In this new installment in the “How I Work Smarter” series, we feature Dr. Rob Mac Sweeney (@CritCareReviews), who is the editor for the prolific and very popular blog Critical Care Reviews. Twitter fans nominated him: “Everyone would like to know how you manage to produce such a resource and find the time to breath!” and “Rob never sleeps. Can be no other explanation!” Rob has agreed to share his trade secrets on how he works smarter and seeming finds more time in the day than us mere mortals.

Rob Mac Sweeney - optimised

  • Name: Rob Mac Sweeney
  • Location: Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • Current job: Intensivist, Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast
  • One word that best describes how you work: Focused
  • Current mobile device: Some sort of HTC
  • Current computer: ASUS Ultrabook 13’

What’s your office workspace setup like?

I do virtually all my extra-curricular work at home. I keep my workspace sparse, just my laptop, notepad & pen, earphones, and coffee. Minimal distraction. Earphones to help me concentrate.

Rob's Workspace - Optimised

At work, I share a single office with the other intensivists. As a result, it’s busy and full of interruptions, so I only do what I have to there.

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

Be time focused – only allow a certain amount of time for each task. When that time is up, move onto the next task regardless. When work time is up, put it away. Work expands to fill the available time, so condense that time, work hard during that time, and have something non-work related planned to do afterwards.

When a new task is generated, I schedule time for it on my google calendar. I also use to-do and deadline lists, to help keep track of my projects.

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

I’m another zero in-box person. I get a lot of email with my literature scanning, so I need to be able to deal with it efficiently. I check my email at a few specific times during the day, as well as opportunistically if a couple of free minutes come up, but not when I’m in the middle of a task – then it becomes an interference and prevents me accomplishing what I need to in that time period.

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

Write less. It’s the digital age. Most information is already electronically collected, especially in an ICU. Duplicating it by transcribing it is a waste of time.

ICU Charting: Macros or no macros?

Macros – without doubt.

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

Spend time doing what you enjoy. Work hard and efficiently to free up as much of this time as you can.

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

I repeatedly get asked how I put together the weekly Critical Care Reviews Newsletter, which is a journal watch resource. I receive journal-emailed table of contents and e-published, ahead-of-print notifications, plus recurring database searches for specific topics. In addition, I manually check certain journals and use Twitter for other notifications. Every evening I scan what’s left in my inbox, picking out the relevant articles, which I add to the website. At the weekend, I combine these articles into the newsletter, based on a template saved on my site, so I’m not starting from scratch each time.

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

  1. Chris Nickson
  2. Oli Flower
  3. Scott Weingart
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