One word that best describes how you work?


Current mobile device

iPhone 12


MacBook Pro

What is something you are working on now?

Where do I begin? The pandemic has opened doors for virtual talks and conferences, so I’m just taking it week by week sometimes. I’m also doing a fellowship, the Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign Faculty Fellowship. I’m learning how to apply design thinking to well-being interventions in the ED, and hopefully collaborating with other high-performance teams. I am also co-directing a conference in May 2022 on High-Performance Resuscitation Teams.

How did you come up with this Idea/Project?

re: High-Performance Resuscitation Teams Conference, I have been attending the Mission Critical Teams Institute summits over the past several years. We wanted to create a conference focused on healthcare and high-performance teams. I’ve had the opportunity to center my areas of interests in Medical Education, Process Improvement (Quality and Clinical Operations), Recruitment (Diversity), and Well-being (Inclusion) through human-centered design. A natural area was focusing on team performance and professionalism under stress.

What’s your office workspace setup like?

I’m in the middle of 5 people-office space. I have a plant, some snacks, and a big monitor. I haven’t been there in months. My home office is somewhat similar.

What’s your best time-saving tip in the office or home?

Paper and pen writing of big deadlines in a week. I’ve tried calendaring after learning from Dr. Jennifer Kanapicki, though I have yet to develop the discipline to do this weekly. My coach offered an alternative, which is focusing on 3 big projects a week to focus my energy. This helps me put things in perspective, as opposed to having so many loose ends, and writing it down cognitively frees up memory space for me.

What’s your best time-saving tip regarding email management?

Quick run-through in the morning, and start deleting.

What apps do you use to keep yourself organized?

On Chrome: OneTab for all my tabs. Omnifocus for my to-do stuff. My calendar is a part of my life so my calendar is an extension of my brain. When2meet to find mutual availability for meetings plus My calendar with zoom links.

How do you stay up to date with resources?

Twitter. I know.

What’s your best time-saving tip in the ED?

Eyeball patients immediately so I have a sense of who’s sick and who’s not. Talk to the nurses. They know more about the patient most of the time. For the rest, I follow the mantra, “Quality care takes time,” and I am on the faster end of the dispositions in my group, as I’ve learned to be more comfortable with managing uncertainties.

ED charting: Macros or no macros?

No macros. I also don’t chart as much as I should. I write for the sake of documenting and not for billing. I’m OK with that. We can’t do it all.


  • What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about work, life, or being efficient?

    #selfcompassion. Can’t do everything perfectly. Show up. Learn to say no. The power of perspectives. In 1 week, 1 month, 1 year, 10 years will this really matter? This grounds me on how I tackle tasks and often the emotions surrounding deadlines.

  • What advice would you give other doctors who want to get started, or who are just starting out?

    Easier said than done, practicing self-compassion has allowed me to really develop a growth mindset. To start, simply doing a daily mindfulness practice of even 5-10 minutes. This trains my mind to slow things down when things become chaotic. This also trains me to be attuned to how my body reacts to stress, and therefore, tending to it whenever I notice these sensations (neck stiffening up, etc).

  • Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers?

    I may be doing a ton of stuff, and in the background, I’m doing a ton more and failing. For me, the more things I’m working on that I’m truly passionate about, the more I get done. I’m OK with failure, and whenever I do (and not if I do), these offer me a great opportunity to learn how to be better (or choose better opportunities). Last and also very important, I find the collaborations bring more meaning to my work.

Read other How I Work Smarter posts, sharing efficiency tips and life advice.

Al'ai Alvarez, MD

Al'ai Alvarez, MD

Section Editor, ALiEM Medical Student Home Page
Clinical Associate Professor
Director of Well-being
Co-Chair, The Human Potential Team
Department of Emergency Medicine
Stanford University School of Medicine