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"I wouldn't do it twice, but I would not 'not' do it once."

- ZDoggMD

Entries in Interview (3)


Monk Mind: How to Increase Your Focus

Leo Babauta Breaks Down The Art Of Focus

For those who have tests looming on the horizon, I thought I would post some tips on achieving zen-like focus. I often find that my focus falls far short of zen-like, so I decided get help from a professional. Leo Babauta is the founder and author of ZenHabits.net, one of the Top 25 blogs in the world.

Here's what he has to say about increasing focus:

I confess to being as prone to the distractions of the Internet as anyone else: I will start reading about something that interests me and disappear down the rabbit hole for hours (even days) at a time.

But my ability to focus on a single task has dramatically improved, and that one habit has changed my life.

While a few years ago I couldn’t sit down to work on something without quickly switching to email or one of my favorite Internet forums or sites, today I can sit down and write. I can clear away distractions, when I set my mind to it, and do one thing. And that changes everything: you lose yourself in that task, become so immersed that you pour everything you have into the work, and it becomes a meditative, transformative experience. Your happiness increases, stress goes down, and work improves.

I know that lots of people have trouble focusing one one task for very long, and so I thought I’d share a few things that have worked for me.

Focus Best Practices

There is no one way to find focus, but what works for me is to clear everything away and create a little space of tranquil focus. Some tips for doing that:

• Close the browser and your email program. If you need to work in the browser then make sure no tabs or windows are open other than the one you absolutely need.

• Turn off all notifications. Trying to focus while something is notifying you of an incoming email or tweet or Facebook update is impossible.

• Turn off the Internet. Shut off your connection, unplug your router, or best yet, go to a place where the is no Internet (yes, those still exist). This is the absolute best way to find focus.

• Close all programs and windows other than what you need for this one task.

• Have a very important task to do. Not just “check email” but “learn today's lecture on lung disease” or “write that kick-ass blog post I’ve been planning” or “write that new Android app”.

• Clear your desk. No need to spend all day on this — shove everything in a drawer or put it in a box to be sorted later. Don’t fiddle with this now. In fact, don’t fiddle with anything — don’t worry about the perfect study setup or perfect notebook for writing or the perfect anything.

• Plug in the headphones. If you have people around who might distract you, wearing headphones and playing some good, peaceful music is perfect.

Once you have this environment (and you shouldn’t spend more than a few minutes setting it up), get going on your task. Do nothing but that one task. Don’t switch to another task.Having trouble doing that?

Read on.

How to Increase Your Focus Abilities

If you can’t focus on one task for very long, don’t worry. That’s normal. Our brains have been trained by technology and society to switch tasks often. One way we’ve been trained is that switching to check email or Facebook/Twitter is rewarding — we are rewarded with a little nugget of satisfaction in that someone has sent us a message (social validation!) or we have something new and interesting to read (shiny and bright!). Switching tasks becomes a positive feedback cycle that is hard to beat by single-tasking.

The way to beat that is to set up a positive feedback cycle for focusing. Here’s how:

1. Start small. You only need to focus for one minute at first. Clear everything away, pick your one important task, and just do it for one minute without switching. This is hard to do in the beginning but if you consciously focus on focusing, you can do it. It’s just a minute.

2. Reward yourself. The reward for focusing for one minute can be one minute (or 30 seconds) of checking whatever you want. Email, Facebook, whatever. Or get up and take a one-minute walk. Stretch, drink some water, massage your neck, enjoy your small victory. Empires are created with small victories.

3. Repeat. Keep doing one minute focus, one minute reward (or 1 minute to 30 seconds if you like) for about half an hour (15 of each). You’re done. Repeat that later in the day. Rejoice in how much work you got done! And notice how you’ve set up a positive feedback cycle for focusing.

4. Increase in small steps. Tomorrow, make it two minutes on, one minute off. Repeat that for 30 minutes, do it later in the day too. Feel free to go wild and do three focus sessions in a day if you like, but it’s not necessary.

5. Keep taking baby steps. I think you can see the pattern by now. Make it three minutes on, one minute off on the third day, then 4:1, then 5:1. When you get to 10 minutes, be crazy and take a 2 minute break. When you get to 20 minutes, take a 3 minute break. At 30 minutes of focus, you’ve earned a 5 minute break. And once you’re at 30 minutes, you can stay there. No need to become a monk.

Set up a positive feedback cycle for single-tasking focus and you’ll reverse the years of training your mind has gotten to switch tasks. You’ll get more important work done, and it won’t seem hard. You’ll find that focus becomes a form of meditation. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing!


Say Goodbye to Your Stethoscope: An Interview With Dr. J. Christian Fox


With Portable Ultrasound, Some Medical Students are Already Ahead of the Curve.

So you're on wards, doing your best to look smart, take care of your patients, and get that fine letter of recommendation. Suddenly, the attending thinks he hears an extra sound while doing a cardiac exam. Now, full of joy and self pride, he will take time to let you have a listen. The goal, of course, is so you can develop your powers of cardiac auscultation or look like an idiot, the latter being more likely. Either way, you eagerly place your stethoscope over the patient's chest wall with a very intelligent and contemplative look, all while trying your best not to seem studentish. Tuning in to listen, you even furrow your eyebrow a little, shake your head up and down and mutter, “Hummmm very interesting....yeah...that’s very interesting,” careful not to oversell it. Of course, you hear no murmur, nothing other than good ol’ S1 and S2 lub dubbing along. But, you cannot disappoint your attending who is looking down at you full of pride for catching this slight blip on the radar of the patient's cardiac cycle. He is just glad someone is here to appreciate the level of medical acumen that has just been demonstrated and imparted to a future doctor who will carry on the sacred art.

Learning to identify and diagnose patients based on every little slosh or swoosh heard by your stethoscope is a skill that we are all expected to master as a medical student. However, according to Dr. Eric Tropol, you may never need it as a physician. As I watched the TEDMED talk by Dr.Topol, I learned that we may not need the stethoscope for long. Medical wireless and portable ultrasound companies are developing new devices that make it possible for doctors to carry an Echocardiograph machine in their lab coat. So now I don’t feel so bad about my underdeveloped auscultation powers. If I cannot hear something, I’ll just get and echo or ultrasound; problem solved.

However, now we have another predicament. Have you ever been asked to explain what you see on an ultrasound or echo? I have, and I get the same feeling when looking at a Jackson Pollock painting. Usually, my face gets all wrinkled, I shrug my shoulders and shake my head, utterly clueless. I have also been known to take the 3D Magic Eye approach, pushing my nose to the screen and staring intensely, hoping that a 3D image will magically pop out at me making the diagnosis. Hasn’t happened yet, but I’m still optimistic. There are a few medical students in the nation who are probably reading this and thinking I’m a giant kook because they can read ultrasounds in their sleep. Dr. J Christian Fox is the director of University of California Irvine’s portable ultrasound program. Part of his passion is to give the medical students and residents training in ultrasound techniques. He sees that the use of ultrasound will continue to grow as a tool for diagnosing and treating disease. After the interview, I was left wondering why more institutions aren’t teaching ultrasound in their curriculum.

 To Learn More Visit:

Check out our conversation below


Interview: Preparing for Physician-Entrepreneurship

Troy Heidesch, Founder of Smart HouseCalls, speaks to students about starting a business.

Remember the blog post in December about Dr. Toby Bond? Well as it turns out, Troy Heidesch consults as a part-time Nurse Practitioner in his office and is equally as innovative. Troy is founder of Smart HouseCalls, a new start-up which connects patients to their physicians more effectively using webcam technology. His system is HIPAA compliant, high definition, stable, secure and most importantly, billable. Using this technology, quick follow-ups and educational meetings can be arranged over the internet face-to-face with the provider rather than over the phone with the office staff. This has the potential to make an enormous impact in rural areas where access to healthcare is a serious issue as well as add convenience to patients who might not otherwise follow-up due to a busy schedule. I was able to sit down with Troy to discuss his work during the start-up process--hopefully you'll find his insights helpful.

Q: Tell me what you're up to.

A: I am the founder and CEO of a Biotech startup called Smart House Calls. We have built a telemedicine platform that allow physicians to communicate with patients from anywhere to anywhere with an internet connection and then charge  either the patient or the insurance company for that interaction. This improves patient access to timely and convenient care, decreases emergency room visits, and is an income accelerator for primary care providers.

Q: What has been the most challenging part about starting a business?

A: Patience and getting over self-doubt. You expect that a great idea will sell itself. After a few months you realize that success is in the execution rather than in the idea and execution takes time. I believe that self-doubt is common to most entrepreneurs. You think, “Who am I to build a potentially very large enterprise?” Then, as you immerse yourself into trying to succeed, you start seeing that you are really no different than other successful entrepreneurs. You read voraciously, talk with anyone who will listen, and suddenly you find that you are executing and doing a respectable job.

Q: How have you changed your clinical practice to allow time for your business?

A: I work as a consultant for primary care practices seeing patients and then installing our system. This is now giving way to full time within the company as sales begin to ramp up. I get up at 5 AM, do a little work for Smart House Calls, go see patients, and then work until about 7 or 8pm before spending some time with my family. On the days when I do not see patients, the hours remain about the same (and that includes weekends!).

Q: What should students who have entrepreneurial interests be doing to prepare for a different career when they graduate?

A: Read. Great book to start with is “The E-Myth Physician” by Michael Gerber. Decide whether you want to be an employee in your own business or be a CEO at the beginning. They are VERY different from each other. A physician as an employee will spend the day seeing patients and spending time every week to make sure the staff is paid and will pay attention to billing. The CEO will build systems that will work regardless of personnel and will be able to scale. They will spend most of their time thinking five years ahead and implementing strategies to push the business in the direction they envision.

Q: Any other comments?

A: If you have a great idea, talk about it to everyone person you meet. Do not worry about someone stealing your idea. Ideas are a dime a dozen, it’s the execution that is hard. By talking with everyone about your idea or plan, you will gain insight into the marketplace to help determine whether you really have something that people would want to pay to get. Finally, drop any ego or worry of losing control, hire people who are obviously much better than you. They will make you better and will pull your business to success much faster (success may not happen at all without this type of talent). A people should hire A people. If you hire B people they will hire C people and so on. Your idea will flounder and die if your first hires or partners are not exceptional.

So readers, what are your questions about starting a business? Leave comments and we'll get the discussion started.

A big thanks to Troy for his time and insight into these issues. For more information, see their website at SmartHouseCalls.com.

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