In 2014-15, we hosted a “How I Work Smarter” (HIWS) series, led by Dr. Ben Azan, focusing on the individual strategies of high-performing, successful emergency physicians. After the conclusion of the series, Ben went one step further and recruited a team which included Drs. Marilyn Innes, Brent Thoma, myself, Alex Van Duyvendyk, Zafrina Poonja, and Teresa Chan to conduct a thematic analysis, which was just published in Cureus [open access full text].​1​ Although the content is from 2014-15 and many of the featured contributors have moved institutions with different roles, the themes and tips remain salient and informative in today’s era of digital and cognitive overload in the clinical and non-clinical environments.

how I work smarter thematic analysis

Conceptual Framework for the Thematic Analysis

A qualitative thematic analysis was conducted of the HIWS series content using a constructivist grounded theory approach. After coding 18 posts, thematic sufficiency was achieved, and the themes were summarized into a framework. Reading the highlighted quotes alone are worth a peek. You can also read each HIWS blog post in full using the links below.

Clinical Work

Non-Clinical Professional Work

Clinical communication

Non-clinical communication

Clinical efficiency

Non-clinical efficiency

Location and environment

Task management and prioritization

Tools and strategies for wellness


HIWS Blog Contributors

A wide variety of strategies, tools, mindsets, and words of advice are summarized within these themes from the featured contributors. The HIWS authors are as follows (in chronological order):

Read all of the installments in the series.


  1. 1.
    Azan B, Innes ME, Thoma B, et al. How I Work Smarter: A Qualitative Analysis of Emergency Physicians’ Strategies for Clinical and Non-clinical Productivity. Cureus. April 2019. doi:10.7759/cureus.4499
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