In this new installment in the “How I Work Smarter” series, we managed to find one of Dr. Victoria Brazil’s (@SocraticEM) call-outs. Today we feature Dr. Natalie May (@_NMay), who is from Manchester, UK and is an active star blogger at St Emlyn’s. If you haven’t read it before, this is definitely a blog worth following. I like to think of ALiEM as the St Emlyn’s from across the pond. Natalie was kind enough to provide her insightful tips.

  • Name: Natalie May, MBChB
  • Natalie MayLocation: Manchester, UK
  • Current job: I’ve just finished my training in Emergency Medicine (residency equivalent) and am about to start work as a Consultant in Emergency Medicine. In the last four years, I’ve also been working towards an MSc in Emergency Medicine, completed a post-graduate certificate in workplace-based medical education, and passed my exit exams in addition to contributing to the St Emlyn’s blog – so there’s the day job (which is sometimes a night job) and a whole other job too.
  • One word that best describes how you work: Opportunistically!
  • Current mobile device: iPhone 5S
  • Current computer: Macbook Air 13 inch

What’s your office workspace setup like?

As a trainee I haven’t yet had my own office space at work so most of my productive non-clinical time is undertaken at home or utilising coffee shops/time on trains!

Where I Was When I Answered the Questions

I wrote this blog post on a train

My home office is a desk with a set of drawers and some organised folders of paperwork – but most of my life exists between my Google calendar, Macbook, a remote hard-drive (for archiving), online space through Dropbox/Googledocs (for mobile access to the most important things), and an old-fashioned notebook (for scribbling notes in one place).

My Desk in the Office at Home

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

Learn how you like to be organised by experimenting with different options (paper diary versus online versus Filofax) – develop a process that works for you, then invest time regularly in organising and planning. I love colour coding; my Google calendar has a variety of different calendars (work, study, teaching, social…). Each is colour coded and synched to my iPhone calendar so I recognise the division of my time at-a-glance. Each calendar has reminder functions set-up differently; every morning I get an email digest of items in the day’s “work” and “study” calendars, while for every entry in “birthdays” I get an SMS message 48 hours in advance, which I reckon is enough time to get a card in the post! I also know I like to have an A5 spiral-bound hardback notebook in my bag for impromptu scribbling of thoughts, blog post ideas and to-do lists.

Screen Capture of Google Calendar

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

Google Mail! I never delete anything, and I love the search function which has led me to try to make better use of subject lines so I can find things later. I use the favourite function and folders by topic to keep track of important stuff.

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

My slightly lame name-stamp which prints my full name and GMC number; I use it along with my signature in excess of 25 times a day and I think it saves me 10 seconds for every set of notes I am writing in while ensuring that my entries can be clearly attributable to me.

ED charting: Macros or no macros?

We use paper notes so no macros! But write clearly, logically and concisely – it’ll save you time in the long run in responding to complaints or incidents.

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

Keep a check on your time balance; most of your time should be spent on things you love/enjoy and/or are passionate about. Ask yourself why you’re spending time on anything else.

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

While the Myers-Briggs personality inventory is by no means perfect, it’s been a great platform for understanding more about the way I work and the areas I need to develop.

Having a longer-term plan or vision for my career has been really helpful in making tougher decisions about the way I spend my time – but flexibility with bigger-picture plans is one of the hardest lessons for me (an ENTJ) to learn – I don’t always get this right and I’m working on it!

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

  1. Tessa Davis
  2. Cliff Reid
  3. Lauren Westafer
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