'Eat the frog' and other time-saving tips

Use recovery activities to decompress after shifts


This article originally appeared in the July 2021 EMS1 Editor's Picks newsletterClick here to subscribe.

With a 7 and a 5-year-old, my family is beginning to find our nights and weekends a moving target of sleepovers, athletics, birthday parties and carpools. With our youngest starting kindergarten in the fall, things won't be slowing down any time soon.

I’ve been reviewing the upcoming 2021 EMS Trend Report this week, and one of the insights is the rising focus on stress relief and mental health. As we all seek to manage our various priorities – giving our best to our work, our family and friends, and our own health – I’m sharing some of the tips I’m trying to incorporate into my days, to find balance. 

Have a time-saving tip that’s made a difference in your life? Share it with us at editor@ems1.com.  

As we all seek to manage our various priorities – giving our best to our work, our family and friends, and our own health – I’m sharing some of the tips I’m trying to incorporate into my days, to find balance.
As we all seek to manage our various priorities – giving our best to our work, our family and friends, and our own health – I’m sharing some of the tips I’m trying to incorporate into my days, to find balance. (Photo/Getty Images)

Check in: On yourself
We’ve seen some really great stress management tips as mental health experts have offered their guidance throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. I thought Mike Taigman really knocked it out of the park with the 5-step wellness checkup he penned for EMS1. Mike’s advice helps to reframe a negative situation, and contains manageable steps to take control of your health and wellness. His tips inspired me to add an early morning walk to my routine, ask Alexa to play more music while I’m cooking and to spend more time checking in with geographically-distant friends and family.

Eat the biggest, ugliest frog first
Years ago, a columnist submitted an article titled, “Eat a frog for breakfast,” based on the famous Mark Twain quote surmising that once you’ve eaten a frog, the rest of your day should be a breeze. Whenever I find myself with a looming deadline, or a project I’m not quite sure how to size up, I remember that tip: take the most challenging component, and tackle that first. Personal success author and speaker Brain Tracy riffs on Twain with this sentiment: “If you have to eat a live frog at all, it doesn’t pay to sit and look at it for very long.” Prevent stress in the first place by eliminating procrastination.

Take time for recovery activities
James Careless, in an article for EMS World, shared findings from a recent study in which researchers asked AMR employees to answer daily surveys about occupational stressors. The good news, Careless reported, is that researchers found specific actions we can take each day to improve our mental health. These include recognizing stressors as learning opportunities and taking the time for “recovery activities” after a stressful shift, like exercising, or sharing a meal with friends or family, which reduces depression symptoms.

Find a stress-reducing hobby that fits your downtime
I pretended not to notice the book and flashlight my oldest daughter was hiding in her bed last night, and I couldn’t have been more proud. Whether it’s happily passing the time spent waiting for an appointment, relaxing beach-side or a lovely distraction from the elliptical, everything is better with a good book. My favorite no-cost enabler to unwinding is the Overdrive app, which allows me to connect to my local library and download books and audiobooks right to my cellphone, so I’ve always got my next read in my pocket.

Don’t waste wait time
Whether it’s listening to an audiobook during your commute, checking in on a family member while waiting for a class to begin or scanning your inbox while in line at the grocery store, any time we can convert our time spent in a holding pattern to productivity is a time management win. In her article, “Hurry up and wait,” Tammie Bullard offers 5 ways medics can make use of their “wall” or “ramp” time at the hospital, from advocating for patients, to brushing up on service protocols or professional development education.

Take something off your plate
Finally, my hands-down, No. 1 lifehack: Shipt grocery delivery services. This has made life exponentially easier, as grocery shopping used to be a dreaded Sunday morning chore. I found I was either planning too many meals, and then something would come up, or too few, and relying on takeout by the end of the week. And with my youngest, it could be all bananas, all the time one day, and then nothing but kiwis the next. Shipt deliveries help me to plan healthy meals with fresh produce and to minimize food waste by shopping 2-3 times a week rather than trying to plan and stockpile a week’s worth of food at once.

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