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Why Do I Need Protected Time?

I should have been upset. Instead, I was naive.

I was a brand new faculty member who wanted to lead a research program; but no one would give me 75% protected time. Research, they said, could be done on my own time -- at nights and on weekends. Instead, they offered me a role as a full-time clinician. So, when I finally found an academic job that promised me 20% protected time, I jumped at it. I didn't question it. Where others were offering me zero protected time, I would be foolish not to take 20%. Unfortunately, I was completely naive. I didn't recognize that 20% protected time is the standard allotment for administrative (not research) time in private practice. See, private practice docs work 4 days a week. Then, they take a day off for administrative tasks. I had unwittingly signed up for a full-time private practice role for nowhere near private practice pay! But that was not my biggest problem: Without time in my schedule for research, my plan to lead a research program would prove near impossible . . . What I was lacking was protected time. 

In academic medicine, protected time is an elusive concept. Everyone talks about it; but no one is sure exactly who has it. Even when people promise you protected time on paper, the protected time may not materialize until you make it happen. No matter your role, the best person to create the protected time you need is YOU .

Here are Seven Steps to Protect Your Time:

  1. Clarify your need: Start by identifying what specific academic activities or personal pursuits require protected time. Understanding your needs is crucial in effectively managing your schedule.

  2. Determine how much protected time is needed: Assess the amount of time required for each activity and prioritize them based on their significance to your goals.

  3. Negotiate your protected time on paper: Formalize your protected time by putting it into writing, either in agreements with your superiors or in your personal schedule.

  4. Get help to protect your time: Seek support from mentors, colleagues, or department heads who can advocate for your protected time and understand its importance.

  5. Build the skills to protect your own time: Learn time management strategies and techniques to ensure you make the most of your protected time and avoid distractions.

  6. Secure funding: For research-related activities, securing funding can be crucial to ensure you have the resources necessary to make the most of your protected time.

  7. Protect your time for self-care: Remember the importance of self-care and ensure you allocate protected time for activities that rejuvenate and promote well-being.

Think of yourself as the chief protector of your time. What does a chief protector do? How do they show up? 

Imagine what kinds of opportunities could open up for you if you actually had the time to create the products you are being held accountable for. What might that look like for you in terms of your sanity, peace of mind, and emotional well being?

I wonder if you would start to love medicine again. The way you loved it when it was new and exciting and held the promise of being the vehicle that would deliver the kind of impact you always planned to bring to the world. Medicine is still the vehicle for your impact. Getting the protected time you need will help you get there.  

🎙️ News you can use:

We will be opening up enrollments for the next cohort of the Clinician Researcher Academy. Clinician Researcher Academy is your gateway to creating the research career you actually want. Interested? Sign up to join the waitlist here. Once the application portal opens, you will be the first to hear about it. Spoiler alert, it is going to be super awesome!

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