Authors: Lois Brand / Editor: Swagat Mishra / Codes: SLO9 / Published: 20/09/2022

Emergency physicians pride themselves on their plate-spinning, rapid-fire decision-making and ruthless efficiency. If we’re honest, it gives us a bit of a buzz. On the shop-floor, this ability to scythe through a never-ending workload is a pre-requisite for survival as an EM consultant. We are triage gods and goddesses, managing our limited resources of time, space and staff to ensure that the sickest are safe, and the easy wins are sorted, spun around and exited as the four-hour clock ticks down.

However, spending large proportions of our waking time in this mode can lead to drift into other areas of our life. The ruthless triage process continues into home life – with friends and relatives marvelling at our efficiency and how much we can achieve. Without realising it, we can find ourselves subconsciously deploying the ‘expectant’ triage category, condemning long-term important investments in friendships, family and self-care to the fate of the ‘P4’ casualty. Those vital areas are repeatedly put on hold, and long-term lack of investment in these critical assets may have a heavy cost.  

Unfortunately, it’s often a major crisis which leads to review and reflection of how we’re running our lives. Cal Newport in his book ‘Deep Work’1 looks at the vital importance of proactively taking time away from our frantic ‘busyness’, and creating rituals to encourage and enable ‘deep work’. Actively reflecting on and planning our ongoing career is arguably some of the deepest work we can do, touching as it does on our very purpose and meaning. The trouble is that slowing down can involve hearing what’s going on inside our heads, seeing what we’ve ignored for too long, and acknowledging what we may already have lost. Stopping, thinking and planning also signals that change may be on the agenda and our brains tend to rile against that, doing whatever it takes to maintain the status quo, even if that is not serving us well.

As Bradley-Hagerty says in her book ‘Life-Re-Imagined: The Science, Art and Opportunity of Mid-Life’2: ‘No matter how successful you are, you need to regularly pause and cast a cool analytical eye on your career. At midlife especially, it may be time to recalibrate.’

Step away from the treadmill and carve out some reflection and planning time, on your own or with a trusted friend or colleague. How is your balance? What do you need to change? What will sustain you and make your life and work more rewarding? Be proactive, don’t wait for a crisis.

In future posts I’ll be sharing tools and ideas to help you reflect and plan for a fulfilling ongoing career.


  1. Newport C. Deep Work: Rules for focused success in a distracted world. Piatkus. 2016.
  2. Bradley-Hagerty B. Life-Re-Imagined: The Science, Art and Opportunity of Mid-Life. Riverhead. 2017.