Dr. Farzanna Haffizulla is a practicing physician, an educator, and a nationally recognized speaker on improving cohesion among healthcare organizations and physicians. She is also an expert on work–life balance. She is a woman with a purpose, and with the intelligence, sense of self, and humor to keep her many hats on her head, often at the same time. She talks here, with PracticeUpdate, about the various roles she’s assumed and how she juggles the demands on her time. She talks as well about bias and offers straightforward advice on harnessing external resources to face it down.
PracticeUdate: Dr. Haffizulla, do you have any other advice on time management, specifically for younger healthcare professionals?
Dr. Haffizulla: Yes. You have to make time for yourself. You have to have self-care woven into your life. If you don’t do that you will crash and burn very, very quickly. So, even if it means taking a longer shower when you have that time alone to yourself or simulating a spa day, it’s important. Right now, of course, we’re under restrictions and we can’t go out, but there are different things that you can do for yourself. You can sit down, relax, meditate. You can dance. You can sing. You can do something that you enjoy. It could be a hobby that you love. It could be painting or another sort of art. There’s a major push now to marry arts with medicine. Another way to help yourself is to travel mentally by reading and listening to audiobooks. Although you’re physically confined to a specific place, your mind is never trapped. You can ensure that you explore all these possibilities through books and other media as best as you can.
I remember when I was pregnant with my first of four in medical school, and that was very hard. Medical school did not have necessarily time set apart for recovery. There was nothing in place, really, to align with the needs of a pregnant student. So, I would recommend to young professionals coming out to ensure that you interrogate the work system a little bit more. See what family-friendly practices your would-be employers have; see what flexibility they have in the schedule. Ensure that your contract is written in such a way that you have the ability to move around if you need to but ensure that you communicate that to your supervisor or to your higher-ups in one way or another. Know what you want. Interrogate yourself first to know what direction you want to take in your life and what your priorities are.
Open communication is key. So, for example, if you have a significant other, if you have other family and friends, if you built your own support system in one way or another, the people closest to you need to know what your plan is. It can’t just be in your head. It has to align well with plans of many folks around you who are part of your life. Oftentimes, you’ll find that your relationship suffers because you’ve not communicated things in a way perhaps that was transparent enough. We learned this the hard way, my husband and I. We went to medical school together. We met in medical school, and we did everything all the way through. However, going through that sort of process, you assume that since they are part of the process, they already know how you feel. You find out the hard way later on down the road when feelings get hurt or folks think you didn’t really care about certain aspect of things. Just don’t take it for granted that someone knows what you’re thinking and feeling and what your plan is in that moment. You have to verbalize it. You have to express it in a way that works well for you as a team.
That whole mind, body, spirit health is super important. I will tell you, I have a little mantra that I say whenever I feel overwhelmed or emotionally drained in one way or another. I circle back to my positive affirmation and I’ve always, I’d say, spiritually connected and said a prayer every single time. God, give me the strength and the resolve to move forward and to ensure that I am successful in this endeavor. Something along those lines. Just continue to say it. Say it out loud to yourself. You can do this.
I am also unapologetically positive in my demeanor. I make sure that my mindset is such that I will always try to see the silver lining even in the darkest of times. I want to ensure that I see that things happen for a good reason. I may not understand in that moment; but, ultimately, it’s happening for the right reasons. As painful as it is now, I have to learn something from this. The way you view and react to things could really shape what the rest of the trajectory is going to look like.
I used to make parfaits, I remember. Everything was layered on top of the other in a cup, and I’d take it with me when I was on the move, going to the hospital, whatever it may be. You can do that. Do your prep ahead of time. Don’t procrastinate because you want to make sure that your body is taken care of. When I’d drive, I would park in the very farthest spot, for example, and make sure I’d walk, walk, walk. You want to move as much as you possibly can. So, right now, as I’m talking to you, I’m talking and walking on the treadmill.
You find creative ways. If you’re sitting and watching a movie, you do some crunches, you could do some yoga. Or dance. Dancing, to me, is a wonderful endorphin release. You have to weave fitness into your day every day. We all have trackers or phones that can measure our steps and how much we’ve slept and so forth and so on. You can use that to keep track, to see where you are.
I try my best, especially the age I am now, not to use as much sugar and to cut back on dairy, but to eat lots of fruits and vegetables and a lot of lean proteins. I indulge when I want to indulge, but I know it’s not for the long term. It’s only a moment of chocolate bliss, for example.
And laugh as much as you can. Laughter, for me, is important. My husband is very funny; at least I think so. The kids say some funny things or I look at some comedy shows or we look at funny videos together, and those kinds of things. No matter how drained you feel, laughing kind of helps you to press your reset button. Those are the kind of things that work for me, in one way or another.