More clinical energy

A Tale of Two Lumberjacks: An Unlikely Practice for More Clinical Energy

I hate those days when I’m struggling to finish my chart notes.

Those days when I feel drained and my brain feels like mush.

It sucks.

Plus, I want to avoid having personal relationships get the dregs of my energy.

While I can feel in the flow with patients, I can find getting my notes done a struggle. (I try to keep on top of my chart notes in between patients, but it always seems that things come up and I’m doing some notes at the end of my day.)

I’ve experimented with different things – various food/snacking strategies, and different meditation approaches. While these can be helpful in their own right, it didn’t change how mentally and emotionally tired I felt at the end of the day.

Thankfully I stumbled onto something the past few weeks that has made a big difference.

A Tale of Two Lumberjacks

Before I explain what I’ve found has helped me, I wanted to share a little story that I read a while ago that hit home regarding my emotional and mental energy.

It’s about two lumberjacks.

One was a young buck – strong with lots of energy. The other was a grizzled axe-wielding lumberjack. They were facing off in a competition – the goal was to see how many trees they could fall in eight hours.

The younger one thought he had the competition in the bag.

The competition started and the younger lumberjack was chopping with gusto. As the competition went on, he noticed that every hour or so he didn’t hear any chopping from the veteran lumberjack. He found that strange and thought that he would win even more handily.

At the end of the eight hours, they put down their axes and awaited the results. To the young lumberjack’s surprise, he did not win the competition. Instead, it was the veteran lumberjack. The younger lumberjack was shocked. He wondered how this was possible.

He went over and asked him why he was taking breaks during the competition. The weathered lumberjack looked and replied: “I was sharpening my axe.”

He was sharpening his axe.

Was I letting my axe get dull with my non-stop thinking and action?

I noticed that I was always ‘on’:

  • During my patient assessments
  • Figuring out treatment plans
  • Treating patients
  • Writing my chart notes

My non-stop thinking and mental focus would continue patient after patient.

There never was a lull in my mental focus and effort.

In truth, I was running my mental engine too hot.

I realized that I wasn’t giving myself any mental breaks.

While I might quickly check email or scroll social media, it wasn’t providing much-needed rest for my mind.

This is what I realized…

I needed moments of boredom between patients.

Moments where I wasn’t thinking, analyzing or interacting.

I needed to pause.

My brain needed a rest.

Was it long? No. Just 20-30 seconds.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been experimenting with giving myself 20-30 seconds of complete mental rest in between in each patient.

Rather than having a downtrending line of mental energy, I was finding myself staying present, engaged with relatively good energy levels right until the end of my clinical day.

So if you’re feeling like you’re procrastinating with writing chart notes or finding yourself dragging your feet by the end of the day then experiment with giving yourself short mental breaks in-between patients.


Be bored.

Even for 30 seconds.

And let me know how it goes for you, I’d love to hear from you so feel free to drop me an email.

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