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Entrepreneurial New Year’s resolutions for physicians

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  1. Stay well-informed of news related to your professional interests
  2. Set a schedule for professional side pursuits and stick to it
  3. Familiarize yourself with personal finance and small business accounting
  4. Make a modest and sustainable adjustment to improve your health
  5. Promptly address the causes of stress and unhappiness in your life

We’re only a bit more than half-way through December, but I’m posting about New Year’s resolutions for physicians now. This gives you time to mentally commit to a resolution, make an action plan, and psych yourself up to get started once January first rolls around.

If you’re a healthcare professional who wants more than simply to earn a decent salary by going to work every day, you should have a professional New Year’s resolution. Look for Zebras is all about living your professional life to the fullest and on your own terms. To do that, you need to be proactive. Doing the bare minimum that your boss requires, counting the hours until the end of your shift, or spending every evening plopped in front of the TV might not be helping you.

This year, decide to take your doctor-life to the next level. Whether you want to start a side-business, establish yourself as an expert in your field, earn extra money, get promoted, or just get more enjoyment out of your job – this can start with a sensible New Year’s resolution.

Here are five ideas. And they don’t require that you download an app, buy a new tech device, or drastically change your everyday life.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in looming government shutdowns, national security, or whatever else is monopolizing major news outlets (not mention your Facebook feed). News can be great if you’re actually passionate about national and international current events and they are relevant to your job. But, more likely, reading a story about the latest politician sex accusation over your morning coffee doesn’t positively impact the daily work you do as a healthcare professional.

This new year, determine what news would benefit your professional life. Then trade a non-productive news outlet for a productive one that is relevant to you. Let’s say you put on TODAY while you get ready for work. Try turning it off, thereby eliminating the distraction, and using your extra five minutes to read the front page for your medical specialty on MedScape.

Or sign up for theSkimm to get a quick, entertaining summary of the day’s most important news. You’ll save time by not having to check multiple websites to get up to speed. Use the extra time to read an article from the Harvard Business Review or Health Economics.

Where there’s important, controversial, or devastating national or world news you should be aware of, someone will probably let you know.

2.Set a schedule for professional side pursuits and stick to it

2018 is a great year to get serious about increasing your income, growing your side business, or enhancing your professional reputation. It’s so easy to think about starting some freelance work or taking on some extra shifts here and there, but then not actually take action. Choose one pursuit to focus on next year. For example:

  • Writing a book
  • Developing a consulting business
  • Becoming active in a professional medical organization
  • Growing your blog readership

Now decide on a reasonable amount of time you can dedicate to this activity, and when you can focus on it day or each week. If you’re exhausted when you get home from work every day, consider waking up an hour early a couple times per week to work on your side hustle. If weekdays tend to be crazy, resolve to turn two or three hours of weekend Netflix time into freelancing time.

The key is that you need to stick with your schedule. Take a few minutes each weekend or on Monday morning to look at your calendar for the upcoming week. It might be full of meetings, out of town travel, or your kid’s sports games. When that’s the case, find a single block of time that you’ll be able to dedicate to working on your project. Even if it has to be a mere half hour – block in out on your schedule and commit yourself to that 30 minutes.

If dedicating time to your pursuit isn’t a problem, perhaps it’s getting tangible results that has been an issue. Maybe you sit down every Sunday afternoon to work on your book, but end up with nothing more than a brain dump that you find unusable the next time you read it. In this case, resolve to be more specific about what you’ll accomplish during the time that you spend on your pursuit.

3.Familiarize yourself with personal finance and small business accounting

You should have a solid comfort level with your personal finances and investments, even if you use a financial advisor! Most side hustles and freelance work will pay you as a 1099 worker. This effectively makes you a small business – a sole proprietor if you do nothing, or an entity such as a single-member LLC if you take the steps to formalize your business. Either way, this means you should treat your work as a business.

Tracking your business expenses and income can be a godsend when tax time rolls around. It also comes in handy to answer questions that arise about previous purchases or work that you did. Finally, if your small business turns into something bigger, you may want to sell it down the road. Solid accounting records will be instrumental in valuing your business and helping potential buyers with their due diligence.

When it comes to your personal finances, understanding the basics of investing and retirement planning will help you set goals in your professional life and will probably even motivate you in your work. I’m a big fan of the WCI Network blogs: White Coat Investor, Physician on FIRE, and Passive Income M.D. They are great if you can’t bear the thought of reading a dry book about finance or if you feel overwhelmed about all there is to learn.

4.Make a modest and sustainable adjustment to improve your health

Weight loss the stereotypical king of New Year’s resolutions. Other health-related resolutions aren’t far behind – drink less, go to the gym, etc. Improved health is an awesome thing to strive for, but many common resolutions set us up for failure. It’s not practical to think we can lose 20 pounds without having a great plan for how to do so and a strong will to get there. Resolving to go to the gym every single day is excessive for a busy professional who hasn’t exercised in years.

But don’t shy away from a health-related resolution altogether. Better health can make you happier, more pleasant to be around, less prone to illness, and so much more.  To avoid being let down by an impractical resolution, think of one small change you can make that will improve your overall health. A few ideas:

  • Do yoga once per week
  • Switch to sparkling water after your first drink at parties
  • Stretch for 10 minutes every week
  • Make or buy a salad whenever you order in pizza

If you’re victorious at your small resolution, add another small change a few months later. There’s no rule against quarter-year resolutions.

5.Promptly address the causes of stress and unhappiness in your life

Not sure about you, but I see a headline about physician burnout almost daily. It’s being referred to as an epidemic by some. I’m a big proponent of preventing burnout altogether. The key to this is to identify what’s causing you stress or unhappiness and nip it in the bud. This requires paying attention to how you’re feeling, at the very least. A better approach is to spend a few minutes deliberately reflecting on your stressors and level of contentment on a regular basis.

Once they’re identified, find ways to address them. “I need to stop stressing out so much,” and “I’ll try to leave work on time” are not adequate. Don’t kid yourself. Some stressors can potentially be defeated with a change in attitude, but others may require a more major change, such as resigning from a job, saying “no” to an opportunity, or shelling out $200 per week for house cleaning.

Try to think of some sources of stress and unhappiness you’ve had that got better on their own, without your intervention. It’s difficult, right? Stress will fester, if we let it. Symptoms of burnout will spiral out of control. So resolve to take notice when you feel unhealthy pressure, worry, frustration, or displeasure. And then do something about it!

I hope that these New Years resolution ideas resonated with you. If so, pick one and I’ll provide moral support for you to stick with it all year long.

Comment below if you’ve resolved to move forward with one of these resolution ideas in 2018!

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