Q: How do you minimize (or deal with) distractions throughout the day?
First, I try to be organized. I have a comfortable workspace with minimal clutter.
I have only what I need for the task on the desk in front of me. I try to prioritize tasks that need to get done immediately because letting things pile up can be distracting. I also work on things one at a time until each task is completed. For example, if I am working on resident evaluations, I try to finish one completely before I take a phone call. I find I can only concentrate intensely for about a half an hour. So every half hour I take a short break. If I have a meeting coming up I try to complete a task I can actually finish completely by the time I need to leave the office.
As the chair of a community-based academic radiology practice with a residency program, I need to be part radiologist, part administrator, and part teacher. Switching from administrative to clinical duties often revitalizes me. I also use my breaks to stay ahead of issues by walking around the department, which allows me to find and fix small issues before they become big problems. This also lets me socialize with my staff. I do not constantly check email; I try to check it only during breaks.
"I try to prioritize tasks that need to get done immediately because letting things pile up can be distracting," — Victor J. Scarmato, MD, FACR
When it comes to distractions in the reading room, these can sometimes be opportunities. If residents interrupt me to ask a question about a complicated scan they are reviewing, or if an ICU attending wants to discuss a patient's films, I try to finish the dictation I am working on first. Then I use the question as an opportunity to teach and learn rather than as an unwanted distraction. Purely social conversations, however, are moved out of the reading room.
Is it difficult to minimize distractions? Absolutely. But is it necessary if we are to perform optimally.
Victor J. Scarmato, MD, FACR
Assistant Professor of Radiology, Hofstra School of Medicine
Chair, Department of Radiology
Patient Safety Officer
Nassau University Medical Center