Published in American Urological Association News - July 2019

Reprinted with permission from AUANews, volume 24, issue 7, 2019; © American Urological Association 2019.


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Changing Our Own Perception of Time

Most of us feel we never have enough time. We’ve all experienced the relativity of time, as some days go by too quickly while others seem to drag on. Why does this occur? Science shows us that we can change our perception of time. Without getting into too much detail, a key factor is the amount of memories created or mental processing that occurs. What if there are benefits to shifting our perspective of time? What are the strategies that can shift that perspective? Here are some strategies to shift your perspective of time.

Shift to the Positive

There are endless ways to shift your energy towards the positive. In my mind, the main subcategory is how you measure time. If you measure what you haven’t done, can’t do or won’t get done, then you are focusing on the negative. This focus is especially negative if you are measuring with too large of a container. Would you measure vanilla extract with a cup or jug? More likely, you’d want to use a teaspoon. Would you fill a beer mug to the top with scotch? The second category is whether the type of time is positive or negative. Is it an enjoyable activity? Is it one of your passions? Does the activity have a higher purpose? Would you describe it as “quality time?” All of these would fall into the category of positive in my view. Shifting to the positive would mean making incremental changes that add positive time while removing availability for negative time.

Be Focused

Surgeons know that the task at hand is best performed when you focus on what is happening now, while being prepared for what is coming ahead.Like any skill, focus takes practice.The goal is to get focused, be focused and stay focused. Distractions will always occur. Some distractions are really important and some are not,but we can learn to process these distractions.

There are many great strategies available to improve our focus. One that has worked really well for me is to emphasize one of the practices in my 8 PRACTICEs methodology. I am aware of the role or relationship that needs my attention at that moment, and I give all of my attention on the other in that relationship.That other might be my patient, my wife or my colleague. This focus increases the likelihood that the other will experience the quality time they take away from the moment. While I aim to give all of my attention on the other, there usually are distractions about which I am learning to process.

Break Routine

Try new things. While creating habits definitely has the benefit of allowing us to work more on autopilot and even improve performance, it can make time appear to go faster. Routines are great when we aim for faster. What if we want to slow down or at least feel like we are slowing down? Perhaps we should be changing habits or altering our routine. It challenges our brain to learn new things and create new memories. What are times or experiences that you would like to slow down?Consider changing your routine surrounding those times or experiences.Let me know what happens. What if you could change the time perception of your patients in clinic? How can you expand the routine in the process so that it appears to go faster, and also change the routine (and your focus )in the time you spend with them, so that both of you experience the quality and perceive that time as longer?

Look for Your Rhythm

Our lives as surgeons can feel very out of balance. We feel like we never have enough time to get things done. Life is too short. Many surgeons get frustrated when their time is wasted. What if many of us are not actually seeking balance? Perhaps that is why work-life balance always stressed me out. What if there is more satisfaction with a goal that is one in alignment with our own values and beliefs? It also seems reasonable to me that my values and beliefs might change with time, and one day I might seek more balance. What are your goals? My belief is that highly successful surgeons get into a flow or rhythm when they are functioning at their best. When I apply the strategies that I have shared I feel that I am in my rhythm. It is amazing. It is very satisfying. Let me and your colleagues know if this has been useful. Let us know other ideas for changing our perception of time, what has worked for you,and try to be positive. It helps if we are trying to lift each other up.

And please ... Stay well.