Episode 131: What To Do If You’re Stressed AND Bored

The field of healthcare is a high-stress environment regardless of your role. As if the overwhelming workload is not enough, repetitive work gives way to the toxic combination that is stress and boredom. This happens when we choose to play it safe and instead ditch things that challenge us. However, growth and development are keys to a thriving and well-lived life. When we enable ourselves to learn and grow, only then can we become happier, more successful, and more fulfilled.

In this episode, Rachel discusses how to address and navigate the toxic combination of stress and boredom in the workplace. She talks about the role of learning in living a good, meaningful, and self-actualised life. Rachel also lays down five ways that will enable you to fit learning into your schedule without increasing the chances of burning out.

If you want to learn how to make time for learning, stay tuned to this episode.

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

  1. Find out the consequences of indulging in the toxic combination of stress and boredom.

  2. Learn ways to fit growth and development into your schedule.
  3. Discover the impact of prioritising self-development on your well-being.

Episode Highlights

[03:03] The Toxic Combination of Stress And Boredom

  • There is a pandemic of overwhelm and stress in health and social care further heightened by COVID.

  • The workload and its repetitive nature gives rise to the combination of boredom and stress.
  • Free to Focus suggests eliminating, automating, and delegating when you have too much on your plate.
  • Eliminate boring, repetitive work instead of what’s challenging when you feel overwhelmed.
  • Choosing to keep ‘safe’ tasks can cause disengagement, detachment, and boredom.

[06:29] ‘When we are overwhelmed with things to do, when we have too much on our to do lists, we just need to eliminate, automate, and delegate.’ – Click Here To Tweet This

[08:17] Throwing Learning Out of the Window

  • When teams feel stressed and overwhelmed, the first thing that goes is learning because it takes time.

  • Learning has been reduced to a chore and a means to move to the next level, but it is crucial for your well-being and living a good life.

[08:58] ‘For many of us [in healthcare], learning has just become a chore that we’ve had to do to hit the next level. But learning, growing and developing yourself are absolutely crucial for well-being and for living a life well.’ – Click Here to Tweet This

[10:32] Positive Psychology: Three Types of Life

  • The pleasant life is having enough money to buy pleasant experiences. But it only gives mediocre life satisfaction because you end up focusing on making money.
  • The good life is regularly doing something that gets you into the flow and gives a high level of life satisfaction. The quickest way to get into flow is learning something new.
  • The meaningful life is regularly giving and contributing to a cause beyond yourself. It gives a very high level of life satisfaction.

[12:49] Addressing the Toxic Combination of Stress and Boredom

  • Maslow’s hierarchy is a pyramid of basic human needs. At the top is self-actualisation, the ability of human beings to become as good as they can be.

  • Being stuck in a career where you feel stressed and bored means you’re nowhere near the top of the pyramid.
  • Instead of cutting things out of your life, start thinking about how you can learn, grow, and develop.
  • You don’t need masses of time to grow and develop. Even small changes will make a tremendous difference in your life.

[15:47] ‘You don’t need masses of time to grow and develop… Small changes will make a huge, huge difference to your life.’ – Click Here To Tweet This

[16:16] How to Fit Growth and Development into Your Schedule without the Risk of Burnout

  • Recognise that it will reduce your stress and chance of burning out.

  • The five ways to well-being are connecting with other people, being active, noticing, giving, and learning.
  • There’s a difference between things that are challenging and things that are just plain difficult.

[18:53] #1: Follow Your Interests and Develop Your Strengths

  • Follow your interests and ditch the mindset that you need to be good at everything.

  • Research has shown that it’s more beneficial to focus on developing your strengths than your weaknesses.
  • You can get a strength inventory done through coaching or taking free strength surveys.

[19:31] ‘A bit of self awareness, a bit of understanding our own strengths is really, really helpful when working out how can we learn and grow and develop in an easy way.’ – Click Here to Tweet This

[21:25] #2: Work Out What You Need Right Now

  • What a lot of us need right now is rest.

  • If you need rest, don’t sign up for very intense courses over the holidays. Instead, you can look into books, podcasts, and day-long courses.
  • Work out what you need, and see if you can fit growth and development into that.

[23:06] #3 Look at Ways of Learning that Also Hit the Five Ways to Well-being

  • Tune in to the full podcast to hear how Rachel’s ice skating activity is hitting the five ways to well-being!

  • Sometimes, investing in recreational activities is the best thing you can do with your money.
  • Learning while hitting other ways to well-being kills two birds with one stone.

[24:34] #4: Determine How You Learn Best

  • Do you learn best by listening, watching, or doing?

  • Understand yourself. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
  • Self-awareness goes a long way in working out how and when you should be learning.

[27:26] #5: Find Ways to Use Your Right Brain

  • A lot of the work in healthcare uses the logical thinking part of the brain.
  • Learning and playing get medical people into flow quickly because it engages the right, creative side of the brain.

[28:52] Getting the Five Circles to Intersect

  • What are you interested in? What are your strengths?
  • What do you need right now? Is there something that will intersect with other ways to well-being?
  • What is your learning style?
  • Listen to the full episode to find out Rachel’s TED Talk, podcast, and documentary recommendations!

[29:48] Make Learning a Habit

  • Often, the problem is there are too many choices available.
  • It’s not about trying to fit more into your already busy schedule; it’s about making time for learning, growth and development.
  • Taking the time to learn and grow radically increases your well-being and feeling of satisfaction. It can also open up new work opportunities.
  • Following your interest will be challenging, but it won’t feel like a chore.

[32:15] How to Find Time for Learning

  • Eliminate what is not urgent and necessary.
  • See learning, growing, and developing as something important.
  • Self-actualising equates to higher life satisfaction, improved mental health, and increased opportunities.
  • Don’t feel guilty about prioritising self-development.

[32:02] ‘Very often, we write off the stuff that we want to do to learn and grow and develop, because it takes too much time. But, investing this time in learning and growing will be a fantastic investment, and there are different ways to find this time.’ – Click Here To Tweet This

[34:42] ‘If you are someone who is growing and developing, getting into flow regularly and living the good life or the meaningful life that gives you high levels of satisfaction with life and work, then you will be happier.’ – Click Here To Tweet This

Enjoy This Podcast?

In today’s high-stress work environment, you may feel like a frog in boiling water. The pan has heated up so slowly that you didn’t notice the feeling of stress and overwhelm becoming the norm. You may feel that it is impossible to survive AND thrive in your work.

Frogs generally have only two options — stay and be boiled alive or jump out of the pan. Fortunately, you are not a frog. You have many more options, choices and control than you think.

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Here’s to surviving and thriving inside and outside our work!

Rachel

Episode Transcript

Rachel Morris: If you feel like you’re clinging on to your sanity until your next holiday, then you’re not alone. Many people are suffering with overwhelming stress at the moment, and not just in health and social care. But is it possible to be stressed and bored at the same time? A few years ago, I realized that this had happened to me. In order to keep up with the demands of work and life with three small children, I had tried to simplify things. And it ended up losing anything interesting or challenging from my life.

So in this podcast episode, I’m talking about what to do. If it feels like you’re running as fast as you can just stay still, and you’re feeling restless and bored with what you’re doing. The answer is not to cut down stuff until there’s nothing left for the client or the patient facing work. Nor is it to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and give it all up. So become a diving instructor in the Maldives. Although if that’s your lifelong dream, then please go for it.

In this episode, a solo one from me, I’ll share some insights from positive psychology about well being about getting into flow and the basic human need for growth and development. That will help you make some small changes that will make a big difference. So listen to this episode to find out the difference between the pleasant the good and the meaningful life, why the concept of flow is so important and the easiest way to achieve it. And a simple change that you can make, which will make a huge difference to the way that you feel

Sometimes when I finally stop and try to relax, I just don’t know what to do with myself. It seems to take a while to decelerate, switch my brain off and really rest. So we’ve put together a summer playlist of different podcasts, good books, stuff to watch on TV blogs, to read. And Ted Talks and films to check out. They’ve all been things that have brought me great joy, and have helped me relax a little bit. So if you’d like to get hold of our summer, download playlists, then do click on the link in the show notes. It’s totally free. And maybe it will just help you get some inspiration, get some perspective. And above all, get a little bit of rest and relaxation.

I’m recording this on a very hot afternoon in July, and many of us are clinging on by our fingertips, right now, just waiting for holidays, where eventually we’ll get a chance to properly rest. Now, we know in health and social care at the moment, there is a pandemic of overwhelm, and it’s much, much worse following the COVID pandemic. Many people in all the training that I do are telling me about how overwhelmed and stressed they are.

But, I’ve noticed another toxic combination and that is the combination of being bored and stressed. Because I think a lot is made of being overwhelmed and certainly, whenever we do our training, I ask people, what’s stopping you giving your best at work right now? The overwhelming answer is workload. This feeling of overwhelm, the feeling that there’s never enough time in the day to do everything that you need to do.

But even before the pandemic, people are feeling overwhelmed and stressed, and a lot of what we talk about on the podcast is tips to help you deal with the overwhelm. Because let’s face it, the overwhelm isn’t going away. In healthcare, and some of the other professions I know you guys are in, the demand will never cease.

There will always be too much demand for the resources that are available. Hence, there will always be too much work. But what if you are feeling overwhelmed, but you’re also feeling incredibly bored. And I think this is a toxic combination. I remember a few years ago, I was watching that brilliant BBC TV series Sherlock.

It was the episode where Dr. Watson thinks that Sherlock is dead, so he goes back to being a doctor. He’s sitting in his consulting room and his wife keeps putting her head round the door going, well, I’ve got another one for you. This one’s got thrush. Next one, toenail infection; next one, spots, et cetera, et cetera, you get the drift. It just struck me. I thought, Oh, my goodness, this is what my life has boiled down to.

Because at the time, I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed. What I did to cope with the overwhelm was get rid of some of the stuff in my life that felt a little bit difficult, that felt a little bit challenging. But, what had happened was that I was just left with the boring stuff. Let’s face it, there can be a lot of the boring stuff. Now, I tell you this story not to say that consulting, seeing patients, seeing clients is the boring stuff.

It definitely isn’t. But if we strip away everything else in our jobs and are just left with the service delivery, churning through the production of the widgets, or whatever else you do, then it is likely that you will become this toxic combination of bored and stressed. Now, the traditional advice, when you’re feeling overwhelmed, when you’re feeling stressed, is to eliminate stuff, and that’s something that I talk about all the time.

Michael Hyatt, in his Free to Focus books, talks about the fact that when we are overwhelmed with things to do, when we have too much on our to do lists, we just need to eliminate, automate, and delegate, and I am all for that. In fact, just very simple things like setting up recurring email signatures with things I’m regularly saying on email has been absolutely brilliant, and using Calendly, which is a appointment phone call booking app that can sync straight into your diary has been a complete game changer.

And then, delegating out some of the stuff that other people can do much, much better than me, has also been a massive help. But at the end of the day, we do need to try and eliminate some of the things in our lives when we are overwhelmed and we are stressed. What my worry is, is that we eliminate the wrong things, rather than eliminating some of the very repetitive work that is getting quite boring.

We tend to look at our lives and eliminate some of the stuff that actually is the most challenging for us such as new roles that we’ve taken on or ideas that we’ve had, or things that we would love to do. Often because the boring stuff, the stuff that feels a bit like drudgery is the stuff that pays well.

The stuff that is safe and the stuff that is risk free. The problem with this is then yes, the workload can then start to fit into our working day much more easily, but it has this very insidious risk of causing disengagement, detachment, and boredom. I’m sure that a lot of you listening will understand exactly what I’m talking about. So often, when teams are stressed, when they’ve got too much to do, the first thing that goes is their learning.

The first thing that goes with their team development is their getting together and solving some of those tricky problems within the team, or even thinking about how the team could operate differently, because this all takes time.

I think in healthcare, we’ve got this idea that learning is only to get to a particular place. I mean, all our lives, we’ve learned towards exams, haven’t we? We’ve stayed up all night to get through our university exams to qualify, to get through our professional exams, to hit that next level, the next level and the next level. So for many of us, learning has just become a chore that we’ve had to do to hit the next level.

But, learning, growing and developing yourself are absolutely crucial for wellbeing and for living a life well. If you look back at all the study into positive psychology going on from the early 90s, or the late 80s, really, you will know that they talked about three different types of life. Martin Seligman talks about this really well in a TED talk, which he did. So essentially, you’ve got three different types of life. The first life is the pleasant life where you have enough money to buy yourself pleasant experiences.

The problem with a pleasant life is it can only get you so much life satisfaction. So if you’re making enough money to get a nice car, go on nice holidays, have a nice house, that’s all very well and good. But then, what happens is people focus on making even more money, often by just doing the same thing again, and again and again, or working even longer hours. That slightly nicer house, the better holiday, the faster car — does that buy them higher life satisfaction?

Absolutely not, and we all know that deep down. So if we just focus on doing what we do in order to get enough so that we can live a pleasant life, we will get very mediocre life satisfaction. Now, the second type of life that they described in positive psychology, time and time, again, is the good life. This is a life where you are regularly doing something that gets you into flow. Now, flow was originally described by the psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, to be that state that you get into when you’re doing something that has a really great level of challenge.

You’re engrossed in it. You’re enjoying it and time is literally standing still. Now, many people can get into a state of flow in their work, say, in good conversations, or when they’re working on a really tricky problem, or creating something. If you can get into flow in your work well, that really, really is the holy grail, because we know that a state of flow is really really good for human thriving.

But for many, many people, their day job alone isn’t enough to get them into the state of flow in a regular enough manner, and so they need to look elsewhere to get into flow. That’s why people do evening classes, learn new skills, play team sports, play board games, because these are the sorts of things that get them into flow. So, playing a musical instrument, reading a book, watching a film, these can all really get you into flow.

The quickest way to get into flow is to learn something new, particularly learning a new skill. A life which has plenty of opportunities for you to get into flow is going to give you a high level of life satisfaction. Now, they also describe a third type of life, which is the meaningful life and that is where you are regularly giving and contributing to a cause beyond yourself. So, it’s not just all about you and what you can gain.

That will give you a very high level of life satisfaction. So, I think it’s really important to remember those three different types of life. Because most of us focus on having enough to live the pleasant life, but we forget about these other two lives, the good life, where you get into flow regularly, and the meaningful life where you are giving regularly. Those of you that have studied medical education or coaching or mentoring will also know about Maslow’s hierarchy, which is that pyramid of basic human needs.

At the bottom, the basic human need is for food, for safety, for shelter. The next level up is for love, for acceptance, for belonging. As you get towards the top, you will find learning and self actualisation. So, the ability for human beings to become as good as they can be, and we all know that reaching our potential is something inbuilt in us that we really, really want to do. So, being stuck in a career or a job where you’re feeling bored and stressed, probably means that you’re nowhere near the top of that pyramid.

That you’re not growing or developing in any way, shape, or form and you’re probably not getting into flow regularly either. So when you are feeling this toxic combination of bored and stressed, rather than firstly, looking at what do I just need to cut out from my life. Perhaps you should start with looking at, ‘What do I need to learn. How can I grow and develop? How can I get myself into a place where I’ve got more flow in my life, where there’s a little bit more meaning in my life, rather than just grinding through the daily chores?’

When I had this massive realisation when I was watching Sherlock, that actually I was incredibly stressed, as well as incredibly bored. I started to think to myself, well, what is it that I can do about it, because I looked at these piles of medical journals stacked up by my desk and thought to myself, well, I just haven’t had any time to read any of this. But then, I looked at the pile of books stacked next to my bed and I realised that I had read an incredible number of books over the last six months.

So, it wasn’t, I didn’t have any time to learn and grow and develop. It’s just the things I thought I should be checking out and developing in, were not the things I was interested in at all, because we do have time in our weeks. We all have 168 hours in a week. And if you sleep eight hours a night hurt the chances would be a fine thing but If you do, you still have 100 pen, awake hours. Now if you’re at work for 60 of those hours, you will still have 50 hours in which to do all your other activities of daily living.

So, is it too much to ask that you might be able to find half an hour a week to do something in terms of learning, growing and developing? Of course not, I think I can identify 30 minutes. I just spend doomscrolling through Facebook every week. But often, we’re so tired. We’re so depleted from our jobs. Actually, learning the latest guidelines really doesn’t do it for us, and we just want to do something that our brains are going to enjoy, like watching TV or checking out Instagram.

So, you don’t need masses of time to grow and develop like everything in this podcast. Small changes will make a huge, huge difference to your life. You don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater either, and think, ‘Right, I’m going to completely leave my job in order to go and develop in that particular area.’ Often, it’s just those small steps that will make a huge difference. As the old saying goes, a change is as good as a holiday.

So, how do we do this? How do we fit in growth and development into our very, very busy, busy, busy weeks without increasing our chances of burning out? Well, firstly, I think it’s important to recognize that it will in fact, reduce your stress and it will reduce your chances of burning out. The government in 2008 decided to develop the five ways to well-being, a little bit like a five fruit and veggie day, but for the mind.

They looked at those three different types of life that I talked about just now, and they looked at all the positive psychology stuff and they came up with these five ways to well-being, the first one being connecting with other people, the second one being active, so getting enough exercise. We then had noticing which is all about staying in the present moment, and the fourth one is giving.

Now, the other one that they came up with was learning, so learning is one of the five ways to well-being, so it isn’t just about self actualisation. It’s actually good for you in the here and now. It will benefit you now as well as in the future. So, how do you do this easily and joyfully? I’ve already said that one of the first mistakes people make when they’re overwhelmed is to get rid of a load of stuff, and it’s often the stuff that’s feeling quite challenging.

Now, I think there’s a big difference between stuff that is challenging and stretching, and stuff that is just plain difficult. There’s a great book by Greg McKeown called Effortless, and it really challenges this assumption we have, that anything that’s worth doing has got to be really, really difficult. We’ve got to soldier on and push through. I completely agree with him. I think, oftentimes, the things that are worth doing are those things that feel easy.

That feels like the universe is leading us in the right direction, where all the stars suddenly seems to become aligned for it, where there aren’t too many obstacles in the way. So, that’s my definition of easy, yet challenging. The very easy but non-challenging option is just to keep the status quo, to keep your head down, and just carry on with that boring, stressful stuff, but don’t make it difficult for yourself.

When I looked at that pile of medical journals, I realised that the stuff I was reading was all the self help or their personal leadership books. I was really, really enjoying them.

It felt really easy to read them. I was learning far more than I would have learned in a different way, because it was things that I was interested in. So firstly, look for your interest, follow your interest, see what you’re naturally drawn to. This is another mistake. I think that we often get wrong as medics, we think we need to be good at everything, and so often, we go off and do courses on stuff that we really need to improve, on stuff where we feel we’re failing a little bit, or not doing so well.

Of course, if you are practising in an area where you need some knowledge about a certain thing and your knowledge is really not up to scratch, then you need to go and do that. But often, this obsession with being brilliant at everything, being a jack of all trades, just means that we are a master of none. All the evidence from the research around character and personal strengths is that if you focus on developing your strengths, you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck than if you focus on developing your weaknesses.

Now, I’m really not very good at spreadsheets, and I could go on courses and things to develop my skills in that area, my analytical skills, but I know that’s really not where my interest lies. It’s not where my skills lie. Actually, I’m better spending my time on thinking how I can communicate better, how I can make better podcasts, then focusing on developing my analytical spreadsheet skills. It’s just more cost effective. It’s more time effective.

The problem is many of us don’t even know what our strengths are, and that’s not your fault. Typically, in medicine, we’ve never had that personal development stuff that helps you do that. So, if you have any coaching schemes in your area or any places where you can go and find out about your strengths, then I really recommend going and getting a strength inventory done.

You can do a free strength survey if you Google authentic happiness, and then go to the VIA survey of character strengths, and that’s well worth doing. Because if you focus on developing your strength, well, you’ll just enjoy yourself much more, and you’ll be much much more successful in that. The great thing about our jobs in medicine is that we can pick and choose the extra roles that we take on. For example, we could major on teaching or we could major on quality improvements or we could do some medical writing, for example.

It is possible to be really diverse even within one particular speciality. So, a bit of self awareness, a bit of understanding our own strengths is really, really helpful when working out actually how can we learn and grow and develop in an easy way. Now, the second circle on my Venn diagram is working out what you need right now.

Many of us will be going on holiday soon and I suspect that what a lot of us need is rest. I know I, right now, need a little bit of fun. I need a bit of inspiration, rather than knowledge right now. So if you need rest right now, then probably what you don’t want to be doing is signing up for a very intense course. You might want to be finding an interesting book that you can leave through whilst you’re on a sun lounger or perhaps a couple of podcasts that you can listen to in a desired area to increase the skill or even taking yourself off on a day long course where you can learn a skill just for the sake of learning it.

So, work out what you need and see if you can fit that growth and development in to what you need. I recognised a while back that, actually, I wanted to spend a little bit more time with my kids, particularly over the weekend, and at the same time, an ice rink was built in Cambridge. I’ve always wanted to learn how to ice skate, and so did my daughter, so we signed up for ice skating lessons together.

Every Sunday morning, we get up early. We drive to the ice rink, and we have a half an hour lesson. During which time, I will often fall over, get thoroughly wet and come out with a massive smile on my face. The other week, I was driving to ice skating thinking, why do I do this, this is so early in the morning. I’d love to just be in my bed. Where is this leading to? It’s not like I’m ever going to be invited to be part of an ice dance display team or be sent to the Olympics, or maybe have to cross a frozen lake to get emergency assistance.

You know, ice skating is just not one of those skills that you need in your everyday life. But when I looked at those five ways to wellbeing, I realised how many it hit. It hit the being active. In fact, it uses a lot of core strength, which I really need at the moment, believe me. It helps you notice you have to be in the present moment when you’re trying to go backwards in a circle on one leg. When you’re ice skating, you really don’t think about anything else.

Of course, you’re learning a skill that gets you into that flow, and I am definitely in that flow. I don’t think about anything else during the half an hour of my lesson. It’s also helping me connect with my daughter. We listen to her latest boyband crush on the way there. We talk about other people in our family. It’s a really special time. So, I’m actually hitting four ways to well-being in half an hour on a Sunday morning.

Now, I’ve been tempted to give it up because it costs money. I know the cost of living is going up, but sometimes, investing in this sort of stuff is the best thing that you can do with your money rather than investing in more things, in more stuff. So, my third Venn diagram, when you’re trying to decide what you should do, would be: look at ways of learning and growing and developing, which actually hits some of those other ways to well-being.

That way, you can save time, and you’re killing two birds with one stone, very effective. Another way to make this easy is to think about my fourth Venn diagram circle. This is all about how you learn. How do you learn best? Are you an audio learner?ow you learn how do you learn best, I just love walking around listening to podcasts. I listen to the radio, I listen to podcasts in my car all the time.

If I’m doing an online course, I’ll actually very rarely watch the video, I’ll often listen to it. But many of you will like to watch things in the online learning industry. Everything is now delivered as bite size video. Goes for people to watch seems to be a very good way of cementing knowledge for people. So if you’re a visual learner, then finding something that you could watch to learn can be very helpful. And then don’t forget those of you that learn by doing stuff that kinesthetic learners, or those who like to write. So find different ways of learning that use all those different learning styles.

And the other thing that’s very helpful is to understand yourself, are you an introvert or are you an extrovert, when we’re talking about introverts and extroverts, we’re really talking about the Myers Briggs type definition of an introvert and an extrovert. So we may think that an extrovert is somebody who’s very, very sociable, but that is not really this particular deck definition of an extrovert. It’s all about how you recharge. Now, an extrovert is a bit like a robot who recharges by being outside by being in the sun.

So it’s a solar powered robot that needs interactions, and sunshine to replenish their energy. So those of you that are extroverts, learning with other people is a brilliant way of doing this. So please don’t be too quick to rule out going to face to face events where you can interact with people in the flesh, it is so, so different. And I’m now back to doing some face to face events. And it is completely different experience from just watching something online or even interacting online.

But if you can’t get to face to face stuff, joining live training can often be really, really helpful, particularly to the interactions in the breakout rooms that you get. Now, if you’re an introvert, then you will replenish and recharge your energy by being on your own. It’s a bit like a robot who expends all their energy during the day. And then at night needs to go into a cupboard and plug itself in to recharge and introverts out there, you will know who you are. And for you the thought of learning in a big group where you have to socialize and where you have to talk all the time is an absolute nightmare for you.

So, find ways that you can learn on your own. Like I said, there’s so many courses that you can do on your own, or you might just want to be in a thinking partnership with one other person. A bit of self awareness goes a long way, when you’re working out how and when you should be learning.

Then finally, and this goes for everybody, try and find things that are going to use your right brain. In medicine, in health care, in social care, a lot of our work is using that logical thinking part of our brains, that means that we solve problems well, that’s has to analyse loads of facts and figures, all the time has to be very, very logical about things. I think one of the reasons why learning and playing gets us into flow so quickly, is it’s often engaging the right side of our brain, that creative bit of our brain, that spiritual bit of our brain, that bit that connects with everybody, and everything.

Now, for me, I’m absolutely hopeless at history. I didn’t study it at GCSE. My knowledge of current affairs is woeful. But, I have learned the history that I, now, know through reading novels, so I’ve learned all about the history of China through reading the Wild Swans novels. I’ve learned all about Henry the Eighth through reading the Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall novels and also the excellent Shardlake, Hunchback lawyer novels as well, which I’d really recommend.

A lot of my knowledge of the Second World War has come through reading Louis de Bernières and other war literature. So, finding creative ways of engaging with learning — really, really important, and it just makes it fun. You might just want to think about how you can get all those different circles to intersect. Think about what you’re interested in. Think about what your strengths are. Think about what you really need right now. Do you need some rest?

Do you need some inspiration? Do you need some deep study? Think about what your learning style is. Do you like to listen? Are you a visual learner? Are you a kinesthetic learner? Think about are you an introvert — would you prefer to learn by yourself? Are you an extrovert? You need to go and do stuff with other people, in which case you might go sign up for some sort of evening class or sign up for a group lessons in something.

If you’re time-poor, is there something that will intersect with some of those other ways to well-being such as being active, so learning a new sport skill like that, or learning something that’s going to help you give to other people or connect with other people. Then, get creative about how you do it. There is so much stuff out there.

There is so much stuff out there. I guess the problem sometimes is that there’s just too much choice. Or when we come across stuff, we think Oh I’d love to watch that or listen to that or learn about that. We’re in the middle of something else and we forget it. That’s why I’ve actually started a list on my phone, it’s a to do list, it’s just called Check this out, whenever I see a good link that I want to check out or a YouTube video I want to watch or a podcast I want to listen to, I will just save it in that list.

And then when I have a little bit of time, and I just want to listen to something, I will click on the first thing on that list. So, there’s just some hints and tips about how you can get a little bit more learning and growth into your very, very busy working week.

I just want to reiterate what I’m not trying to do is tell you to fit more and more into your already busy and packed schedule. What I’m saying is that if you make time for a bit of learning and growth and development, you will find that it radically increases your feeling of well-being, your feeling of satisfaction in life, even if nothing much has really changed.

I think one of the great things about learning and developing is that if you start to dig deeply into a topic and really follow your interest in that area, you will find that new opportunities open up for you within your work, or that you start to seek out opportunities along those lines within your work. A few years ago, I was listening to a podcast all about the fact that following your passion is a really, really stupid thing to do.

But, following your interest, however, is a really, really smart thing to do, because we are generally interested in what we enjoy, and also what we’re good at. Now, will this be challenging? Yes, of course, it will be challenging. That’s the whole point. When I first started ice skating, it was really challenging to go backwards at all. Now, going backwards is really easy. What’s challenging is to spin without falling over.

But, there’s a difference between stuff being really difficult, and feeling like a real chore, and things being challenging. The thing about challenging things is you do have to set aside time to do it. Very often, we write off the stuff that we want to do to learn and grow and develop, because it takes too much time. But, investing this time in learning and growing will be a fantastic investment, and there are different ways to find this time.

Firstly, just recognising all the time that we waste on stuff that isn’t particularly enjoyable, and not particularly necessary, so eliminating that stuff that’s not urgent and not important. And then, seeing, learning something that is important, because it will never ever become urgent for you. Unless of course you’ve got an exam the next day, in which case it becomes very urgent and very important.

But really, when we’re learning and developing in our careers, this is often stuff that just is put on the back burner, because no one’s clamouring out for it. Often, people just don’t see the value in it. So if you currently feel that toxic combination of bored and stressed, can I encourage you not to take the easy route of just ditching all the stuff that feels challenging, putting all the learning, the growth and development on the backburner.

So, you can just churn through yet more of the stuff that you’re finding boring and stressful, but think about ways in which you can add some learning, some growth and some development into your life in a way that’s easy, that’s joyful, but will be challenging. Because by getting into flow, by reaching your potential, you’ll actually find your life satisfaction goes up. You’ll find your mental health improves.

You may also find opportunities to diversify your role in what you’re doing now, so that you get a better balance between the boring stuff and the challenging stuff, and just take a moment to think what you need right now. What you need over the summer? How can you learn and grow in a way that’s going to give you what you need, that’s going to give you some rest, that’s going to give you some inspiration, or some fun, and don’t feel guilty about it?

Side note, whenever we do anything that fits into the not urgent but important quadrant in the urgent-important matrix, we feel like we’re wasting our time with being self-indulgent. Because let’s face it, if you’re ticking off patients tasks, referral letters, results, filing, appraisals, et cetera, et cetera, you feel busy. You feel productive. But whenever we set time aside for strategy, for goal setting, for self development, we feel guilty because we just feel that little tap tap tap of all that urgent important stuff on our shoulder.

But realise this, if you are someone who is growing and developing, getting into flow regularly and living the good life or the meaningful life that gives you high levels of satisfaction with life and work, then you will be happier. You’ll be more successful. You’ll be a better doctor, a better colleague, a better partner, a better friend. So, prioritise learning in your life. Check out some of the links I’ll put in the show notes.

We’ve also included a lot of different recommendations in our summer checklist, so do download that. I wish you all a restful summer. I hope you get a chance to reflect and think about what you really want, and then make a deliberate choice about how you’re going to live and work so that you can thrive in life and work. I’ll see you in the autumn.

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Podcast Links

Looking for advice on a dilemma? Want us to cover a particular topic? Get in touch at hello@yourenotafrog.com.

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Episode 91 – How to Break Up With Your Toxic Relationship With Your Career with Dr Pauline Morris

Dr Pauline Morris joins us to share her career counselling advice for physicians and other professionals in high stress jobs. We discuss the common pitfalls that lead doctors to unsustainable work habits. Pauline also sheds light on why staying in your comfort zone can be detrimental to your performance. To avert this, she shares tips on how to better recognise and advocate for your own needs. We also learn about the importance of self-care and taking time for yourself.

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Dr Edward Pooley joins us again to discuss what to do when colleagues make inappropriate comments about others. We talk about why it’s crucial to consider the question behind the question in workplace backbiting. Ed also teaches us how to challenge in a supportive way. Most importantly, we learn some strategies to prepare ourselves to speak up when the situation requires it.

Episode 89 – Should I stay or should I go? with Corrina Gordon-Barnes

Corrina Gordon-Barnes joins us to share how to better relationships and take control and stay in your zone of power. She shares how to make a good decision by questioning thoughts and assumptions. We also discuss how you can change your perspective to become more compassionate, accepting, and empowered. If you want to know how to better relationships, stay in your zone of power, improve your decision-making skills, and be true to yourself, then tune in to this episode!

Episode 88 – How to Ditch the Saviour Complex and Feel More Alive with Rob Bell

Rob Bell joins us in this episode to discuss the perils of the saviour complex and the desire to keep hustling even when we’re miserable. We learn that taking time for rest and reflection only helps us get stronger. You can’t heal and help rebuild a broken system if you don’t look out for yourself first. Tune in to this episode to find out how to ditch the saviour complex, feel happier and live a more fulfilling life.

Episode 87 – Complaints and How to Survive Them Episode 5: What Should I Do When I Think a Complaint is Unfair? And Other Questions with Drs Sarah Coope, George Wright, Samantha White, and Andrew Tressider

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Episode 86 – Gaslighting and Other Ways We’re Abused at Work: What’s Really Going On? with Dr James Costello

Dr James Costello joins us to talk about his new book and the insidious ways that organisations and individuals can undermine us. They compel us to do extra emotional labour for us to cope with the workplace dynamics. We also chat about what happens when authority and power are misused. Finally, James shares some of the disastrous consequences bullying in the workplace can have and what we can do about it. Tune in if you want to know what to do if you suspect that you or a colleague are experiencing relational abuse in the workplace!

Episode 85 – How to have crucial conversations with Dr Edward Pooley

Good communication between colleagues is crucial for the success of any organisation. Dr Edward Pooley joins us again to teach us how to communicate well. He discusses the three strands present in any conversation and helps us understand how we can be more aware of each. We also share some frameworks that can help you navigate difficult conversations. Understanding the importance of emotion is crucial in being an effective communicator and connecting with your team.

Episode 84 – Complaints and How to Survive Them Episode 4: Creating a Workplace Where It’s OK to Fail

Professor Susan Fairley and Dr Jane Sturgess join us to discuss how to create a workplace that doesn’t shy away from failure. We talk about how civility can save lives and also touch on the issues around incident reporting in healthcare. Most importantly, we talk about creating a culture where people can have difficult conversations without defensiveness. If you want to know how to approach failing and speaking up in the workplace, tune in to this episode.

Episode 83 – The Ups and Downs of Being a Man-Frog with Dr Chris Hewitt

Joining us in this episode is Dr Chris Hewitt who also uses the metaphor of a man-frog in coaching professionals to have a better work-life balance. Chris talks about why we find it so hard to recognise burnout. He also shares his top tips and practical strategies to address work dissatisfaction. If you want to stop feeling like a man (or woman) - frog in a pan of slowly boiling water, listen to the full episode.

Episode 82 – Complaints and How to Survive Them Series Episode 3: Surviving the Process

Drs Jessica Harland, Caroline Walker and Heidi Mousney join us in this episode to discuss healthcare professionals’ experiences when dealing with complaints. We talk about the different emotions you may experience and practical tips on getting through. If you want to know how to survive the process after making a mistake at work and receiving a complaint, stay tuned to this episode.

Episode 81 – When Soft and Fluffy Met Coronavirus with Steve Andrews

Steve Andrews, Associate Director of Leadership for East and North Herts NHS Trust shares how, through using just five crucial questions, you can check in on people, rather than check up on them. The 5 questions will help you to find out how people really are, help them look out for their colleagues, empower them to solve their own problems AND communicate empathy and support. Want to know how you can apply compassionate leadership in your organisation? Then, this episode is for you.

Episode 80 – Complaints and How to Survive Them Episode 2: What to Do When You Make a Mistake with Drs Clare Devlin and Dr John Powell

Drs Clare Devlin and John Powell join us to discuss the proper way of responding to professional mistakes. We talk about why doctors have a hard time whenever they make a mistake at work. Clare and John also share valuable advice on minimising negative consequences and getting a good outcome for you and your patient. If you want to learn a roadmap for what you should do you make a mistake at work, then tune in to this episode.

Episode 79 – How to Give Yourself Permission to Thrive with Dr Katya Miles

Dr Katya Miles joins us once again to talk about burnout and giving ourselves permission to thrive. Having experienced work burnout, Katya shares her story and discusses the red flags of burnout. We also talk about why we find it difficult to give ourselves permission to thrive and how we can overcome our own internal barriers. If you want to learn about how you can listen to your needs so that you can thrive in work and in life, then this episode is for you.

Episode 78 – Complaints and How to Survive Them Series 1: Preparing to Fail Well with Drs Sarah Coope, Annalene Weston and Sheila Bloomer

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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2022-10-14T02:08:41+01:00