Episode 128: After Burnout: Planning a Working Life You Want with Dr. Katya Miles

While taking time away from work, you may realize that your career path is not what you wanted it to be. You might find that many things need to change in order for you to pursue your ideal life. Fortunately, returning to work can be your opportunity to make changes in your life. Have the intention to take the steps to avoid burnout and live out your ideal life.

In this episode, Dr. Katya Miles and Rachel continue their talk about what you can do after returning from a break at work. You might find that with proper planning and intention, your return is just what you need to start making some changes. From self-care to checking in, you can take this opportunity to live your ideal life and career.

If you want to find out more about planning a working life you want, listen to this episode of You Are Not a Frog.

Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:

  1. Discover how planning and being intentional can keep you on track to your ideal life and career.
  2. Learn how self-care doesn’t benefit only you, but the people around you as well.
  3. Discover the opportunities that your time away, and your return, can create for you.

Episode Highlights

[04:58] Planning Ahead

  • People in high-stress jobs benefit from planning out their week. The THRIVE Weekly Planner by Rachel can help you plan your usual working week and your ideal week.
  • You can intentionally design the life you want and fit your career around it at any point in your life.
  • Coming back to work is a good opportunity to start fitting your career around your life instead of vice versa.
  • Plan ahead and talk to your manager to start seeing what possible adjustments can be made for your other commitments.
  • Create simple and practical contingency plans for your non-ideal week.

Most of us find a job and then fit our lives around it. Yeah, actually, it should be the other way around. We should design our life and then fit our careers around it. – Click Here to Tweet This

[10:35] What You “Should” Do

  • Using the words “could” and “I choose” rather than “should” encourages us to try and be more proactive.
  • “Could” also inspires more creative thinking about your options.
  • Using the words “I choose” gives the power of choice to you.

[12:43] Self-Care for Others

  • Self-care is not a selfish choice. You need to take care of yourself first so that you can give better care to others.
  • It’s not a matter of choosing only one over the other. You can be kind to yourself, your patient and the people around you.
  • Jobs which are critical for health and safety need professionals who are well-rested.
  • Caring for yourself ensures you’re able to perform well and at a competent level for your patients.

Lots of jobs have an element, which is safety critical. In any of those jobs, it is important that we exactly said we’re well rested, so we can perform and do things to a competent level. – Click Here to Tweet This

[16:50] Opportunities In Returning to Work

  • Returning to work gives you an opportunity to make positive changes in your life.
  • During your break, reflect and plan for this opportunity.
  • Be careful of repeating what you’ve done before that has led to your stress and burnout.
  • As you go back to work, you can regularly check in with yourself to see if you’re still on track with your intentions.

[20:15] Little Changes

  • Rachel’s business, Wild Monday, came to her as she set her intentions on having a wild and precious life even on Mondays.
  • She contemplated the many little things that she can do to make a difference in her life.
  • For Rachel, it was about shifting your mindset away from worrying about what others thought.

[23:15] Career and Life Check-Ins

  • Even for those who aren’t taking a long break from work, you can always reflect on what you can change for the better.
  • Everybody can benefit from regularly evaluating their careers.
  • Check if what you’re doing now is working for you. If it isn’t working, open your mind to the different opportunities you have.
  • It’s important to check in and reevaluate, especially after big life changes and during different stages of your career.

keep an eye out, I guess for the opportunities to make changes and have those conversations with people around you with your sort of teams and your seniors. – Click Here to Tweet This

[28:25] Incomparable Lives

  • Keep in mind that your situation can be largely different from others.
  • You never know what others may be going through. Don’t be afraid to share your story; you might find that you are not alone.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others. Stay true and work towards what you want and need.
  • By doing this, you can best serve the people around you as well.

I know people from work and elsewhere who’ve really struggled to have families and it’s not so much their challenge with time constraints, but they have other real aches that they carry around in their heart. Real losses and griefs. Those things can be really difficult. – Click Here to Tweet This

About Katya

Katya Miles is the founder of the Working Well Doctor. She’s a GP and occupational health doctor turned coach and trainer. Katya loves encouraging others in her work and seeks to help people like her overcome stress and burnout. She focuses on leadership, career development and wellbeing coaching to empower overloaded professionals to thrive.

Prior to founding the Working Well Doctor, she worked at the Mayo Clinic and in the UK as a GP. She’s also a Shapes Coach and Shapes Toolkit Trainer. She writes for the BMJ & Medic Footprints and is often found sharing ideas with her Thrive Well email community.

Connect with Katya via Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

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Episode Transcript

Most of us find a job and then fit our lives around it. Actually, it should be the other way around. We should design our life and then fit our careers around it. And it doesn’t mean not having a good career. Not at all. But what it does mean is about being intentional about what you do. And doing this at any point is good, but I would say it’s really good to do this before you burn out.

But if you’re feeling stressed and burnt out, then do it now. Do it now before it’s too late. Because we just take on so much and it’s subconscious. It’s like the frog in boiling water, isn’t it? The whole point, literally. You take on more and more, and soon you realise the workload is built up. And suddenly, every single minute of your week is accounted for. And that’s a very stressful place to be in. Be proactive about it. Unless something changes, unless you do something about it, it’s just gonna get worse, right?

Dr Rachel Morris: So this week, we got Part Two of the conversation with Dr Katya Miles all about what to do after burnout, how to go back to work, and how to plan your working week. Now, have you ever taken the time to work out exactly what you want your week to look like? How you want to spend your life? And how will you design your life so that you can thrive, not just survive, another week of overwhelm and stress?

Most of us with the very best intentions end up with diaries that are chockablock and days that are too full of back-to-back surgeries, meetings, and social engagements. Now, if you’ve ever been off sick with burnout or stress, or even if you’ve been very close to it, you’ll know how important it is to be intentional about the way you spend your time, both in and out of work, to look after yourself so that you can best serve your patients, colleagues, friends, and family and be in it for the long haul.

I’m really pleased to share Part Two of the conversation I recorded with Dr Katya Miles, who’s a GP and a career coach. In this half of our conversation, we get a little bit philosophical about life and we explore how to plan a life in which you’ll thrive and talk about how to make it happen.

This episode is for you, whether you’re going back to work after a time off with burnout or any protracted leave. It’s also for you even if you’ve not yet had time off sick. Prevention is always better than cure. If you use some of the tools and principles we chat about, then you may just find that you’re able to avoid becoming that frog in the boiling water. Listen to this episode to help you get really clear about how you’re going to live and work and ultimately make the most of your one wild and precious life.

Welcome to You Are Not A Frog, a podcast for doctors and busy professionals in healthcare and other high stress jobs who want to beat burnout and work happier. I’m Dr Rachel Morris, a former GP now working as a coach, speaker, and specialist in resilience at work. Like frogs in a pan of slowly boiling water, many of us have found that exhaustion and stress are slowly becoming the norm. But you are not a frog. You don’t have to choose between burning out or getting out.In this podcast, I’ll be talking to friends, colleagues, and experts, all who have an interesting take on this, and inviting you to make a deliberate choice about how you will live and work.

Are you a leader in health and social care with a busy day job who’s worried about the level of stress and burnout in your team and wants to get a resilient, thriving and happy team but without burning out yourself? I know what it’s like to work in an overwhelmed team and be one crisis away from not coping.

During my coach training, I came across a set of resilience and productivity principles and tools based on coaching and neuroscience, which I wish I’d known about 20 years ago when I first qualified as a doctor. I put them together to form the Shapes Toolkit, a programme for leaders and their teams who want to feel calmer, beat stress, and work happier. We’ve been teaching the Shapes Toolkit Course face-to-face and online to doctors and other healthcare teams around the country. And it’s made a huge difference to the way people approach their lives and their work.

We wanted to make this training and the Shapes resources available to busy leaders who may not have time to attend a day-long course but still want to learn how to use the Shapes Tools with their teams. So we created the Resilient Team Academy, an online membership which gives busy leaders and healthcare all the training and tools they need to beat burnout themselves and get a happy and thriving team. You’ll get webinars, training, mini videos, and loads of other resources at your fingertips. You can sign up for the Resilient Team Academy individually or as an organisation. We only open our doors twice a year. Do join while you can. Find out more by clicking on the link in the show notes.

I think we’re very bad at planning stuff. And I think health care professionals, people in high stress jobs would really benefit from planning, whether they’ve been through burnout or not. One of the tools I encourage people to use all the time is the Thrive Week Planner, which is very simply a plan of your week where you say, ‘Okay, what am I doing in a usual working week?’ And you brainstorm, put everything you’re doing, including life outside of work, including life inside work, all the paperwork you’ve got to do, all the extra stuff that comes at you.

In fact, I developed this tool because I was coaching a chap who said to me, a GP, ‘I just want to get a half day week. I just want half a day off a week. I never seem to get my half day.’ I said, ‘Okay, well, let’s plan out your week.’ And by this time, we put in all the sessions that he was working as a partner, the day that he did with the CCG, the extra committees, he ran all that sort of thing. He looks at it, and I said, ‘So what do you notice?’ And he said, ‘Well, I appear to be working regularly 13 sessions a week.’ And it was true when you actually mapped it out that most of us do so much more than we think we do.

When you add in responsibilities, like childcare, like caring for elderly parents, like meeting up with your friends for a coffee, which I think is crucial and should be put in the diary every week, you find that your time is very much accounted for. And so doing that, what does my life look like now? What does my job look like? Or maybe if you are off sick with stress and burnout, if I went back into exactly the same role, what would that look like? And then actually doing your ideal week, so get another sheet of paper and go, ‘What would I like this week to look like?’

I heard a quote the other day. It was on a podcast I was listening to about the enneagram, actually. And this guy said most of us find a job and then fit our lives around it. Actually, it should be the other way around. We should design our life and then fit our careers around it. And I went, ‘Yes! That’s absolutely true.’ We should design the life we want and then fit your job and your career around that. And it doesn’t mean not having a good career. Not at all. But what it does mean is about being intentional about what you do.

Doing this at any point is good, but I would say it’s really good to do this before you burn out. But if you’re feeling stressed and burnt out, then do it now. Do it now before it’s too late. Because we just take on so much and it’s subconscious. It’s like the frog in boiling water, isn’t it? The whole point, literally. You take on more and more, and soon you realise the workload is built up. And suddenly, every single minute of your week is accounted for. And that’s a very stressful place to be in. Be proactive about it. Unless something changes, unless you do something about it, it’s just gonna get worse, right?

Dr Katya Miles: Yes, I think that is definitely true. And I think that is true in the NHS because of the way it’s set up. It definitely relies on people to speak and say, ‘This is what my needs are.’ Because otherwise there will just be work that arises and needs to be done. In some ways, you could argue that coming back to work is a great opportunity. Because you could say, ‘Okay, I’ve been away.’ This is a natural place to have a little bit of a think about what would fit going back to work, in going back to work.

I may have other commitments. It might be children, it might be a chronic health condition that you’ve had, and you’re coming back to work with your chronic health condition. You might have other commitments for academic or military purposes, or whatever your reason. And then that’s actually a bit of a good opener if you want to start designing your work. You can think about what we’ve said. And then there’s that thing where you talk to your manager, and then to see what’s actually possible. But have those conversations, it might not all be possible. But there’s often things that can be done at least that might partly address what you need. You don’t know if you don’t ask. Planning ahead is really helpful. I think it’s very difficult for any team to adjust things like the day you arrived.

So plan ahead, be realistic, like we’re just saying, about how long things take. If you do have people who you’re caring for, children is an obvious example, get those contingencies in place. Get the childcare and then maybe get the contingency because allowing for that is important, I think, because when you plan your work, I think it’s plan your ideal week, and then plan for your non-ideal week. What happens if something fails? If I’m poorly? If the kids are poorly? If something happens at work and colleagues poorly? What happens if the IT crashes? How am I going to manage? How is the work and workplace going to carry on?

The more you can do with that contingency planning, the better, I think, because, again, keep it simple. It’s actually very complicated. It might just be. I’ve got a friend who can pick the kids up in extremis. Or it might be that I get someone’s phone number if I’m having a Zoom meeting with them, and then if the Zoom crashes, I can pick up the telephone. It doesn’t have to be complex, just like you’re saying. That simplicity. But I do think thinking those things through, being practical, planning, and then speaking,

Sometimes, I actually invite people who feel a bit unsettled about this, especially coming back to work, I invite them to write a script. Would you like to write it down and practise in front of a mirror? You could even, if you’re on a phone call or a Zoom call, you can even have the notes in front of you. Or you can even have them in front of you in real life. You could just say ‘I’ve got some notes’ and then have them in front of you while you’re talking to your team about these things so that you’ve got a prompt, and it helps you kind of stay focused on what you had been planning.

Rachel: The planning is so important. We’ll put the Thrive Week Planner Tool there so that people can download in the show notes. I think one of the things that stops people from asking for what they really want and what they really need is the story in their head that, ‘Well, everyone else has to work like that. So why should I be an exception? Why should I have special circumstances? Why should I get to change things when, look at my colleagues?’ How would you answer people that are saying that, Katya?

Katya: I guess I would invite them to reflect on the word ‘should’ and how kind is that to say, to yourself or to others. It’s not a super kind word, actually, for yourself or for others. I think if we try, where possible, think about what we ‘could’ do rather than ‘should’, that people often say that it can be a bit of a throwaway comment. But I actually think it can be really helpful. And it’s more proactive as well as being kinder to think about ‘could’ as well. That kind of opens up a bit more creative thinking about, ‘Okay, well, what are the options here?’ Maybe it will help others, maybe this will be something that would be helpful for others. It’s not just about the individual sometimes. I think it can be about the group.

Rachel: I think just because other people are stuck in a certain way of working or doing things doesn’t mean that you should be as well, doesn’t mean that it’s helpful for us. I love that thought about changing ‘shoulds’ because I also love to get people to use instead of ‘I should’, it’s ‘I choose to’. So ‘I’m choosing to go back and work this amount because…’ or ‘I’m choosing to cut down my hours so that I can not burn out again, so that I can maintain this career at this pace, and I can look after my family, or so that I can serve my patients better because I know that I will always be referred to them’.

If you swap ‘should’ for either ‘could’ or ‘I’m choosing to… so that…’ I think the word ‘so that’ is so powerful because, for some reason, even if you tell them about the Hippocratic Oath being about ‘I need to look after myself’, you need that little bit on the end, ‘… so that I can provide patient care’, ‘… so that it’s not feeling selfish’, ‘… so that it is for other people’. Because self care, you talk about this all the time, don’t you, Katya? Self care is not selfish.

Katya: Yes, definitely. Sometimes I put up a picture of a plane in my workshops and say, ‘This is an oblique reference. Don’t be too obvious what’s it about.’ And sometimes when we’re talking about this, people will come up with the oxygen mask. Other times, we kind of mention it, but it really is true, the oxygen mask analogy that you really do need to put your oxygen mask on first so you can help others. Definitely when you’re caring for others at work and outside work. That’s a hugely important reason. I think you’re right. I think it allows you to think about the ‘so that’ Why am I putting on my oxygen mask? So that I can help others.

And there’s a broader point, actually. I know that your business is called Wild Mondays. I always wondered if that was like reference to that poem about you only got this one wild and precious life, and we’re in a job to help others live their wild and precious life. We have our one wild and precious life as well. So there’s another reason there to do what kind of hopefully will work for ourselves as well as for people around us, including our patients and our families and everybody. Trying to do the ‘as well as’ rather than the ‘one or the other’. It’s not ‘I’m looking after myself or looking after my patients’. It’s like, ‘Can I do both?’ I talk about that when I talk about compassion. How can I be kind to the patient and to myself, to my colleagues and myself? It doesn’t have to be either or.

Rachel: No, it’s definitely both, isn’t it? Because when you’re talking about the picture of the plane, I go, ‘Where’s she going with this?’ Give you all sorts of analogies. My thoughts were before you said oxygen mask is who do you want flying that plane? Do you want someone stressed and burned out and knackered and tired and on the edge of not coping? Or do you want someone who’s rested and well who knows their own limits? Yes, I want that person now. That is nothing about whether the pilot is superhuman or not. It’s about the pilot recognising their limits and stopping and looking after themselves. I don’t want a pilot that thinks they’re superhuman. A bit like Maverick. Have you seen the film?

Katya: I haven’t seen it yet. Oh, my God. I can’t wait.

Rachel: Please. This isn’t a spoiler. There’s a lot of very unrealistic moments in that film. I did really enjoy it. But the really unrealistic bit was when I was going, ‘Why are they on a motorbike and they’re not wearing a helmet?’

Katya: Safety first. You heard it here, listeners. Safety first.

Rachel: Oh, God. Nothing to do with the G’s they’re pulling in the fight but they’re not wearing helmets on their motorbikes. Anyway, what were we talking about? Yes, pilots and planes. Oh, my goodness. I want a well rested pilot, thank you very much. I want a well rested doctor. Who would you prefer to do your operation or make that decision or interpret your results? I want someone who’s well rested, who’s looking after himself, that’s not pushing themselves to the limits. Thank you very much. And so you are doing it, you’re right, you’re doing it not just for yourself. It’s for your patients, for your colleagues, for your families. It’s so, so important to deny those limits. Just stop.

Katya: Yes, talk about medicine. It is actually a safety critical job. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t really think about this when I was a medical student that medicine is safety critical. Not every minute of it, but there are parts of being a doctor that are safety critical. There’s parts of being a pilot, there’s parts of being a bus driver. You’re driving a lot of people around on a bus. There’s lots of jobs, actually, with a safety critical element. If you’re an electrician, you want to make sure you don’t cause an electric shock. So actually, lots of jobs have an element which is safety critical. In any of those jobs, it is important that we, exactly you said, we’re well rested so we can perform and and do things to a competent level. There’s a practical reason as well to look after ourselves.

I think an example would be driving the motorway. They haven’t even got those road signs, haven’t they, that says yet, ‘Tiredness kills. Take a break.’ That’s because driving a car is safety critical, and you do need to take a break to sustain your concentration in order to not crash. I think that analogy holds for lots of other safety critical work, especially over the long-term as we’re talking about.

Rachel: Yes, totally. I guess this whole return to work thing, it’s not just a threat. So you do this SWOT analysis. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. There’s not just the threat of, ‘Will I burn out again? Or will I get ill again?’ But actually, there’s a massive opportunity in this in how do I reset my expectations, other people’s expectations, my whole working life, so that I am going to be the best doctor, mother, partner, whatever, whatever your job, whatever your role in life is, because other people rely on it.

Katya: Yes, I really agree with that, actually. That’s one reason why I’ve written this. Love your return to work course because I really think that’s important. And I think using it as an opportunity, and that requires a bit of space. But one thing you often get when you’re off work is a little bit of space. You want to be feeling well if you’re on sick leave. You might be busy if you have a baby, at least you’re in a different headspace.

Actually that could be an opportunity as well. Use that opportunity to have a little thing. Come on a course if that is the right thing for you. Talk to occupational health, GP, whatever you need. But do a bit of reflection and planning before so that you can make the most of this opportunity. It is a huge, natural transition point. That can bring with it great positive change if you take the opportunity it provides. Sometimes, it takes a bit of courage because it can feel a bit unsettling, but that’s okay, too.

Rachel: And just whatever you do, don’t just blindly stumble back into exactly the way you were doing things before. Whatever your reason for being off, whether it was with stress, or whether it was just because you had a big operation, or you’ve been away, or you’re taking a sabbatical, or whatever.

It’s interesting, a friend of mine went on sabbatical a couple of years ago now, and she got back, and she had a wonderful time, and she’s like, ‘Right, everything will change now. I’m gonna go back. I’ve got renewed understanding of what it’s like to not feel stressed and everything.’ And I’d be interested to hear how she thinks. But she said to me, ‘You flip so quickly back into the way you’ve always done things. You really do.’

Katya: There’s something that you touched on about being intentional. Taking opportunities to reflect like you might do before work or, hopefully, by having a chance to listen to this podcast. And then there’s something about building that into your routine so that you don’t do that thing where you slip back in because you’re so busy and everything’s taken up. I wrote a recent newsletter on this about just having, and it’s always time. So can I do a three-minute or five-minute morning practice? So I’ve started to do that where I just literally take three deep breaths. I do one or two yoga poses or stretches, and I just try and set my intentions for the day. I don’t always manage it. Actually was thinking. I haven’t done that for two weeks. I’ve been poorly all the usual reasons.

But even just trying to be a little bit more intentional just so you’re creating these little spaces throughout your working life to keep checking in. How am I doing with those intentions I had as I came back to work? Six months later, how am I doing? Am I on track? Off track? Coaching is a great way to do that as well if that’s the kind of thing that works for you. Or keeping a journal. There’s lots of ways to do it. But I do think somehow keeping intentional is helpful.

Rachel: I think, as well, I love what you said about just the little things that you can do because I think one of the temptations when we have had a major life event, be it a bereavement or be it a serious health issue or an episode of burnout or maybe a relationship breakdown or something, is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Everything’s going to be different. Everything’s gonna change. Actually, and I guess that’s exactly again what this podcast is about, there are lots of little things. You don’t need to change absolutely everything. Actually, most of us can’t.

That’s the point you made earlier, Katya, about what’s my business called? Why is it called Wild Mondays? Actually, I’m sure I’ve told this story a lot. I was thinking about doing a bit of a career change, what I wanted to do. I’ve gone on retreat in the Alps, this most beautiful place. There are quite a few people have actually moved to the Alps, moved their businesses out there, and moved their families out there and lived there, and they just have the most amazing time. Skiing in the afternoons and just exploring all the way around. Of course, beautiful, beautiful scenery. Then, I read that that line, that line from the Mary Oliver poem. ‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’ And I thought, ‘Wow, amazing. That’s very inspiring line.’

But what does it look like to have a wild and precious life on a Monday morning when I’m stuck in my current role, with my kids all at the schools? We can’t move house because we choose not to move house? The children are in school and the business and all that.

I’m here, I’m choosing to be here now. So how do I have a wild and precious life, even on a Monday morning. So that’s where Wild Monday came from. And often it’s about those little things like those three minutes of the yoga pose and setting your intention for the day and deciding to take that lunch break and get out into nature for a walk around the block and maybe saying no to that thing in the evening because you just need to binge out in front of the telly and go to bed early, perhaps. I don’t know. But there are lots of little things that will make a difference.

Of course, of course, there are some big changes that people do need to make. But for me, it’s more about the mindset of getting out of that ‘I should, I ought to, what do other people think of me right now? What if I upset so and so?’ Actually, as we heard in the podcast a few weeks ago about the Regrets of the Dying. Amazing woman, Georgina Scull, talked to lots of people in the last year of their life.

Most of what you regret is stuff you didn’t do because you were worried about what people thought. And the people, they were worried about what they thought or people that 20 years down the line couldn’t even remember their names. It’s like, ‘What if I can’t ask for this thing to be different at my work because what will that partner think?’ Well, in 20 years time, you are not going to look back and go, ‘Oh, no, that person thought badly of me.’ You really, really, really not. But you might look back and go, ‘I really wish I had made some changes because actually, my children really needed me at that time. And I just wasn’t present for them.’ Got a bit heavy there.

Katya: All part of life’s rich tapestry, isn’t it? It’s all part of the human condition.

Rachel: We got a little bit off-piste there. But I think it’s all relevant, isn’t it? It’s all important. I think it’s important for all of us, even if you’re not someone that is coming back to work, maybe it’s someone who just wanted to reassess how you do work and maybe think to yourself. Here’s a good mind experiment. Just come up with this, Katya. See what you think. Imagine if I had six months off to do whatever, what would I do differently when I got back?

Katya: Yes, I was just thinking that. You can still, exactly, you can still have that process. You could just take a week off for some holiday and, and just think, ‘Okay, well, I’m coming back after a week. I’ve had a little bit of headspace. But what would work for me in my workplace for the next year?’ And then you might not be able to change it the day back. But you might, over the course of the next few months, have meetings, conversations, and do what you can where possible to tweak things.

One thing I know, for example, that has changed is that now, you used to, as a GP trainee ,only be able to work less than full time if you had a reason to care and responsibility. But now, for some, not all, but for some GP trainees, that’s changed now. That’s one example of how you might be able to just say, ‘Oh, I’d like to work less than full time, please, because…’ without feeling there had to be a big reason.

Again, not for everybody, but just keep an eye out, I guess, for the opportunities to make changes and have those conversations with people around you, with your sort of teams and your seniors. And kind of keep open, I think, to opportunities and ideas. I think there’s something about just being open, creative problem solving, thinking a little bit outside the box can be really helpful when you’re designing your career because it’s part of your life. I think in medicine, in particular, there is a tendency even now to think about it’s a standard route, standard rails. You get on the rails at medical school and then you get off. You go through junior doctor training and then you go into special training. It’s very much kind of this sense that you go along these rails, and that’s great for some people. But if that doesn’t work, then these are opportunities either return to work or, as we just said, we could just do it on return from holiday. Just to think is this working? Is these train tracks taking me where I want to go? And if not, what are the opportunities here?

Rachel: Interesting, Katya, because I’m not sure those train tracks do work for anybody. I know very few doctors that are like, ‘Yeah, I’m really comfortable with the fact my career just gone like that and I’m working like this.’ I think everybody will benefit from just reevaluating what you want, even if it’s just to go, ‘How’s my working week looking? Do I want this? Do I not want this? What’s my ideal life look like?’ And if your job totally matches your ideal life, so you plan out what your ideal week would look like and compare your current week. If it completely matches up, then fantastic. That is brilliant. And if that’s you, if I’ve got any listeners who’s actually matching their actual week, then please get in touch because you can come on and me and Katya grill you about how you managed to do that.

Katya: I’d say send us an email. Send us how it feels and how you did it.

Rachel: Literally. Bottle that. Whatever you’ve done, bottle it. Write a book. You’ll be the next bestseller, I tell you. Most people like, ‘Oh, no, it’s just gone off the rails a bit’. Because if you don’t design your life, someone else will and you’ll just end up going and doing exactly what other people want, and other people will always want you to work more than you can work. They just will. So take that, take that in hand and do it yourself. I try and do this exercise, actually, this planning exercise, the ideal week. What’s the thriving week look like? What’s my actual week look like?

I do it quite often, maybe once every six months just to check things. Things slip. And also, things change. Because we’ve taked about people coming from maternity leave. It’s very, very different having tiny children at home to having teenagers at home, for example. Many different things that work. With tiny children, you’re just knackered the whole time, you’re not getting any sleep, blah, blah, blah. Teenagers is completely different kettle of fish. You get a lot more freedom. But they’re not, in some weird way. Life changes. You’ve got to go with that. You’ve got to look at what you need in the different stages of life from work as well.

Katya: Yes, it’s dynamic, right? Human condition. Our lives are changing, things are evolving. It’s just keeping an eye on that exactly. The things that worked for you at one point might not work for you later. But it’s also about the people around us. Not just kids, your partner, your colleagues. Everybody’s going through similar changes. So it’s like you’re going through this change, iteration, and then everybody else around you is going through similar ones or at different stages. It’s the context in which you fit and work and live is shifting as well.

That’s why I think this, we were just saying, these touch points and having a check-in is really helpful. Because otherwise, how can you keep track of what’s going on and what used to fit and what doesn’t fit out now. Obvious example is Zoom. About five years ago, none of us have ever heard of it and now we’re all totally up to speed on it because of changes. It brings strengths and weaknesses. It’s an opportunity in some ways, and it’s a challenge in others. Just checking in is really helpful. But it takes discipline.

Rachel: People are at different stages of their journey. I think this is the danger of comparison. It’s a danger of saying, ‘Well, they’re coping with this. I should be able to do this’ or ‘Look at that person in that leadership role doing that wonderful thing there, and I can barely get out the door without snot down on my shoulder’.

I remember when I first started as a salary GP and then had three children all quite close together. You’d be comparing yourself to someone who had teenage children and a full-time wife at home. ‘Why can’t I achieve as much as they do?’ Why do you think? You don’t have a wife at home, they do. Also their children are different ages. Or you compare some senior partner whose kids all left home and they can go off on lovely holidays where they just literally lie on the deck chair and don’t have to do any childcare. It’s so, so different. So just comparing yourself to anybody. It’s just daft.

Katya: Yes, and I really agree with that. I think I know people from work and elsewhere who’ve really struggled to have families and it’s not so much their challenge with time constraints, but they have other real sort of aches that they carry around in their heart. Real losses and griefs, and those things can be really difficult. So again, comparing yourself to somebody who hasn’t had a bereavement recently or hasn’t just tried, you had a fertility struggle, lots of different things that I think we don’t always know that about. That’s the whole thing, isn’t it? Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outside. You don’t always know that about the other person.

Rachel: I love that. Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides and I guess this brings me back to the point I made a lot earlier in our conversation, Katya, about how much you tell people, how much you’re open about stuff.

One of the great joys of doing this podcast is the emails I get from people saying how much it’s helped people get through burnout and stuff like that. Almost always, they say to me the podcast makes them feel that they’re not alone because there’s people sharing their stories of how this happened to them, and I would just encourage people to share to tell people what you’ve been going through. Because you might not know it at the time but that very quiet person that never seems to be ruffled by anything might be going through an awful time but they’re not saying anything.

Just hearing you say ‘You know what? I’ve been off with stress, I’ve found things really difficult or I’ve had this happen to me, I’ve had that happen to me’ just normalises it. It makes them, ‘Oh, if that happened to her, then maybe it’s okay that it’s happening to me, maybe I’m not alone.’I think feeling that you’re not alone almost can be well, it’s part of the cure, isn’t it? You’re normal, you’re not alone, it’s okay.

We talked for a very long time. I think my main tip would be don’t compare yourself to other people. You’re running your own race. You’ve got your own journey in life. Other people don’t have the same challenges as you. You don’t have the same challenges to them. You’ve got to be true to what you want, to what you need, so that you can serve your patients, your family, your colleagues, and your friends as best you can.

Katya: I love it. ‘So that…’ Great.

Rachel: ‘I’m choosing to do this so that…’ So that.

Katya: Absolutely important.

Rachel: Brilliant. Katya, thank you so much. That has been helpful, helpful conversation. If people want to get in touch with you, find out more about your work…

Katya: The best way is to go to workingwelldoctor.com where you can get links to everything. You can just go to a website or drop me an email. So it’s workingwelldoctor.com and theworkingwellexperience@gmail.com.

Rachel: Right. Thank you so much. We’ll have you back soon to explore this more, I think. There’s plenty more to talk about.

Katya: Absolutely. Thanks so much for having me. I really enjoyed it.

Rachel: Thanks.

Katya: Bye.

Rachel: Bye.

Thanks for listening. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, then please share it with your friends and colleagues. Please subscribe to my You Are Not A Frog email list and subscribe to the podcast. And if you’ve enjoyed it, then please leave me a rating wherever you listen to your podcasts. Keep well everyone. You’re doing a great job. You got this.

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Drs Sarah Coope, Annalene Weston and Sheila Bloomer join us in this first episode in a new series on ‘Complaints and How to Survive Them’ to talk about coaching doctors and dentists through complaints made against them. We also talk about the perfectionist mindset and how changing our perspective towards failure can help us and those around us. If you want to know how to deal better with complaints made against doctors and other professionals in high-stress jobs, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 77 – Denial, displacement and other ways we neglect ourselves with Dr Andrew Tresidder

Dr Andrew Tresidder joins us to talk about how many medical practitioners and other professionals in healthcare and high stress jobs neglect their health and well-being. We're so focused on taking care of others that we forget to take care of ourselves but our well-being is vital if we want to keep doing the work we do. Find out why healthcare professionals need to learn more about health, as opposed to only learning about disease and if you want to know how to focus on taking care of your health and well-being, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 76 – Tech Tips for Happy Hybrid Working with Dr Hussain Gandhi

Dr Hussain Gandhi, or Dr Gandalf of eGPlearning, joins us in this episode. He is a GP, PCN director and host of the eGP Learning Podblast that shares deep dives into health tech for primary care. He shares his tech and time hacks for hybrid working to survive and thrive in the new virtual environment. If you want to find out how to improve your hybrid working experience, then tune in to this episode!

Episode 75 – How to Escape the Drama Triangle and Stop Rescuing People with Annie Hanekom

Annie Hanekom joins us to shed light on the different roles which interact in the drama triangle. She shares the pitfalls of taking on each role and how we can actively shift from these roles into something better, fostering healthier relationships at work. If you want to know more about how you can step out of the drama triangle, have better conversations and build healthier relationships with your colleagues, make sure you tune in to this episode.

Episode 74 – Managing your Time in a System Which Sucks with Dr Ed Pooley

Dr Ed Pooley joins us in this episode to share his take on time management techniques for busy individuals. He discusses the three types of competing demands and how to manage them. We also talk about being more comfortable holding difficult conversations about workplace issues - vital to help change the environment we work in. Tune into this episode to discover how time management techniques and communication can help you get a calmer and more time-efficient workplace.

Episode 73 – How to Find Your Tribe: The PMGUK story with Dr Nazia Haider and Dr Katherine Hickman

Dr Nazia Haider and Dr Katherine Hickman join us on this episode to discuss the importance of a work community. We talk about the inspiring stories from the online community they created, the Physicians Mums Group UK (PMGUK). Nazia and Katherine also share their tips on how to increase connections and find your own tribe at work. If you want to know how to create a network of supportive colleagues and feel more connected, then tune into this episode.

Episode 72 – Working well – from anywhere! with Dr Katya Miles

Dr Katya Miles joins us to discuss how to work well from home by creating healthy boundaries. She shares how to be more productive by using the third space hack and taking breaks. Katya also talks about how to be more active and better connect with people in the workplace. If you want to learn about working well from home and achieving a better work-life balance, then tune in to this episode.

Episode 71 – Create a Career You’ll Love with Dr Claire Kaye

Dr Claire Kaye joins us to discuss how to find a career you love. As an executive coach specialising in career development, Claire is an expert in guiding people how to find a career they love. We talk about the value of job networking and diversifying in our career journeys. We also share our tips and experiences on how to find a career you love. We do this by helping you identify the roles that best suit you and how to go about getting these roles.

Episode 70 – How Safe Do You Feel at Work with Scott Chambers

Scott Chambers joins us to talk about why we need to make people feel comfortable and safe enough to speak up in their workplace. When we create psychological safety in our team, we improve overall happiness and boost performance! If you want to learn how to create psychological safety for a better and happier team - whether you’re the boss or not, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 69 – Make Time for What Matters with Liz O’Riordan

Liz O'Riordan joins us to share productivity life hacks. These have helped her transform how she approaches work. Now, Liz can spend quality time with her family and enjoy life. In this episode, she teaches us how we too can achieve this. If you want to learn some new life hacks, beat burnout and work happier, then tune in to this episode!

Episode 68 – The Revolutionary Art of Breathing with Richard Jamieson

Richard Jamieson discusses how we can utilise breathing techniques to feel calmer, make better decisions and be more productive. He explains the different steps we can take to change our breathing patterns. When you’re in a high-stress situation, remember this: just breathe. If you want to know how to use breathing techniques to beat stress in everyday situations, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 67 – Bringing Your Best Self to Work with Dr Sarah Goulding

Dr Sarah Goulding discusses how to bring your whole self to work without leaving bits of you behind. Sarah shares her own story of experiencing burnout at her old job and rediscovering her true passion. We also discuss how applying our core strengths to our jobs can mean the difference between burnout and having a sense of fulfilment. Don’t miss out on this episode if you want to learn more about how to be yourself and how to bring joy back into your work!

Episode 65 – Passing the Naughty Monkey Back with Dr Amit Sharma

Dr Amit Sharma joins us to discuss the effects of taking on too many of other people’s ‘naughty monkeys’. We talk about why professionals in high-stress jobs so often take on the rescuer role and how to shift that mindset. Amit and I also discuss the importance of empowering patients to take control of their own health. If you want to know how to avoid being weighed down by too many naughty monkeys, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 64 – What to Do When You’re Out of Fuel with Dr Jess Harvey

Dr Jess Harvey, a GP partner and GB triathlete, talks about what happened to her after running out of fuel and feeling burnt out. She discusses how we often ignore the symptoms and signs for too long and why resting and refuelling is as important as what we're doing in the first place. If you’re feeling burnt out, tune in to this episode to find out how you can plug the holes in your energy bucket!

Episode 63 – How to Survive Even When Times are Tough with Dr Caroline Walker

This episode is part of the COVID-19 Supporting Doctors series, and joining us again is Dr Caroline Walker. She's here to discuss why rest is crucial, especially for people in high-stress jobs. Caroline also shares key strategies that can keep us going through the crisis. The previous year has been tough, so don’t miss this episode to start 2021 better prepared.

Episode 62 – Self-Coaching for Success with Dr Karen Castille, OBE

Dr Karen Castille joins me in this episode to discuss her book on self-coaching. She shares powerful questions to ask yourself which will jumpstart your self-coaching journey. She also talks about the importance of developing this vital skill and crafting powerful life questions. Before we close the show, Karen gives her top tips for self-coaching. Don’t miss this episode if you want to learn how you can find clarity and achieve success through self-coaching!

Episode 61 – The Self Help Book Group on Happiness with Dr Nik Kendrew

In this episode, You Are Not A Frog regular Dr Nik Kendrew joins me to discuss the concept of happiness. We tackle the everlasting question of ‘What is happiness’? We also talk about perfectionism and fear and how these can hinder us from doing the things we want to do. At the end of the show, Nik and I give our top tips to being happier. If you want to know more about living a happy life, then this episode is for you.

Episode 60 – Creating a Workplace that Works with Dr Sonali Kinra

Dr Sonali Kinra joins us to discuss why people leave their jobs and how to prevent it. We talk about the importance of workplace culture and its role in creating an environment that makes people want to stay. We also discuss why you need to seek opportunities that broaden and develop your career. Don’t miss this episode if you want to find out how to keep yourself in a job you love.

Episode 59 – A Social Dilemma? With Dr James Thambyrajah

In this episode, Dr James Thambyrajah joins us to talk about social media’s subtle yet profound effect on our daily lives. We discuss the perils of being unaware of how our online decisions are influenced. James also shares his insights on how we can improve how we stay informed and inform others. Tune in to this episode if you want to learn more about how to go beyond your digital echo chamber.

Episode 55 – The One About Alcohol

Dr Giles P Croft is back to chat with Rachel about his experiences following a revolutionary read he was recommended. You might remember Giles from episode 46, where he talked about how as humans, we naturally default to happiness.

Episode 52 – A year of the frog

The week’s episode is a special one as the Frog celebrates a year of podcasting! It’s been quite a year - including charting in Apple’s Top 100 Business Podcasts in the UK!

Episode 50 – Freeing yourself from the money trap

Joining Rachel in this week’s episode is Dr Tommy Perkins, as well as being a GP Partner, and father, Tommy is one half of Medics Money. Medics Money is an organisation specifically aimed at helping doctors make better decisions with their finances. It’s run by Tommy and Dr Ed Cantelo who is not only a doctor but a qualified accountant.

Episode 49 – The Self Help Book Group No 2 with Nik Kendrew

This week Rachel is joined by You Are Not A Frog regular, Nik Kendrew. Last time Nik joined us, we discussed a book that has helped him in his professional life as a GP, trainer and partner as well as his personal life. Nik’s back this week to talk about another brilliant book and to share what insights and learnings he’s gained from it.

Episode 47 – How to Have a Courageous Conversation

Rachel talks with Beccie D'Cunha about the conversations that we avoid and the conversations we really need to have with our colleagues, teams and managers. They can be described as difficult conversations, but we can redefine them as courageous conversations - because ultimately it takes courage for both parties to listen and be heard.

Episode 46 – Default to happy

Rachel talks with Dr Giles P Croft about his take on how to beat stress and burnout. Giles  is a psychology graduate and former NHS surgeon who stepped aside from clinical practice for a decade to explore a number of career paths, including health informatics, cycling journalism, public speaking and high street retail with his wife.

Episode 45 – Rest. The final frontier

Rachel is joined by Sheela Hobden, Professional Certified Coach, wellbeing expert and fellow Shapes Toolkit facilitator. We talk about why rest isn’t just important for wellbeing, but important for productivity and creativity too. 

Episode 40 – Leading with tough love with Gary Hughes

In this episode, Rachel is joined by Gary Hughes, author of the book Leadership in Practice, blogger, educator and facilitator who is a Practice Manager by day. We chat about how leadership in the COVID-19 crisis has had to adapt, and the different roles that a leader has had to take.

Episode 37 – How to manage conflict during COVID with Jane Gunn

Rachel is thrilled to welcome back Jane Gunn – lawyer, mediator and expert in conflict resolution who has been known as the Corporate Peacemaker. This episode is for you if the thought of addressing a difficult issue with one of your colleagues send you running for the hills…

Episode 20 – A creative solution to stress with Ruth Cocksedge

In this episode, Rachel is joined by Ruth Cocksedge a Practitioner Psychologist who started her career as a mental health nurse. She practices in Cambridge and has a particular interest in EMDR for PTSD and creative writing as a way to improve mental health and wellbeing.

Episode 11 – The magical art of reading sweary books

In this episode, Rachel is joined once again by Dr Liz O’Riordan, the ‘Breast Surgeon with Breast Cancer’, TEDx speaker, author, blogger, triathlete and all round superstar who has been nominated for ‘Woman of the Year’.

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