December 10, 2020
December brings the end of the year summaries, the top 10 lists, etc. It also tends to bring into clear focus what we did and did not accomplish over the year.
And when we’re talking about 2020, there’s an entire additional layer to that exercise. Are you breathing? Win. Do you still have a job? Massive win. I express gratitude in having a career by choosing to be very intentional about my career and what I’m trying to do with it.
I want to offer one framework in which to think about your year and planning ahead. Most of us don’t do this. We don’t take stock. We avoid it, because why on earth would we want to sit there and think all day about all of the things we didn’t do.
The end of year reflection can be a little bit too painful of a mirror to look at, especially when your lens is one that is focused on what you didn’t do.
Let’s preempt that self-critique today. And let’s go deeper than “but, we’re in a pandemic!” – because that is surface level. The reason why we would still be focused on all that we didn’t do despite a pandemic is the actual issue. That’s what I want to talk about.
In many ways we are programmed to shoot for 200% in academic medicine. And let’s be honest – some of us are not about that 100% life anyway. Yes, we want balance, but we’re ambitious and we’re achievers. We came here to do epic shit. Rough combo. Because we’ve figured out an equation – if you shoot for 200%, then you’ll get at least 80%.
We can live with 80%. Certainly, none of us want to be caught at 50% – we are allergic to mediocrity. And for women of color, especially Black women, you wouldn’t be here if you could rest on mediocrity.
The problem with the 200/80 equation is that it works. It really does. You are doing so much and you are so allergic to failure that you are going to hit that 80% – come hell or high water. It works.
It’s just really a really painful way to do this thing we call academic medicine.
200/80 by definition never results in balance. And 200/80 means you spend more time *not* getting what you want, than you do winning. It’s the kind of equation that has you always seeing what you are not getting done, always feeling behind. It’s the equation that will drive you to take on even more – trying to fill that cup of accomplishment that is set up to be less than half full. You load and reload your calendar with overwhelm as the norm.
There is another way.
The reason that going for 200% results in 80% ‘wins,’ is because your work is not as excellent as it could be. Yep, I said it. You are tired, you are overworked, and you are putting things off until the last minute because you only have time to work on them at the last minute. You are bringing a more brittle, less flexible self. It is really difficult for you to have a growth mindset when you are at 200%. The quality of your work is not as good because you’re doing too much.
Go for 100% and still get 80%.
Do 100% with a higher degree of quality, because you are rested, you are focused, and most critically, because you have chosen the specific work that aligns with your unique value. You will still hit 80% because your work is better. It’s way better. You end up at the same place. The transformation is not the success. The transformation is your experience of it.
Make December meaningful.
1. Practice gratitude by deciding to be intentional about your career.
2. Do a personal annual review and get honest about your equation.
3. Celebrate what you did accomplish. Loudly.
4. Plan 2021 from a place of clarity and not critique.
Remember that you have a choice. You have a choice to keep overworking so you perform enough to feel secure – or – to choose the challenge of optimizing your career so you enjoy your success. Make a choice and take that into 2021.
Y’all have a great December and end of your year. I will see you on the flip side.