Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Keeping Your Equanimity in 2016

2016 is a year when CIOs will feel even more overwhelmed than last year - demand will exceed supply (no matter what your budget), the pressure to deliver faster/cheaper/better will accelerate, and security concerns will dominate the agenda.   I’ve been asked how I maintain my equanimity given all that is going on.

Every year I refine the guiding principles that keep my life in order.   Here’s the 2016 edition:

1.  Minimize lost time - There are 168 hours in a week and I must use them wisely.   Commuting time in cars and planes is not very efficient.   How many meetings do we attend every year in person that could be done equally well by conference call or webinar?  Sure, there are some meetings that require in person contact to build trust or resolve a controversy, but many standing meetings, especially those which are largely presentation-based, can be done without the commute and parking hassles so common in today’s metropolitan areas.   Similarly, what is the time cost of a flight in the modern era?    An hour commute to the airport, arrival 1.5 hours before the flight so that you can navigate security lines and baggage handling, then waiting for the inevitable 1 hour flight delay that translates into commuting heroics upon arrival to get your meeting on time.   An entire day can be lost flying to and from a one hour presentation.    In 2016, I will minimize lost time by opening a new community-based IT office for my staff working on projects in suburban areas.   That new facility will be filled with  swing spaces and ad hoc meeting rooms that provide infrastructure to those who do not physically need to be in a downtown location.    Teleconferencing and virtual presentations will be encouraged.    Although I must be in Boston 2 days a week for such things as in person Board meetings, I will work in the new community office 3 days a week, eliminating about 10 hours per week of unproductive car time.    Similarly, I will limit air travel to impactful events - meetings with industry, government or academic leaders in a forum where discussion, rather than pure presentation, requires a personal presence.    I hope to reduce my time in airports by at least 10 hours a month in 2016.

2.  Do satisfying work each day  - I’ve written previously that there is no difference between my job and my life.   It’s not as if I’m an IT professional 9am-5pm then hand off the responsibilities to someone else.     All I can ask for is having a legacy of past activities that I feel good about, having satisfying work each day, and looking forward to future challenges.  In 2016 my international work will focus on (in alphabetical order) Canada/China/Japan/New Zealand/UK where I’ll do policy and technology education for government leaders.   My US national work will focus on writing about the challenges and opportunities facing the new president.    My regional/local work will focus on innovation projects such as embracing the internet of things, patient/family engagement, and advanced analytics in the BIDMC Health System.

3.  Family comes first - My family is also a continuous responsibility.   I am a father/husband/son 24x7x365.    In 2016 I will help my daughter (who is getting married in May) establish a self reliant future.   I will help my wife with fulfilling activities supported by the tools and infrastructure she needs.  I will help my mother with fulfilling activities in a stress free living environment (her one story home in California which I maintain).

4.  Be well - My personal physical and mental health directly impacts my ability to be productive.   I will continue to be a decaffeinated, substance free, vegan and get my daily exercise from the rhythm of running a farm with 150 animals and 15 acres of agriculture.   In my professional and personal lives I will continuously improve life processes to reduce anxiety/stress while also engaging in constant learning and experimentation such as the University of Massachusetts Sustainable Food and Farming certificate program.

5.  It takes a village - we often hear about the impending collapse of modern society and the need to become self sufficient.   I do not believe in the concept of self sufficiency.  I believe we need to work together as a community to maximize our self reliance, recognizing our dependence on each other.    I may grow 50% of my food, but I still need others in the community to supply the seeds, the tools, and the electricity I use in the process.  The same thing can be said of healthcare.  There is no way for a clinician to enter 114 structured data items per encounter of which 71 are user-documented (at BIDMC) in support of Meaningful Use, Quality Measures, and Alternative Payment Models.   We need a team of caregivers, IT professionals, and patients to gather the data needed to maximize safety, quality, and efficiency.   The only way any of us can get through the day is to spread the strain in a thin layer over many people.

If I can meet the needs of my professional life with a lot of help from my friends, help my family achieve their goals, and end each day with my physical and mental agility intact, equanimity will follow.

May all of you keep your optimism and your livers intact in 2016 despite the challenges.

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