Stress blog

Check your checklist — Your needs belong on top

By Edward T. Creagan, M.D. February 11, 2010

Most of us use a checklist to keep track of what we need to accomplish. Some are informal — maybe just a mental list of what we need from the grocery store. A checklist can also be more formal and in writing. Indeed, many professions mandate use of a checklist. For example, a pilot must run through a safety checklist before taking off and a surgeon must complete one before making an incision.

On Sunday evening I sat down at my computer, as is my routine, to check my clinical responsibilities for the upcoming week, as well as to see what meetings, proposals and deadlines were coming up. On this particular evening, my heart sank as I thought about the difficult five or six days ahead, which would be full of clinical complexity, serious family issues, and a number of proposals and presentations.

Given my long to-do list, I was tempted to skip or cut short my usual morning workout and go to work early. However, a little voice reminded me that my health and well-being should be at the top of my list. When we neglect ourselves and become tired, irritable and overwhelmed, we can't be thoughtful, compassionate and engaged individuals.

In other words, we can't give what we don't have. A simple lesson but one most of us struggle with repeatedly. What do other list makers have to add?


Edward T. Creagan, M.D.

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Feb. 11, 2010