It’s Thursday afternoon. You started your day early at the hospital and then saw a full schedule of patients in your office. You took histories, performed physicals, ordered labs, made referrals, and prescribed medications. Decision after decision – most were routine, but a few were pretty tricky. Now you are sitting in your office catching up on paperwork. More decisions.
You know you need to write a medical blog post for your practice website. You understand the importance of your online presence and you want to make this a priority. Do you want to write it now, or get up early and do it? What will you write about this time? How do you want your writing to come off – friendly and conversational or authoritative and academic? Will you add a link for it to your Facebook page? Should you add other things to your Facebook page to attract more readers?
At the end of a long day, these comparatively simple decisions can just be a bit much. Chances are you will blow off the blog post and go home. You’ll get it done another time, right?
What’s going on here is a classic case of decision fatigue. The classic research on this phenomenon involved parole boards. Prisoners who appeared before the parole board early in the morning were paroled 70 percent of the time, while those who appeared late in the day only got released 10 percent of the time. Researchers found that the toll of those early decisions was so heavy that board members didn’t have the mental energy to properly evaluate the later cases. So they simply denied parole.
This phenomenon can happen to anyone. It’s why Mark Zuckerberg always wears a grey t-shirt and President Obama only wears grey or blue suits. They don’t want to consume their decision-making energy on such unimportant tasks as choosing clothes for the day.
Certainly this phenomnenon comes into play in a busy medical practice. A physician makes multiple decisions that materially impact another person’s life in every 15 minute appointment. If that doesn’t deplete your decision-making muscle, nothing does. It certainly can make a simple task like writing a medical blog seem like a mountain of decisions.
But there are easy ways to automate the process like Zuckerberg and Obama have done with their wardrobes. By automating much of the process, you remove the bulk of the decisions involved in writing for your medical website. Here are a few suggestions to help you make that happen.
Automate Your Writing Time
Set aside time in your calendar for this task. Mark it off your personal calendar and your office schedule. Then you don’t have to decide whether you can squeeze it in. You’ve already decided you can.
Automate Your Topics
Choosing a topic can often take as much time as writing about it. But if you set a rotation of topics for your medical blog posts, you can simplify the process. For example, a rotation of topics might look like this:
- Week 1: Medical research in the news – write about something your patients may be seeing in all the headlines. Put it in context of the actual medical evidence and how it can apply to them.
- Week 2: Lifestyle recommendations – write about the benefits of certain lifestyle choices patients can make – exercise, diet, sleep, social connections, etc. Put it in the context of your specialty and how these changes can help with the diseases you treat.
- Week 3: Controversial medical topics – Use this category to explain something that doesn’t always get represented with the best evidence. Cholesterol, thyroid function, dietary fat, dietary carbs, etc. Use this category to combat inaccurate beliefs about medical issues.
- Week 4: Update about your office – This can be a story about a staff member, research you are involved in, your community involvement, etc. Use this category to help your readers understand the values and priorities behind your practice.
These are just examples of categories you can include in your rotation. We offer lots of ideas for topic categories here at Coffee Break. Make a plan that works for you.
Automate Your Research
As a practicing physician, you already do research every day. Every patient question you answer, every side effect you look up, every journal article you read, every conversation you have with a colleague is research. The simple act of paying attention as you go through your daily tasks will provide the material you needto support your next post. Just get in the habit of jotting these ideas down along with any resource that goes with it. You can simply do this on your phone or in a notebook, or you can get more elaborate with tools like Evernote or Trello.
It can feel like too much to add blogging to your busy schedule. But truly, building an online presence for your medical practice is critical in today’s marketplce. And the trend is only going to make it more so. By automating your blog writing routine, you can create engaging blog posts without adding to the heavy burden of decision-making you already carry.
Photo credit: © Olga Kovalenko/Adobe Stock