercise, and family time that I really enjoy.

    I think the absolute ideal would be 25-30 hours of fulfilling “work” and more flexibility for vacation weeks.. That would give enough time to balance what I value. It’s nice to see you are happy working part time but very unhappy working full-time (or more). It seems to make a huge difference. We only get one life and doing only work seems like an unfulfilling life. Thanks for writing this!

    1. Thank you. I agree that 25-30 hours a week of meaningful work is a great place to be. The 40 hour+ work week is a relic from the past that will hopefully die a slow painful death 😉

      There is some research I have read clearly showing that employees are much more productive on a per hour basis when they work fewer hours. I think this is true for me. I’m fresher for more of my working hours and can accomplish more work.

    • Dr.100million on June 27, 2017 at 3:20 pm
    • Reply

    Great post.
    I’m a fellow radiologist and I understand your pain. The best thing for me was going to outpatient radiology with no call. I don’t think the general public understands that our job requires intense 100% concentration all day long. One interruption or wandering thought ruins train of thought and causes you to miss things that can mean life or death. Unfortunately, I’m interrupted like every 10 minutes. It’s exhausting.

    1. Call is a killer, especially after a hard week of work. For me it also is a pace issue. There is a huge difference between being comfortable and non-rushed through the day vs. feeling like you are constantly a little bit behind. Unfortunately there is always this subtle push to be busier and more efficient in medicine until everyone is rushed and uncomfortable.

      Getting constantly interrupted and being able to go back into a complex case without missing a beat is a skill set that is underappreciated. There is a lot of cognitive action that goes on in the background. Took me a few years to really get good at this.

    • KAREN on July 5, 2017 at 10:40 pm
    • Reply

    24 years ago I went part-time when my child was born; it’s the best of both worlds. Since then I’ve wondered HOW parents work full-time and still raise their kids – I question the wisdom of doing that. We need to stop drinking the kool-aide that a 40 hour work week is best – most people are only good for about 6 hours a day.

    1. I think some people thrive on trying to do it all, but I am not one of those people. 20-25 hours a week is what I think is optimal.

    • El Jefe on July 11, 2017 at 7:44 am
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    Really well done post. It’s why I keep coming back to this blog. Thought provoking and insightful. Love it.

    1. Thank you 🙂

    • Akel on July 17, 2017 at 4:10 pm
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    Timely. I’m in high tech, my company just got acquired by a giant corporation and I’ve a job offer from the new company, but I’m wrestling with figuring out where I want my career to go from here. Also, my mother just died a few months ago after years of caring for her through memory and health decline. I am only just realizing that I am burnt. Really burnt. After years of frugality, I can go to part-time but honestly I hadn’t really been thinking about that path until I read this post and realized it might be just the answer I need right now. Life is short and there are so many things I want to do, and very low on the list is to contribute to the bottom line of corporate america. Thank you!

    1. Awesome! Glad I could help. Let us know if you do decide to make a change and how it pans out.

    • Tony Nesse on August 19, 2017 at 12:51 pm
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    Sure, chronic unrelenting work pressure can ruin your disposition, marriage and happiness. My suggestion is to find a solution, even if it may be as drastic as a new job. Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.
    After 50 years in diagnostic radiology, I still was looking forward to the day’s work every morning. Now retired, I miss the CSI-like challenge of each case, and the company of my smart, funny coworkers. Yes, there were busy days and nights, even in retrospect I can recall the pressure. But the work was what gave me a purpose in life, and I am still pleased and happy thinking of all the folks I have helped. This satisfaction goes a long way toward happiness.

    1. I promise no babies were thrown out writing this post, only bath water. I did find a solution. I wrote about it before.

      http://thehappyphilosopher.com/happy-philosopher-the-backstory/

      http://thehappyphilosopher.com/a-physicians-guide-to-working-part-time/

      I find purpose and happiness in many things, but work is not one of them. When I retire I will not miss work.

    • Fishbird on September 26, 2017 at 8:35 am
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    Thanks so much for this post, although I’m getting to it a bit late. For what it’s worth, your timing is impeccable. I first discovered your website over a year ago precisely when, in the depths of unrelenting burnout, I had made the decision to take the leap and leave full time medicine. Having worked as a full time physician for over 17 years at that point, it was an incredibly difficult decision to make, and I knew no one personally who had decided to do this before classic retirement age. Knowing that there was a kindred spirit out there who had done what I was contemplating and had no regrets with that decision helped me immeasurably.

    Fast forward a year. I’ve been working part time with no call for the past 6 months and feel like I have been given my life back again. Time to spend with my wife and children and to be fully present. Time to exercise, meditate, catch up with friends, read, write, walk, hike, contemplate, philosophize. Wow.

    Long story short. My part time position has recently been eliminated in an organizational culling. I am to meet with administration today to discuss other avenues (all full time with full time call) that I can pursue within the organization. Thanks, but no thanks. I have thankfully found another part time gig as a physician 50 miles away, but, despite the commute, it allows me to work two days a week (more than enough to provide for my family’s needs and even put away a bit for the future) and retain the dignity that I have rediscovered after such a long time in the wilderness.

    Your Matrix analogy is apt. I came to the same conclusion over a year ago, and now, unplugged, I will do anything necessary not to return to that existence again.

    All the best.

    1. Thanks for your comment Fishbird. It is awesome and humbling that I can help you on your journey to find happiness and freedom. You make a good point, sometimes knowing someone is having the same struggles as you can be comforting, and allow us freedom to go against the grain of what society tells us we should all be doing. Who knows, maybe your current employer will see the light and allow you to stay in part time when you are committed to leaving. If you make it a win-win for you and them it is likely something can be worked out. Recruiting and retaining good physicians is tough in many specialties. Good luck and drop back to let us know how things work out 🙂

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