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Dr. Subaila Zia is a physician entrepreneur. She is the Founder and CEO of Telemedora, a Silicon Valley based telehealth company which aims to make quality pulmonary, critical care and sleep services accessible to patients and hospitals.

As Steve Jobs said, “The most precious resource we all have is time.” We have to do everything to be protective of our time. 

When I was contemplating whether it was the right time to pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, I was already running lean on time while working as a pulmonary/critical/sleep physician covering multiple hospitals and two sleep centers — with additional administrative responsibility as the Medical Director of Sleep Medicine.  I couldn’t fathom how I would manage to travel to St. Louis for school, do business residencies (including an international one), complete assignments, and pass exams.  My dad asked me: “How do you know that the timing will be better next year? If you really want an MBA, you will make time for it. It’s all in your state of mind!” 

This changed my mindset about time. I enrolled in business school. In order to thrive everywhere, I adopted a number of time saving skills to maximize my output. These allowed me to finish my MBA in a timely manner. Within a year or so, three pulmonologists left the area resulting in an enormous and unexpected increase in workload. So, I realized that my dad was right. Had I not signed up for a MBA then there would have been no chance to sign up for it in the years to come. 

Time for the things we love.

Here are the top 14 time management hacks that helped me manage my time as a doctor and an entrepreneur:

  1. Set boundaries: Before accepting any project or invite, learn to ask every time: what value is this going to add to my life? 
  2. Be mindful of Parkinson’s law: “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” Before starting my MBA, weekends were spent completing my work or being on call. Once I started my MBA, the weekends that I was not on call were dedicated entirely to studies while work got completed during weekdays using my time saving tricks.  
  3. Use time boxing: I used time boxing for preparing assignments and presentations. Each task was given a fixed timebox in my calendar for its completion. If the task was not done during that time, I moved to the next task.
  4.  Invest in self-care: Take care of yourself. Adults need at least 7-8 hours of sleep daily to repair and rejuvenate. Whatever you invest in your health now, your ROI will be 10x for many years to come. 
  5.  Limit distractions: I limited checking emails to 2-3 times/day and used each minute at the office to finish work. 
  6.  Break tasks into small pieces: Small bites allow mindful eating. Similarly, I found that breaking down tasks into small pieces allows for mindful working. It makes tasks look achievable psychologically and reduces procrastination. 
  7.  Work smarter in addition to working harder: Prioritize tasks according to urgency and value-add. Improving typing speed and batching similar tasks together helps. 
  8.  Plan ahead:  Be realistic when planning your day ahead by setting aside time for unforeseen things in your schedule.
  9.  Delegate:  If possible, get comfortable using automation for delegating minor tasks. I love the Calendly.com app — it allows me to share my calendar for meeting availability, and saves time writing emails back and forth. 
  10.  Beware the social media time pit: Track and limit the amount of time you spend on social media. You can schedule downtime.
  11.  Go with a minimalistic wardrobe: Decision fatigue is real! Limiting my wardrobe to 5-6 pieces of clothing for work eliminates time spent in decision-making regarding what to wear. 
  12.  Knock out the hardest task first: Don’t fall in the procrastination trap. If you don’t check off the most challenging task first, you increase the chances that it will be left for the next day.
  13.  Get up quickly: Once you are awake, get out of bed within five minutes. The more you stay in bed, the chances are that you will still be in bed 10 minutes later.  
  14.  Avoid drama: Let go. You don’t have to respond to each and every negative thing. Pick your battles very carefully. Remove yourself from toxic people and toxic environments. You will save lots of energy. Stay focused.

It’s up to us to make the best use of time we have. Your plate is never too full for things that you love. Enjoy your entrepreneurship journey. Write your own success story. Remember you only get one chance to be a first-time entrepreneur. Now go out there and smash everyone’s expectations so people know that you have arrived. 

To learn more, drop a line to Telemedora.


Shaista S. said:

Thank you this is definitely helpful especially letting go of the things that do not add value ie drama and putting that energy into one’s focus. Of course sleep as well is important to set up your day for success. Love the wardrobe too too!

Nasreen Shakil said:

Excellent job,Dr.Zia.

Atiya Waheed said:

Hi Subaila, lovely to see you thrive!
Useful info and except a couple I almost follow majority tips. I can’t keep my wardrobe too simple. I love to dress up and it helps brighten up the day for people around me.

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