I have known thought-leader and star speaker Dr. Rob Rogers from the University of Maryland for many years now as we have often crossed paths on the national lecture circuits. He has launched many successful innovative educational endeavors such as the EM:RAP Educators Edition podcast series (way before podcasts were cool). Now Rob is leading the charge as the Course Director for The Teaching Course, a premiere conference to mentor today’s and tomorrow’s leaders in medical education. Nominated for this Working Smarter series by Ken Milne, Rob has kindly sent in his secrets to world domination.

  • RogersName: Rob Rogers, MD
  • Location: Work in Baltimore, MD and live in Ellicott City, MD
  • Current job: Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine, Director of the Teaching Course, Co-founder of The Teaching Institute (an educational think tank based on social media and FOAMed), and co-creator of the iTeachEM blog and podcast
  • One word that best describes how you work: Multitasking is key
  • Current mobile device: iPhone 5S, soon to be iPhone 6+
  • Current computer: Macbook Air

What’s your office workspace setup like?

Rogers Office Space

Well, I work only overnight shifts, so I really don’t have an office. I do have a home office (when my kids let me use it). I have an iMac and a Macbook Air that are usually running in tandem with one another. Add a Heil podcasting mic, and the office is complete. Notice that the workspace includes a picture of a small boy standing at the beach, with a quote at the bottom: “Priorities: A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove… but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” I look at it every day I work in my home office.

Priorities Picture


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

One of the main issues people face when doing office work is that they quickly get inundated with incoming emails, texts, etc. These quickly evolving tasks tend to displace the tasks that you woke up to conquer that day. If you let them, these tasks can eat up your entire day, and at the end, you get nothing done. It can be very frustrating.

My biggest timesaving tip in the office is to take care of the “major tasks” first. If your major task for the day is to write the outline of a new article or to write a blog post, then take care of those before moving on to checking email or other less important tasks. A common mistake is to take care of a lot of the little things and neglect the “big ones.” I learned this many years ago from a book entitled,” The One Minute Manager.” Great read.

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

Emails flood our lives and can take over our identities if we let them. If you are to be successful you must find a way to navigate the busy waters of email management. I also agree that a zero inbox is critical. The issue for me is I can rarely get there. In fact, quite frankly, I stink at it. It’s a great goal, but I frequently fall short. My one big pearl here is the “I’ll answer later” trap. This is a huge pitfall in which we are pretty much ready to respond to an email but because we want to move on we say to ourselves,” I’ll answer later.” The problem is that today quickly becomes tomorrow, and before you know it a week has gone by and you still haven’t responded. Resist the temptation to answer “later” and simply knock out the email. The other important thing I have started doing is not answering email several times a day. I am a checker. I am always checking my phone for emails, texts, and my Twitter stream. My wife thinks I need therapy for this. I probably do. Someone much wiser than me (Dave Manthey) recommended many years ago that I reduce the email checking… By the way, I still haven’t accomplished this. My email is a mess.

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

I think charting as you go is a must. Many folks save up documenting until the end of the shift, but I think that is a death trap. At all costs (well, maybe not all), I get my charting done throughout the shift. Eating and drinking is also crucial, as not taking care of your body during a shift is a sure fire way to decrease your productivity and efficiency.

ED charting: Macros or no macros?

We currently use a paper T-sheet system. It’s not perfect, but it works. Sounds like next year we are going all computerized.

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

  • Be early for shifts, meetings, lectures, and anything else in life. Being early is a good thing. It’s an adaption of “If you’re not first you’re last” (credit to Will Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights). In this case, it’s “If you’re not early, you’re late.”
  • Take care of your family. Someday when you are sitting on your front porch in a rocking chair thinking about the “good ole days” you aren’t going to have thoughts of “I wish I had written one more paper or traveled for one more lecture.” You will wish you had spent more time with family, children, and friends. We only get one chance at life, and if I have to choose between family and being a productive academic emergency physician… guess what I am giving up?
  • Help other people and focus on growing their careers. We all get caught up in self-preservation and career growth, but helping others is where the action is. I have found that my career happiness has increased exponentially by helping others. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, sincerely congratulate people who accomplish things in their life and avoid, at all costs, jealousy. It’s toxic. You will be so much stronger as an individual and a leader by making people feel good about their accomplishments. I teach my kids this, and I think it’s a very valuable lesson for all of us.
  • Add “positive energy” to the planet. Not to be too philosophical, but the world can be a negative place. Lift people up and try to be positive- it’s tough sometimes, but you will be so much happier in your career and life if you add in just a splash of positivity.
  • Check your calendar very carefully before accepting speaking engagements. This is absolutely critical.
  • Don’t ever, ever, ever choose speaking over your child’s birthday or your spouse’s birthday, or any important date. Let the conference organizers know you can’t make it and why. There is nothing worse than being away and missing these important events. You can’t get time back–EVER! And you will feel miserable while you are away. Life is filled with special moments, and your job is to capture as many of those as you can. Speaking at a conference during your daughter’s recital or birthday is, in my opinion, just plain stupid.

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

I completely agree with Swami: learn the art of saying no. This can be tough early on but it will save you a lot of grief. Learn it and learn it well! If you say yes to something and you don’t have a good feeling about it, there is probably a reason. You should have politely declined. It’s ok to say yes early on in your career, but you should definitely fine tune your ability to use the most powerful phrase in the English language… “no.”

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

  1. Mike Winters
  2. Daniel Cabrera
  3. Mike Bond
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 https://t.co/50EapJORCa Bio: https://t.co/7v7cgJqNEn
Michelle Lin, MD