“How do you do it? How do you keep up with all this blogging, tweeting and writing whilst holding a job and keeping your family happy?” It’s a question I invariably get asked when I speak about the use of social media in medical education. I can talk about podcasts, and keeping up to date with the literature and there will always be a voice of dissention that wants to know “How?”
Life is about priorities and my number one priority, contrary to popular belief, is not this website, or our upcoming conference or Twitter, but my family.
The distraction of hyperconnectivity
You may not have heard the term before but you know exactly what it means. It’s that desire to check your phone for status updates before you even get out of bed in the morning. It’s thumb-scrolling down pages of backlit tweets whilst your partner lies sleeping next to you. It’s automatically reaching for your pocket whenever you hear the siren song of an e-mail notification.
When I first got on Twitter back in 2009 I was that person. It has taken me a long time to break the habit at home. I don’t want my children’s abiding memories of me being of a man who was more interested in a 6 by 3 inch piece of glass and plastic than in what they got up to in kindergarten. Recently I met up with someone who was a master in medical simulation and a Twitter neophyte. He wanted to know how to not tweet. And I think that is a much more important question to ask. Fortunately Henry Goldstein has some great strategies to use so that the telephone does not become your comfort blanket. As often as I can, I put my phone out of physical reach and leave well alone.
Larks and owls
I am very much a night person and hate to be dragged out from my sleep in the small hours. I have toyed with the idea of getting up early, before the rest of the house was awake, to get things done but it is impossible. My children have an innate ability to get up a minute or two after I do, so there is nothing to be gained from setting my alarm for 5am. Instead I wait for them to settle and go to sleep and then that is when I get the majority of my work done. Studying for the Fellowship exam made me disciplined and I stopped watching television and mothballed my Playstation. Now I watch things on my own terms, binge watching television series like Luke Cage or Stranger Things. That ability to not be reliant on the television is just as important as not being reliant on the telephone. I enjoy reading, writing and researching blog posts in the same way sane people enjoy reading a cheap page turner.
Enjoying what you do
I would not write for Don’t Forget the Bubbles if I did not enjoy it. I am passionate about making better doctors and I hope that by promoting better knowledge translation we are doing that. I currently have ideas for about 20 blog posts in slow Brownian motion inside my head. I get asked questions that I don’t know the answers to so I will look them up and write about them. Or I’m asked to do something and am told to do it because “it’s always been done that way” and so am excited to go to the primary literature to find that the gold standard we rely on every day is actually based on canine studies from the 1950’s. Or, occasionally, a reader will write or tweet in a request (and we are always happy for those).
My workflow is probably very different from Tessa, Ben and Henry so I’ll get them to chime in in the comments section. Once I have an idea I will open up a blank Google document and write down everything I know and, more importantly, the questions I want the answers to. Then I will use Google and Google scholar to search through potential blogposts and review articles that have been written in the last two years. They are my launching pad for further research as I then look into their references and go back and try to challenge knowledge assumptions. For a simple 1000 word post I will have probably read about 20 to 30 papers and have to say to myself that enough I enough. Once the framework is in place I like to put things in context. I have one of those memories for stupid facts that made me very popular on our local pub quiz team (‘The William G’s’ – after William G. Stewart of Fifteen to One, if you really want to know) and so there is always a book or film or historical event that can add colour to a piece.
If I have enough peace and quiet (children are at kindergarten and all the chores are done) I can blast through a post in a day. Some of the longer ones take a week or so and multiple edits. Rather than doubling up work I try and find a way of linking a blog post with a presentation that I am doing or a paper I am writing.
So if any of you think that you can do what we do then feel free to drop us a line. We are always happy to support anyone that wants to try their hand at blogging. We all started somewhere ( I started slowly thanks to the kindness of Casey Parker and Minh Le Cong). Don’t Forget the Bubbles covers a broad range of topics relevant to anyone that looks after children but we’d love to have your help fill in the gaps.
Take a look at this excellent research from David Sinton and colleagues and you can clearly see the gaps in the curriculum. We are the first to acknowledge that we could do more but we will need your help to do so. If you know (or are) a guru of gynaecology, a maven of mental health or a pro in the field of pre-hospital paediatrics then we can help you share your knowledge. And if you are none of those things but have something interesting or useful to say, or have spent hours working on an amazing talk to which only five people turned up, we can help you find your voice.
It looks like this article resonates with more than a few people.
Damian: Thanks for your post too – I agree that there is a big gap between multi-thinking and multi-tasking but it does require a concerted effort to remain present.
Simon: I’m glad we’ve helped motivate you to get some of your thoughts out of your head and into the great wide world.
Michelle: It’s amazing how you don’t miss it after a while. I seem to get more of kick from writing a good post than I do from watching late night television
Vic: Thank you, kindly. All of my germinations take place off-line and on paper – be they for posts or for talks – it frees me up from the distraction of wanting to look things up. It is also a form of revision on my part as I try and recall everything I can about a subject. If I could work out how to say “No” then that would be worth a post in itself.
Thanks for the post Andrew. I really liked the description of how your blog posts evolve, iteratively, using snippets of ideas and info ( which you write down)
The discipline of turning those random thoughts and ideas into a cohesive discussion / post is the hard part and that seems to be something that sets apart those of you with such high productivity.
That plus the headspace to be creative – and some of that is about saying ‘no’ to lots of other great projects
Keep it up for our sakes !
Yup, my productivity kicked it up a notch when I unplugged my cable TV subscription. I still have over the air TV basic stations, but TV can be a time-sink!
I’m slowly coming around to writing blogs etc as some on my presentations lead on to others topics/questions outside of it which I want to explore but hold back.
Great medium to scratch that itch.
Great points about social media & parenting (or lack of it). Staring at a cellphone screen for FOAMed or for reality TV catch-up doesn’t matter to our children. We’re still “absently present” regardless of our motivation.
Great article, seeds of my own one seem to be forming. Many thanks. @sonophysio
Love your quote about Brownian Motion. Think the concept of multi-thinking is common to many #FOAM-ers rolobotrambles.com/multithinking/