Julie Funt is the CEO of Juliet Funt Group and author of A Minute to Think, which describes the importance of metaphoric white space in everyone’s regular schedule. Her firm provides efficiency training to change the way we work, making it more sane, more human, and a more positive experience for all. In this Business of Functional Medicine episode, Kristen Brokaw speaks with Juliet about how this concept applies to the medical field, and we learn from the author some practical habit adjustments that can create more productive “white space”.

Download and listen to the full conversation to learn more about:

  • Why we need white space to be creative, productive and decisive
  • Studies showing how small breaks improve performance
  • Why pushing harder does NOT always equal better results
  • Practical tips to conquer busyness and communicate efficiently
  • And much more!


Business of Functional Medicine: Declutter Your Mental Space | Ep 286


James Maskell: This broadcast is brought to you by the Evolution of Medicine’s Practice Accelerator. For more than six years, we’ve helped doctors and health professionals build their own low-overhead, high-technology practice, making it efficient and effective at bringing in patients, educating them consistently, getting the right technology stack and building a strong, sustainable practice. If you want to find out more about the Practice Accelerator, go to goevomed.com/accelerator.

Kristen Brokaw:
Well, hello Juliet. Thank you for joining us today. This is Juliet Funt. Juliet Funt, you are with the Juliet Funt Group, and you have recently written a book called A Minute to Think, and we’re going to talk about how that really applies to physicians and really humans. But frankly, I think the book should be called If You’re Human and You Feel Busy or Overwhelmed: This Is Your Book. Was that too long?

Juliet Funt:
It was too long. We couldn’t get it on cover. Yeah, too long.

Kristen Brokaw:
So, why don’t we start there with who you are?

Juliet Funt:
Sure. Who am I? I’m a mother and a baker, but I’m sure you’re talking about other things. So, I have been a keynote speaker for about 22 years. So, 10 years ago, we started a company based on the work that I was teaching and consulting in the early days, and that company’s called the Juliet Funt Group. And last year, I put out a book with Harper Collins called A Minute to Think, which was the summary of all of the work that we do, which is changing the conditions of daily work for people. How do we make work more sane, humane, balanced, effective? And how do we make it less miserable for human beings to have to go to the thing they call their job? And we’ve been doing that in a number of ways for quite a long time. Of course, the last two to three years have been a fascinating new horizon of what it means for work to be optimized, and the challenges just keep unfolding.

Kristen Brokaw:
Well, so that’s exactly… let’s start there. We now are in a day where—and it’s been this way for a while—but where work and home are blended. Unscheduled time is considered wasted time—the thought of pushing harder means better results. But it’s interesting because you say we’ve consented to this. This is something that we’ve just agreed to. And you say things like if only activity and productivity were synonymous, but in fact they’re not.

Juliet Funt:
Yeah, they’re not. That’s a really good place to start. So, people think that activity is the same as productivity, but productivity is to produce, to make something of value. So, when you are flying through the day on 37 Zoom calls and checking boxes and sending in reports that nobody really reads or needs, nothing is being produced. And I know we’re going to be toggling back and forth between the corporate speak that I’m so comfortable with in the world of doctors, but if you’re in constant motion, checking off any tasks—it doesn’t matter if the task is check on those labs or make a report for the CEO—it’s task oriented and it’s transactional. And it’ll keep you moving on the whitewater ride of that adrenaline: I’m going, I’m checking, I got my coffee. But to stop and really think about which of those things produced something of value, that’s a completely different filter.

Kristen Brokaw:
You even bring up examples in the book of someone like Bill Gates and how he took… We all know that that guy is not some kind of slacker. And even Charles Darwin. You bring up those examples of what they did to take a minute to think.

Juliet Funt:
To create their thinking time. Their stories will fit well underneath basically the foundational metaphor of this book and everything that we care about is that of building of fire. So, we should really just begin with: think about building a fire and think about the things you need. You need good wood, you need something dry and crunchy like pine needles or pine cones, and you need probably newspaper to cover the grate. But if you miss one thing, you will never ever ignite a fire. And that is the space in between the combustibles. And that idea of we as people, we as workers, we as professionals need to be oxygenated. We need space around us. That’s our mission. For you to be able to take a minute to think, or a minute to breathe, or a minute to become objective, or a few seconds to gather your emotions. These are the interstitial moments of space that make it all just a little more manageable. And then also a bonus at the end of the day, a little more effective and efficient and clear and creative because the mind is having those reboot moments throughout the day.

Kristen Brokaw:
It sounds so starry-eyed and idyllic, right?

Juliet Funt:
I get that so many times.

Kristen Brokaw:
But it’s not something anyone’s used to. And you state in the book, you said it’s almost like we need permission to pause. And I’m going to prove to you, as you do, that your constant push, push, push is actually detrimental. And you give statistics around it.

Juliet Funt:
Oh yeah, and studies. There’s a lot.

Kristen Brokaw:
And studies. Let’s talk about it.

Juliet Funt:
The Journal of Cognition did a study where they took four groups of people and they had them do one task for 50 minutes. One of the four groups took two small breaks in the course of that 50 minutes. They were the only group that maintained a consistent effort and level of excellence throughout. Wall Street Journal studied computer workers. They found that, when they took small breaks, that they had 13% higher accuracy in the work that they were doing. The brain is weary when we just keep making it go and go and go in this pressured way. But the solution doesn’t have to be big, unrealistic stretches. You said it sounds so starry-eyed. I’m not talking about sitting for 40 minutes of starry-eyed space. I’m talking about when you take 30 seconds.

I told you just before we got on the phone that I got a rough email from somebody. And it’s a perfect example of… I got a rough email, and my mind said, “Shake it off. Podcast time.” But I took, it couldn’t have even been five seconds, to just stop for a minute and say, “Ouch, that felt bad. I felt misunderstood by that person.” Now, if I ingest that feeling or that moment, I process it, I move through it, I’m finished. If I don’t, that little nasty email is sitting underneath every minute of our conversation because you can’t make it go away. You can just push it down. So, these little sips of space can come in so many different flavors and utilizations. It’s not just rest or creativity. There’s a lot of it, a lot of variations.

Kristen Brokaw:
Okay, that’s a perfect segue into Dr. Frank. You talk about him in the book.

Juliet Funt:
Love him. Yes.

Kristen Brokaw:
And so, he said and he taught his residents that… I mean, this is just so right for the doctors, but he taught his residents that before you go into every patient room, so that you’re not carrying the “vapor trail” from the previous patient because I’m sure this was a heavy conversation you just had with that patient. So, this gentleman, this doctor, would pause and regain himself emotionally and cognitively before he went in. So, let’s talk about that.

Juliet Funt:
Just for a couple seconds. And a lot of his residents said it was the most valuable thing they learned in their entire education, was just to stop outside the room and just pause. He also was a guy who docked workers who took a working lunch break. If they didn’t take a designated lunch break and really go away and relax and eat and enjoy their food and come back refreshed, then he would dock their pay. And it was a little bit facetious, but it was also because he knew the difference. He really, really appreciated the strategic pause. And this is a doctor from a little small kind of farmish town who you wouldn’t think was particularly insightful about novel workflows, but he had a sense that, when you’re in motion all the time, you’re simply not present. And you can’t be a good doctor if you’re not present.

Kristen Brokaw:
Okay. So, let’s keep digging into this a little more because, if I’m just a person in corporate America or if I’m a doctor, I’m still not convinced: “Yes, yes, Juliet, that sounds great, but I am seeing difficult cases. I have a perception as a physician or a clinician that I have to have all of the answers.” And what do we say to these people who are probably even doing unnecessary tasks? So, let’s kind of get them to start evaluating their day.

Juliet Funt:
Here’s what you say. You say, “Show me a person who’s accomplished a lot, and I will show you a person who takes thinking time for granted.” You can’t go through the people that you esteem and find that they’re just in a whirlwind of motion all day long. And this tends to really hold true for people, that we are drawn to thoughtful people. We admire them. We admire their stamina, their creativity, their insight. We admire the fact that they can become objective about themselves by reflecting. But then somehow on our route that we give ourselves to become those people, we don’t want to take that minute because it feels scary to not be in motion. But there are financial reasons to do it. I can walk you through some of the waste in companies. There are neurological reasons to do it. We talked about the default neural network of the brain cannot operate when it’s on that pressed… You wouldn’t redline a Porsche the way you redline your own brain. And there are creative opportunities.

One of the things we heard about from one of the scientists that we studied in the book was there’s this wonderful thing called beneficial forgetting. And beneficial forgetting means that when you step away from something, a problem that you’re trying to solve and crack and how can I figure this out, you beneficially forget your previous orientation, and you come back slightly fresher. So, imagine a doctor, especially a doctor in functional or alternative medicine, trying to figure out what is happening with this person. Unexplained symptoms, they’ve been to the doctors for 10 years, they’ve tried everything, they’re still in pain or uncomfortable or have a problem. We need that sense of… I would imagine that the doctor would benefit enormously from beneficial forgetting, to keep coming back fresh and seeing it with new eyes. So, there’s so many reasons. And I think the biggest one probably is just the way that you will feel if you try it. If you try a day where you interlace a little more space, I bet at the end of the day you’ll be a convert, even if you’re a type a go-go skeptic because it just feels different. The whole day feels different.

Kristen Brokaw:
Well, yes, as someone who knows physicians very well, they are under a sea of unrelenting requests. They come out of a room, and their staff are like, “Wait, patient so and so called.” This and this and this and this. So, I think you’ve laid a good foundation that it’s costing us a lot more than money. It’s definitely costing us our brain. It’s costing us our creativity. Probably—

Juliet Funt:
I mean, now I’m speaking outside of my expertise, and you can correct me. But it isn’t the most important thing a physician can do is to be clearheaded? Their gift is, “I’m going to figure it out.” And bonus on the side, “I’m going to be loving while I do it,” which also is helped by space. But that gift of, “Please figure me out. Please help me figure this out,” requires a clear head. And so, I see it as a resetting these little, tiny minutes. A resetting in between challenges, in between patients, in between distractions to give the next patient the gift of a clear mind to figure them out. Isn’t that what they’re supposed to do, is please figure me out? I think I told you this, that we have two out of our five members of our family have gone on the route of traditional medicine not working for us and needing to go to someone either functional or alternative and say, “Can you figure me out?” That’s all we want is someone to go, “Oh, I know what this is.”

Kristen Brokaw:
Do they report a better experience?

Juliet Funt:
One of them did, and one of us is still early in that process. But just the fact that you go into that kind of process, which for us was very expensive and definitely outside the realm of what we’re used to. I mean, this is veering into a different topic, but clearly many people are very disappointed in what they can find going to their regular doctor. And so, we’re all searching. Many people are searching for other things. But what I was trying to get to is that the hope that I feel sitting in the waiting room of that next doctor is, “Please be able to figure this out.” If I’m a patient who has had odd or confusing or undiagnoseable symptoms, my hope is, “Please be able to figure this out. Please lean back and go, ‘Oh yeah, I know what this is. This is because you live near a golf course, and they’re spraying pesticide on the golf course and you’re breathing it in.'” Or, “I know what this is. This is because you don’t eat anything when you first wake up in the morning, and you have too much stomach acid or whatever and so you have a bad belly.” We’re just hoping you figure it out. And I believe that space will help you do that.

Kristen Brokaw:
Absolutely. Absolutely. I just want to talk about space for their staff. So, this, again, you even gave some examples in the book that what priceless opportunity or innovation is maybe the team walking over because of their busyness. So, I have been in many doctor’s offices, and they do not seem idle. So, is there any example that you could give about even just teams being afforded the time?

Juliet Funt:
Sure. And the word idle. Let’s just unpack the emotions around the word idle. How negative, right, to be idle. How lazy or slothful or wasteful to be in idle hands. What is it? Devil’s work? Idle hands are the devil’s playground. I can’t remember what it is, but it’s something to do with the devil. So, this is how we think of a pause. Now, if you look at it in a different way, we call it a strategic pause, not an idle pause, not a lazy pause. To take a strategic pause means: I need to reflect, or I need to step back, or I have the whisper of a creative idea and I need to follow it guilt-free to see where it leads, or I’m weary. So these places that we take pauses are very, very strategic. Now I’ve been in a lot of waiting rooms in my life, and you can feel the difference of a staff that’s running versus a staff that can stop and really meet your eyes.

I think a lot of… I’ve experienced a high percentage of medical offices as places where people are really present. But I know that they suffer a lot of pain from those pretending-to-be-present moments because the minute they walk around that corner, it’s sometimes frenzy. And if we can comment a little bit, we’re not trying to get doctors to give their staff 20 minutes of space, 10 minutes of space. We’re just talking about a slight lightening of the cadence. So, whether that means looking at the very limited time that they may interact with email or technology and lightening some of that, whether it means looking at the appointment schedule and really figuring out what’s sane and humane. I’m stepping outside of my primary expertise, but just to look, just to look at what makes up the musicality of our day. And is it all, “bam-bam-bam,” or is there any room for humanity in it?

Kristen Brokaw:
Excellent. Let’s actually talk about the tools. So, in the last section you say, “Okay, great. Here’s some tools that I’m going to give you.” And let’s first start with the wedge.

Juliet Funt:
Yes. The wedge is everybody’s favorite. We call it the Beyonce of the content because it’s just the most… Everybody loves it. So, the wedge is so simple. And this is a tool that any… I don’t care what job you have. You can use the wedge. It’s just a wedge. Imagine… It’s going to be audio only, so imagine my fingers are pointed upward like a steeple. It is a wedge of time that you insert in between two activities that, without it, it would’ve been connected. And you are opening, inserting and opening, inserting and opening. So, maybe a minute between getting that email that I got and walking back in to do the podcast. Maybe it’s the two minutes between walking out of a difficult patient and walking into the next. Maybe it’s the 30 seconds between you pull into your own driveway and turn off the keys filled with all the junk from the day and actually walking into your family. Or in a corporate environment, between a meeting and a meeting, between ending one project and picking up the next. These little sips of time. They begin to just open up and oxygenate, and there’s no one that can’t take a wedge. I don’t care what you do for a living.

Kristen Brokaw:
Absolutely. There’s something that I like to do when I get home from the day is I always put all my stuff down in the counter. And then I go get the dog leash, and I go walk the dog. And it is my favorite time of the day because then I feel when I come back, I can actually eat or whatever and then go back to doing the things that I need to do to prepare for the next day. But I used to beat myself up and say, “Oh, I should just keep going.” And so now, thanks to you, I have complete permission to walk my dog and not check email while I do it.

Juliet Funt:
Yes, don’t even take the phone. Permission is really the critical word that we want to focus on. It’s the only thing that needs to shift for many people. It’s not the skill to take a minute to think, it’s the permission. It’s the changing the self-definition around those words that I rattled off: lazy, idle, doing nothing to refueling, refocusing, becoming objective, recalibrating, following creativity, being smarter, pursuing meaning. These are different words. If we can reframe in our minds what taking a minute to think or a minute to breathe or rest or step back is about, then I believe that even the high type-A skeptics can understand.

Look at Jack Welsh who built GE. There’s not a person in the world who’s more type A than him. He used to spend an hour a day in what he called looking out of the window time. Bill Gates, you mentioned, obviously mega successful, driven. Two weeks a year went off for his think weeks. And he would lock himself up in an isolated cabin, and he would have nothing interrupting him except for two meals a day that were delivered and a fridge full of diet Orange Crush. And that’s the only thing that was there except for him and his thoughts and 80 million things he wanted to read and mull over and digest. We see these high achieving people have thinking rituals because they understand the value of thinking time.

Kristen Brokaw:
Yeah. Doing less actually can produce more, at times, is essentially what you’re saying. So, I wanted to go through something else where you say schedule time to worry. And this almost seems like then taking the wedge and intentionally pausing could be possible because I know I’m not dropping any balls because it’s going over here. The worry is going over here. So, let’s talk to a physician on how you could tell them to do something like that.

Juliet Funt:
Well, the way that you just summarized it made it seem a little bit like you need two containers. So, I’ll tell you the worry technique in a minute, but you sort of sounded like you were talking more about all the junk from my professional day, and I need to think about that. That would be planning or strategy or just what we call flow time, just going through lists of things that you want to consider. The worrying instruction in the book comes from a little bit of a different angle, which is sometimes the actual worries and fears of life. Not business planning stuff, but financial insecurity, worry about a loved one, fear of the future, trouble in your marriage. There are human things that we are distracted by in the day, and they crawl in and they take our white space. We haven’t defined the term yet, but we use white space as a catchall term for this kind of space. And the reason it’s white is it came from looking at paper calendars back in the day of executive coaching where if there was white unplanned time on a day, we knew that that day would be relaxing and have lots of possibilities. So, the white space literally is what we’re going for.

What I have found really, really helpful for me, and I always say I come from a long line of worriers, is to have a time in the day where I have an appointment for say 10 minutes. Let’s say someone I love is ill, or let’s say something’s going wrong in the business. I sit down, and I have that appointment to worry about it every day. And if it comes to me in other times, just like a vendor poking their head in the door, I can say, “You’re already scheduled. I’ll see you at your appointed time and not right now.” And you can return again and again to being present because you know that a container has been provided to worry about that thing. And it can be very, very nurturing to people. I’m sure that doctors have a lot of emotionality that they have to compartmentalize in their work, and this can be a wonderful tool to help with that.

Kristen Brokaw:
Okay. Thank you for clarifying. I don’t think we would be thorough if we didn’t go through the thieves.

Juliet Funt:
Hm. Okay, good. Thieves of time.

Kristen Brokaw:
And I like them because this is… Well, it’s almost fun to go, “Which one am I? Which one’s my main one?” Almost like what’s my love language? What’s my main…?

Juliet Funt:
Yep. We actually have a developmental assessment that we give our corporate clients who go through these thieves. So, your idea of linking them to personality is really spot on. The thieves are assets at work that tend to overgrow. So, they’re all good things, but they have a tendency to become larger than they should be and to steal our time and focus and resources. So, the thieves are: drive, excellence, information and activity. And if you really parse apart the pressures of work and the melee and craziness that makes us feel so overloaded, it usually comes from one of those four things whispering in our ears.

Drive will say, “Plan more projects. Go for more income. Drive top-line revenue. Hire more people.” Excellence will say, “Get every little detail right. Make sure the marketing materials are beautiful, and make sure the flyers are straight, and make sure the waiting room looks good.” And it will just keep you in the details. Information: “Dashboard, spreadsheets, Google Sheets, research.” Information will keep you constantly looking for that. And then activity is just that moving. Just keep moving, keep moving, keep moving, keep moving, keep moving.

And you’re right that people… I’m an excellence person. I’m the person who redid our business cards four times because the teal wasn’t right. And you know what? It’s a beautiful business card now. And that can be good when it’s good and bad when it’s bad. And that’s like all the thieves. Having a quest for information is good when it’s good, but when it overgrows, it becomes information overload. And having a detailed mind is good, and when it overgrows, it becomes perfectionism. And so every one of them has a contrasting risk. Drive’s risk is overdrive, and activity’s risk is just frenzy. And so we need to find a sweet spot with the thieves where they’re actually serving us. Because right in the middle before they overgrow, there’s this point where they’re just perfect. They’re beautiful. They’re the best of our assets. And that’s really what we’re trying for.

Kristen Brokaw:
Well, you even outline questions that you can ask yourself about the thieves so that someone could even say, “Right now, I’m feeling overwhelmed. I’m going to pause, take a wedge. I’m going to take a strategic pause.” Think what thief is getting me right now and ask yourself one of these four questions about those thieves. So, why don’t you go through that?

Juliet Funt:
Chapter five of the book is called The Simplification Questions, and these are really, really the antidotes. So, if you want to post somewhere on show notes or send it out somewhere, you can send out the four questions. Each thief has a corresponding question, as you mentioned. And I want to imagine the average doctor is just in that feeling of they’re in this heart-centered profession. They got in it because they wanted to give and make things better, and it just got crazier and crazier and crazier. And now they’re at some point in their career where they still are leading with the heart, but man, it’s just really hard to just keep going at this pace. And that is when they really need the questions.

So, drive needs to hear, “Is there anything I can let go of? Anything. Anything I could stop doing or do less of or delegate or outsource. Is there anything I can let go of?” Excellence needs to hear, “Where is good enough good enough? Where is it just good enough? Really, honestly, nobody will care.” Information, and this is one of the most subtle ones, needs to hear, “What do I truly need to know? What do I truly need to know?” And then activity, activity, activity needs to hear, “Okay, what deserves my attention? What deserves my attention? What deserves my attention?” And they work at the individual level. But if you’ll notice, they also work at the team or organizational level if you change “I” to “we:” “Is there anything we can let go of? Where is good enough good enough? What do we truly need to know? And what deserves our attention?” We can also use them communally and get a lot of benefit out of that.

Kristen Brokaw:
Oh, that would be an excellent thing to do at your next office meeting.

Juliet Funt:
Yep, or offsite or staff meeting, for sure.

Kristen Brokaw:
Absolutely. One thing I know about physicians is they never feel they know enough. I have probably heard it once. I’ve heard it a million times. So, I would say information is probably top on a lot of their lists: “I need to be listening to that podcast. I’m supposed to go to that training. I really need to get more CMEs so that I can go learn about mold, Lyme, be the autoimmune expert, and oh, also figure out how to fix the long-haul COVID.”

Juliet Funt:
Right. And for this field, those may be more valid than in other fields. If I’ve got the CIO of Dell and he wants to just keep learning about new systems that can be valid to a point but then there’ll be a recreational aspect. Maybe in doctors, it’s all really valid, and they need to dial down on the other things. Maybe things need to be less perfectionistic and a little less driven, a little less projects. Maybe they need to be emotional a little less because the learning is dominant. And so that’s where we only have limited resources, and we keep thinking that we have unlimited resources.

Kristen Brokaw:
Yes. And I think they need to hear that over and over and over again is where can they delegate and what exactly—

Juliet Funt:
I’ll tell you a story. I’ll tell you a story. I think I might’ve told you personally this story, but there was a guy named Brendan who we worked with at GE. And he was one of these brainiacs at GE who ran the power grids and about five or six other guys were the designated geniuses of this group. And so, the company basically would kidnap them and send them to a hotel when there was a big problem to solve, and they sort of locked them in a hotel until they solved it. And he would go and he would unpack, and he would live in this hotel for periods of time. And they would work and they would work. And he said, “Every Thursday was the breakthrough day.” Thursday was the day where things would get clear, where great ideas would come. And often on Thursdays, when something was going wrong, was the day that they realized it was a danger.

And so I asked him of course, “Why Thursday?” And he said, “Because on Wednesday we did the laundry, and Wednesday was laundry day. So, we would sit, and we would fold, and we would sit in front of a dryer, and our brains were free for a few hours.” And that was the cognitive cooker. That was the time when all these swirling ideas could become clear and that idea again of becoming clear. And so if you had a bad Thursday, apparently the crew of the group would say, “What’s the matter? Didn’t you do your laundry?” And so, think of it from the metaphor stretching to be a doctor to say, “What is your equivalent of doing the laundry where you can step back and really just let all the parts of the sauce boil together and figure out how it comes out?” I think that doctors led by that heart-centered drive probably do not enough of that.

Kristen Brokaw:
Absolutely. You even mention it that when we get a “minute to think,” we fill it. We fill it with a podcast, especially if you’re an information junkie. We fill it with, maybe even… Some people scroll. They’re going to social media. I always love going to YouTube and watch a video on how to fix something. So, I think you hit the nail in the head. When I think personally about when I come up with ideas, it’s when I walk the dog and it’s when I’m in the shower. There’s nothing else—

Juliet Funt:
And everybody says the shower. Everybody says the shower, but we got to create some shower minutes in between the showers. This is the problem is that shower, you’re in a very personal mode. Showers is where you might have a breakthrough about your teenager or what you’re going to cook for dinner. Or you might have a breakthrough about something you can’t figure out in the redesign of your house. But in the morning in the shower, you’re not really thinking about work yet. And very reluctantly people begin to realize, when they use this tool, “Oh, I don’t have enough, for lack of a better word, shower time during the day.” The same feeling where you just, “Oh, it’s kind of free, letting the mind drift.” Maybe you don’t have the steam and the temperature, but you can have that same feeling other times.

Kristen Brokaw:
You say it. We need to be given permission to pause and to do so during business hours, essentially. Yeah. Well, I wanted to also talk about the hallucinated urgency because I know this happens to me. Everyone falls victim to it, but we also have it happen to us. And you mention an anecdote to that would be the yellow list. So, why don’t we talk about another tool that physicians can use?

Juliet Funt:
Sure. I want to just tell the ER story that was in the book because I think that physicians need to hear you. If we’re going to say not everything is urgent in the world of medicine, it’s a little bit more of a daring claim than not everything is urgent in the world of marketing or not everything is urgent in the world of sales. In medicine, there are a different criteria for urgent. But in most professional environments, there’s a sense of hallucination where everything kind of gets flat-lined and everything seems equally urgent. And what we want people to realize is there’s really three levels of urgency no matter where you are. There’s things that can be not time sensitive. Things can be tactically time sensitive. That means that speed is actually leading us somewhere important. It’s tied to a result. But then there’s things that are emotionally time sensitive. We’re just curious, we’re anxious, we’re controlling, we’re driven. Those are not the same thing as tactically time sensitive.

And so, playing with that filter—that’s another wonderful thing you can talk about at a staff meeting or an offsite—is saying, “Where does emotion make things seem time sensitive around here when really they are not? Are we just playing a valor game where we think we get more points in professional heaven if we just seem like we’re running all the time? Or do we actually see a reason that this thing is urgent?”

Now, the yellow list is a tool for email. I know that in a medical office, doctors are probably the ones that… They probably don’t use email as much as corporate people. But for those of them that do have, they will have an email life, so I believe that this tool will still be relevant. The idea of the yellow list is to create a list somewhere in your computer or your phone for each person or group that you work with very frequently. And so, if I work with your company, let’s say, I might have your yellow list. I might have Kristen yellow list. When it’s time for me to send you an email, my first inclination will be to send you an email, and I’ll probably even type it or open it up or put your name at the top. But then I could ask myself, “Does this actually need to be an email? Or should I just put it on the yellow list for the next time I talk to her? Or if I were to put it on the yellow list for the next time I talk to them?”

And over and over and over what you’ll find is you’ll catch yourself realizing that you actually had no time sensitivity at all. And if the thing was really, truly time sensitive, it probably should have been a phone call or a text anyway because those are the mediums for authentically time-sensitive communication. And so this yellow list becomes a repository. And what you’ll notice is you’ll be able to accumulate more and more on that list and keep less in the realm of email. So it really, really can dry up the digital channels in a beautiful way.

Kristen Brokaw:
And the interruption. So, if we’re thinking of a physician’s office, could they not have a “yellow list?” Instead of interrupting in between every patient appointment that, when there is maybe a 10 or 15 minute time allotted after morning patients where physician answers yellow list type questions, essentially.

Juliet Funt:
Yes. And then grouping, grouping, grouping. We always want stuff to be compartmentalized and grouped when possible. So, teaching your staff, “Can you just keep a paper? Keep a paper by the computer or keep a paper in the computer, a document, and jot it down for me when it can wait.” Remember that clear mind that we’re going for? How much more is the mind clear if they could walk from one room to the next room without being interrupted? Imagine how much clearer the mind is when they arrive.

Kristen Brokaw:
Bingo. Bingo. There’s a physician named Dr. Shilpa Saxena who, she would do something called clinical case conference as well. And that would be a day, I believe it was once a week, where they would get together as an entire staff and talk about different patient cases. And so things about that that maybe they’d come to her during the week, the staff, and she would say, “You know what? That’s case conference. Put that to case conference.” And so, they just sort of learned that these types of things go to the big one where we’re all going to get to weigh in and little things over time actually would work themselves out. The staff would figure out the answer.

Juliet Funt:
Right, and never even have to ask it. That’s the best kind of yellow list is when you put it on there and then you get back to it and you go, “Oh, I never even asked this. It figured itself out.”

Kristen Brokaw:
It figured itself out.

Juliet Funt:
So, yellow list is sort of in between case conference and what we do now. Case conference would be for things that require a group, and yellow list would be for things that we can do one on one.

Kristen Brokaw:
Excellent. Well, I think that’s important. We’ve given lots of ideas. Hopefully, tons of inspiration. I personally am inspired. I say read this book again. The title was going to be, If You’re Human and You’re Busy and Overwhelmed: This Is Your Book. But it was too long. And Juliet Funt, is there anything that you’re up to that people should know? Or maybe they go, “Hey, I would love to use her tools and methodology with my practice.”

Juliet Funt:
Oh, well, that’s so sweet. Yes. Well, we do our bread and butter in terms of what we care about every day is getting this message into teams so that they can become norms. So, we train… A lot of times it’s corporate teams, but sometimes it can be hospital administrators is an interesting area that overlaps with the corporate work, and sometimes small teams as well, just to make these tools into your organizational norm. So, of course, if we can be helpful, that would be great. But more than that, we are in a really unusual year in our company. We are calling it the year of no new things. And after COVID and building a million programs and then all the things that we’ve been through and launching a book, we’re having a lot of fun just waking up every day and doing the same thing that we always do. And it’s been pretty awesome to just relax and make one thing better. It’s a statement in what can happen when you go deeper instead of just keep reaching wider, wider, wider. And it’s been pretty fun. I might do it again next year.

Kristen Brokaw:
Well, isn’t that what Steve Jobs did? He came back as CEO, and they had all these different products and he said… I mean, I think got rid of 90% of them, right?

Juliet Funt:
We don’t need them. Absolutely.

Kristen Brokaw:
What can we do really, really well? So thank you so much for your time today. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you.

Juliet Funt:
You’re welcome, hun. Thanks so much.

James Maskell: Thanks for listening to the evolution of medicine podcast. Please share this with colleagues who need to hear it. Thanks so much to our sponsors, the Lifestyle Matrix Resource Center. This podcast is really possible because of them. Please visit goevomed.com/lmrc to find out more about their clinical tools like the group visit toolkit. That’s goevomed.com/lmrc. Thanks so much for listening and we’ll see you next time.

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