Future Proof Docs - The Productive Physician

Welcome to another installment in the Future Proof Docs series. As a reminder, this is a series of posts highlighting physicians who excel at something outside of medicine and care enough to share their passions with us.  Today I want to introduce the Productive Physician.  Mark is a physician, medical educator, and a master at getting things done.  I hope you will enjoy this Q&A.


Mark is a Respiratory & Sleep Medicine Physician and the author at the Productive Physician (https://productivephysician.com). In addition to being a physician, he is an educator of medical students and trainees. He trained, practices and lives in Australia.

 [FPMD: Ok call me immature, but all I can think of when I hear Mark say "Australia" is this... Too bad he didn't include a photo...] 

When and why did you decide to become a physician?

My first schoolteacher recalls me telling her I was going to be a doctor at the age of five, although I obviously didn’t know then what I know now! I should probably have said "astronaut" (but there is no space program in Australia) or "chef".

After graduating from medical school, I seriously considered a career in I.T. before eventually settling on specialty training and practice. Some days I wonder if I.T. is still an option…

[FPMD: I definitely had "astronaut" in my short list, among "police officer" and "firefighter". Although as my scale can attest, I've always been more of an eater than a chef.  And it's never too late to become an internet mogul, you should chat with Dr. Arnold Kim.  See My Son, the Blogger: An M.D. Trades Medicine for Apple Rumors.]

Why your specialty?

I tried most of the medical specialties before deciding on Respiratory & Sleep Medicine, partially because I derived little enjoyment from the others and partially because I found a mentor in this field. The power of a mentor in the decision about further training cannot be underestimated!

More recently, I have moved into clinical education as a side job and find that I derive so much satisfaction and energy from working with juniors and students that I can’t imagine giving it up.

[FPMD: +1000 on the power of a mentor.  It sounds like we were both very lucky to have great role models in our chosen specialty who cared enough to guide us through.  As a medical trainee, I'm sure my outlook will change over time.  But for now, I am definitely interested in pursuing an academic career for the reasons you mentioned.]

When and why did you start your blog? 

August 2016. I have previously administered and written for a film criticism website and blog, but only recently started blogging in the medical sphere.

I focus on productivity for physicians but in the ‘personal productivity’ sense rather than the metrics that are used in the US to measure physician productivity (RVUs??). I suspect that defining your own metrics for success is more valuable in the longer term anyway.

I started The Productive Physician as I had been consuming personal productivity materials (blogs, books, podcasts etc.) so much that I wanted an outlet where I could reflect on my learning and potentially help my peers while doing so.

I suspect that most of us docs don’t have the time to invest in widespread reading around personal organisation and productivity and, therefore, hope I am performing a useful service. Much of the productivity literature is written for entrepreneurs or business people, and so I thought that translating the advice for doctors also would be of value. I have written more about my rationale at Why Productivity for Physicians?

[FPMD: Well said.  Although as a trainee, I have trouble developing my own metrics for success because my entire life, I've been living life based on what others define as successful.  I suspect this will be an ongoing struggle and hopefully will not result in an early-life crisis...]

What is the biggest challenge running your blog while being a doc at the same time?  How do you deal with it?

My biggest challenge is finding time to write and edit. I look forward to the day when I have a posse of content creators all filling the site with great advice and it isn’t only me!

I hope that I will continue to find my path to more effective personal productivity and that I can describe my findings in a way that is useful to other doctors.

One strategy I am trying to stick to is rising early in the morning. I have never been a morning person but am trying to get up at 0500 regularly and find that I have added hours to my productive time each day! Forming a new habit after decades is easier said than done.

[FPMD: 0500 sounds might early to me! I agree with you finding time to write and edit is very difficult with a busy clinical schedule.  I've always been a nighthawk more than an early riser, maybe it's time for a change...]

What are the top 3 life lessons you have for FPMD readers?

  1. Measurement is critical to any process of improvement. This is something that engineers understand but wasn’t immediately obvious to me until I started measuring my performance in ways meaningful to me. “What gets measured gets managed”.

  2. Start early. The results of our efforts should increase as we develop, but if you wait too late to start, it’s harder to catch up (much like compound interest). This applies to making new connections in your field, performing research and academic publication, as well as personal things like leadership development. Invest in ongoing learning, but start as early as possible.

  3. Put yourself out there. I have lost track of the number of opportunities that I have received as a result of making contact with someone new at a conference or simply asking questions.

[FPMD: Great lessons.  My personal perspective is that it's very difficult to know what to measure as a learner.  For example, I've learned what's important to know before considering a TIPS procedure but that took considerable time and effort.  Starting early continues to be a challenge for me but I'll keep trying.  Can't agree more about putting yourself out there.  Although as a trainee, I sometimes get "gun-shy" about contacting/speaking to some of the living legends in IR, but it turns out most of them are just friendly guys.]

Give me 3 blog/podcast/vlog posts that FPMD readers can visit to get the “core” of what you stand for. 

  1. Inbox Zero: The Ultimate Guide to Managing Your Email
  2. Achieve your Big Hairy Audacious Goals in a 12 Week Year
  3. The Ultimate Guide to Getting Ready for a Conference

[FPMD: All 3 are awesome reads.  Be prepared though, that first one is a massive feature.  I will continue to follow-along with the Productive Physician for all the great personal productivity tips.  Big thanks to Mark for coming on as a guest. Stay tuned for our next Future Proof Doc!]

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Future Proof, MD

Dr. Bo Liu is an aspiring radiologist-in-training and the founder and editor of the White Coat Money Blog.  He has an interest in interventional radiology and helping his medical colleagues get ahead in this mad world of medicine and money.  When he's not crushing the list at the PACS station or typing up your next favorite blog post, you can usually find him at the local badminton club, movie theater or the most recently opened restaurant.