If you at all are at all involved with public health or digital education, it is hard not to know of and admire Dr. Megan Ranney (@MeganRanney), who is the Director and Founder of Brown University’s Emergency Digital Health Innovation (EDHI) program. She also has written several fantastic ALiEM posts about the importance of public health and safety nets in the field of emergency medicine. In the How I Work Smarter post by Dr. Ryan Radecki (@EMLitOfNote), he tags Megan as someone from whom we should all learn as a role model in efficiency and … just getting things done. Megan was kind enough to share her thoughts below.

  • RanneyMeganName: Megan Ranney, MD MPH
  • Location: Rhode Island Hospital/Brown University, Providence, RI
  • Current job: Attending emergency physician / public health teacher / director of the Brown Emergency Digital Health Innovation (EDHI) program
  • One word that best describes how you work: Happily
  • Current mobile device: Samsung Galaxy S4
  • Current computer: Macbook Air 14″; some Dell computer at my office; an HP computer for stats

What’s your office workspace setup like?

Ranney Office

Critical elements:

  1. My to-do lists. I work in lots of different places, so I keep track of my multiple ongoing projects through:
    1. A whiteboard: This is my “big picture”. I also color-code to remind myself of what’s urgent.
    2. Mac “sticky notes”: I have different notes for short-term must-do; lists of ongoing/pending/future projects; and lists of revisions I want/need to make for my grants.
    3. My gmail calendar: I block off time to achieve my “to do’s” in my calendar. If it’s not in my calendar, it is unlikely to get done. I’ve started to block writing time — being specific about WHAT I’m supposed to write! I am trying to block “me” time (exercise, anyone? :)) as well. I know that any time from 5:30-8:30 pm or on a weekend that’s not otherwise spoken for = family time, by default.
  2. Ranney KidsPictures of my kids. They remind me why I want to work efficiently!
  3. My devices. My can’t-live-without applications:
    • Twitter
    • Dropbox
    • Evernote
    • Stata
    • NVivo
    • And of course Word & the dreaded Powerpoint
    • And lately Houzz and Pinterest (I just bought a new house!)
  4. Lots of messy piles of articles to read someday. I keep thinking about going paperless. But I just can’t do it.
  5. Sustenance. My water bottle is in this picture – my friends know that I never go anywhere about it. Not visible are my candy (swiped from my kiddos) and my stash of granola bars.
  6. Beauty. I have a wonderful paper crane mobile over my desk that reminds me to take a deep breath and enjoy it all. I also have a nice collection of artwork from my 2 rugrats.

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

  • Give yourself defined blocks of time to achieve your tasks. If you know you have 1 hour, you’ll get it done in 1 hour.
  • Get as much sleep as you can. We all work more quickly when we’re rested. (I don’t always follow this one ;).)
  • Turn off your email on your phone whenever you can.
  • Remember: life is not about work. Get it done, so you can go enjoy the rest of it!
  • Do what you enjoy. It takes less time, and doesn’t feel like “work,” when you’re passionate about it.

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

Try to block off periods of time to deal with them. Once they build up, you’ll never emerge.

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

  • I do my medical decision making (MDM) as I go along. It helps to focus me and keep me on task.
  • Lists! (Do you sense a theme here?) Seriously though, I carry around a clipboard with me to keep track of who I’ve seen, who I’ve charted on, whose primary care physician (PCP) I still need to call, etc.
  • Take care of myself. If I have to pee, haven’t eaten all day, or haven’t sat in 8 hours, I will be way less efficient.

ED charting: Macros or no macros?

No macros. My MDM is how I remember the patients in my brain. Even if every back pain has ALMOST the same MDM… there’s always a little bit that’s different. And the sheer fact of typing “no signs/sxs of epidural abscess, cauda equina, trauma…” makes me double-check in my brain that they really don’t have signs or symptoms of these life threatening disorder.

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

Don’t try to do it all at once.
But always do your best.

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

One of the keys to my happiness and success is collaboration! I attribute easily 50% of my efficiency to having a great friend/peer mentor who sits right next to me 2-3 days a week. And another 30% is because of my colleagues around the country. We are all smarter when we work together. And it’s all more fun.

I also strongly recommend subverting old-school traditions. For instance, I’m not a golfer, but I do like pedicures; and I try to get a “work pedicure” with a female work-friend every month or so. It allows us to brainstorm and think big, while also taking care of ourselves.

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

  1. Chris Ross
  2. Deb Houry
  3. Brendan Carr
Benjamin Azan, MD

Benjamin Azan, MD

Emergency Physician
Lincoln Medical Center
Founder/Editor of foambase.org
Benjamin Azan, MD


ED attending in NYC, #FOAMed enthusiast, #MedEd, founder of https://t.co/29SO7xxO8X
Benjamin Azan, MD

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