In the first post for the “How I Work Smarter” series, I called out Dr. Esther Choo (@choo_ek), who then called out superstar educator Dr. Lainie Yarris (@lainieyarris) from OHSU. A quick Pubmed search of her name scrolls on and on, that I can’t even do justice about summarizing. Oh, and did I mention that she’s also the residency director for her department’s EM program? She was featured on a recent EM Match Advice Google Hangout video. Lainie kindly shares her secrets on working smarter.

  • YarrisName:  Lainie Yarris, MD, MCR
  • Location: Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon
  • Current job: Associate Professor, Residency Director, Education Research Co-Fellowship Director
  • One word that best describes how you work: Erratically!
  • Current mobile device: iPhone 4
  • Current computer: Macbook Air

What’s your office workspace setup like?

Desk, two computer screens, sticky notes on desktop with ongoing things-to-do lists, and paper master next action list. I use both paper and electronic filing systems, but have a scanner and am transitioning to paperless.


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

Do the most important tasks first. And take advantage of your “best” time for your most important tasks – I am most focused, creative, and efficient in the early mornings. When I have a big deadline or am behind, sometimes I will come into the office at 5 am. I find I can accomplish more in 3 hours in the early morning than I can in an entire workday if I come in from 9 am to 5 pm.

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

Do not open your email until you have time to process it, and process it immediately.  Either delete, take action, or flag for follow up.  Save email time for when you need a mental break. Batch email processing, and don’t constantly check during the day.

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

Do everything the first time you are in the room, if possible!  Also, mentally run your list/board frequently and batch tasks.

ED charting: Macros or no macros?


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

No matter how efficient you are, we all have more things to do than we can ever accomplish. You can’t always control the tasks that come your way, but you can control your response to them, and what you choose to do first (which sometimes means what you choose to do at all!). Figure out what means the most to you in your life, and schedule those things in first, along with things that are necessary for your health and well-being (sleep, family time, exercise, etc.) Prioritize work tasks in the order of importance/urgency/passion, and fit them in next. Relationships (work-related as well as those outside of work) are always more important than projects and accomplishments, protect and nurture them.

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

I like the Getting Things Done method of time management, and also find good tips and resources on  (I have no affiliation with either).

Who would you love for us to track down to answer these same questions?

  • Craig Newgard, MD, MPH
  • Chris Ross, MD
  • Teresa Chan, MD
Michelle Lin, MD
ALiEM Founder and CEO
Professor and Digital Innovation Lab Director
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of California, San Francisco
Michelle Lin, MD


Professor of Emerg Med at UCSF-Zuckerberg SF General. ALiEM Founder @aliemteam #PostitPearls at Bio:
Michelle Lin, MD