Can Physician Success, Financial Independence and Happiness Start with Productivity?

Welcome, and thank you so much for taking the time to read the first Physician Zen post. Briefly, my name is Vi Dinh, I am an emergency medicine physician and medical intensivist working at a tertiary care academic center on the west coast (if you want to know more, please visit the about page). I have been practicing medicine for over 10 years and have seen how physician life balance has been a struggle for myself as well as many of my students, residents, and colleagues. 

Seeing these struggles, I started to explore why we as health care professionals are neglecting our own personal relationships, finances, and health. The fundamental problem I have found is that many health care professionals do not have a reliable personal productivity system. 

How does improving personal productivity lead to physician success, financial independence and Happiness? Implementing a personal productivity system allows you to complete projects, achieve goals, and work more efficiently by creating a daily workflow that enables you to utilize your time in the most effective way possible.

Personal Productivity is absolutely NOT a sexy topic and one that many students and physicians do not want to think or talk about. It’s not as cool as talking about 401k’s, Backdoor Roth IRAs, Real Estate, Financial Independence, etc. However, I think persoanl productivity is SO important and it has been the backbone to the successes in my family life, career, and finances that I believe it absolutely should not be ignored. If you look at people who you think are “successful”, I can guarantee that almost all of them have a solid productivity system. In fact, blog posts from The Physician Philosopher and Passive Income MD talk about the importance of becoming more productive and balanced!

Why Did I Start the Physician Zen Site?

I am not a productivity expert, I am just a physician trying to give the best to my patients, students, and residents every day without the expense of my personal wellbeing or increasing the risk of burnout. I found that by trying to continually improve my productivity system, I have been able to complete work task (clinical work, research, emails, etc.) more efficiently and thereby artificially “create” more time in my day to focus on my family, finances and my health. 

I have been following the physician finance blogging community for about 4 years now and am truly grateful for the things I have learned from these individuals. The White Coat Investor was the first physician blog I stumbled on and it changed my views of physician finances overnight. I personally met Dr. James Dahle from The White Coat Investor after one of his lectures at the American College of Emergency Physicians annual conference.  After talking to him at length, he inspired me to create a site to share my own experiences with others. 

Autographed Book from The White Coat Investor

I have mentored hundreds of individuals from medical students, residents, fellows, to junior faculty. What I found to be the most common underlying stressors for most health care professionals was not lack of knowledge, but it was a lack of a reliable system that would allow them to most efficiently apply their knowledge to achieve their goals. Not just goals in their career but goals in finances, personal relationships, personal health, etc. For example, most people know they should eat healthy, exercise regularly, save regularly for retirement, keep up to date with literature, don’t overwork etc. However, most individuals I know are not able to do those things regularly or prioritize them.

What Can a Life of Productivity Look Like?

I believe that in order to achieve maximum results, students and clinicians need to work smarter not harder. The first book I read that really shed light on how to maximize productivity was Getting Things Done, by David Allen. I read this book as a fourth-year medical student during winter break when I was bed bound from a snowboarding injury. The book blew my mind away and changed the way I thought about managing my time and energy. Prior to this I was a fairly inefficient medical student with average evaluations and was unable to complete an ongoing research project I had started during my first-year.  

I took all the suggestions from the book to heart and was able to organize and clear my mind, physical environment, and emails in the course of 1 week. I entered residency with a productivity system that was able to handle the stressors that were thrown my way, study efficiently, and complete research projects with minimal stress. These skills eventually benefited me in my two fellowships (Critical Care and Ultrasound).  Now as a full-time faculty, I have over 25 publications and a text book. This is while being able to take my two young kids to school most days, eat dinner with the family most evenings, and excercise 4-5 times a week (yoga and tennis). 

I absolutely do not want to mention these things to boast. I just want to share what I thought was absolutely impossible when I was a medical student, seeing my attendings and residents struggle over clinical work, teaching, and research while neglecting their personal wellbeing. I can’t help but think that if healthcare professionals were more productive at prioritizing and completing the most important tasks in their lives, maybe it would decrease burnout.

What are the goals of the Physician Zen Site?

  1. I want to introduce a simple daily productivity system that can be applied by anyone, from students to seasoned attendings to maximize the use of their time. (Click here to read the 12 Steps to Productivity
  2. With improved productivity and time gained, I hope physicians will be able to get back in touch with their personal relationships, finances, hobbies, and physical health. 
  3. I hope to promote financial productivity and independence by covering the fundamentals of physician finances.
  4. I want to promote continued health awareness, happiness and gratitude among physicians. 

The ultimate goal of this site for readers and myself is to continue to strive to achieve a state of Physician Zen. What is Physician Zen? 

I think of Physician Zen as: “A Clinician’s State of Being Fully Present and Maximally Productive without any Stress.” 

I may be an idealist, but perhaps there would be a decrease in burnout rates and increase in career longevity/satisfaction if clinicians were more productive and balanced in their life while achieving financial independence. 

What can you expect from the Physician Zen Site?

As you can probably tell by now, I firmly believe implementing a productivity system is the most fundamental part of daily stress-free living. Hence, my first series of posts will focus on helping readers develop a productivity system that works for them. If you are serious about wanting to change your life and increase your productivity, then you should set aside at least 1 week to really implement this system. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I found this system has worked for me as well as others that I have mentored. 

My plan is to have 1-2 posts each week. I hope to not just write about what you should be doing but also about HOW to do it. This will consist of written blog posts as well as simple instructional YouTube videos. 

What do you have to lose? Consider a week as an investment in your personal life and long-term goals. Even if you decide creating productivity system isn’t for you after a week, the worst case scenario is that your office will definitely be more organized!

Who may be interested in this site?

This website will benefit motivated health care professionals at any level of training who truly want to regain control of their career, finances, and personal life in a stress-free way. 

For seasoned attendings, I am with you! Everyday can seem like a marathon and somedays you will feel the symptoms of burnout given all of the clinical and professional duties you have. I think you will be amazed how life can be managed in a productive and stress-free way, despite having a full workload. It will likely take you longer to implement a productivity system (compared to students or residents) given the number of projects, responsibilities, and tasks that have accumulated over time. It’s never too late. You can do it!

For residents, I know you feel like you work more than 24 hours a day! However, it is critical that you start a productivity system as soon as you can. Contrary to what you may think, most of you won’t be less busy as attendings! I have helped multiple residents implement productivity systems during residency and they are usually the most efficient residents in the hospital.

For students, get your head out of the books for just a bit. This is absolutely the best time to create a productivity system. I wish I actually knew about this when I was a first-year medical student or even in college! You won’t have as many things accumulated in your life as residents or attending. So, by creating these productivity habits early I can almost guarantee you will outshine all of your peers in residency. I have helped medical students create personal productivity systems as first year medical students who are now residents. Almost all matched to their first-choice residency programs and are performing at extremely high levels in residency. 

Related Questions:

Is Becoming Productive Hard?

No, but just like developing any other habit, it does take practice and self-motivation. The first step is to create a productivity system. The next step is simply to maintain it daily. If you do this, you will be able to achieve more in a stress-free way.  

How Do I Become More Productive?

There are many resources that can help you become more productive. Here are the list of the top productivity books that I have used in my own productivity

In this site I go over the 12-steps that I have used to help others create a productivity system. I hope you will find it useful.

I’m not a physician or medical student, is this site for me?

Yes, absolutely, anyone can use this site to help them become more productive. I just focus on physicians and medical students in my writing because these are who I am most familiar with. But if you are in any health care profession (Dental, Pharmacy, Optometry, PA, NP, etc) these concepts will apply.

How can you be involved?

Do The Right Thing! Implement a personal productivity system and feel what it is like to complete your most important tasks efficiently while taking back time for your health and personal life.

Please consider subscribing to my email list to get updates on any new posts. 

I would love comments and feedback on any posts. 

If you would like to provide a contact me, please email

*Physician Zen is reader-supported. When you buy through links on this site, we may earn a small affiliate commission with no additional charges to you. Learn more

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Dr. McFrugal
4 years ago

I am always looking for ways to be more efficient and being more balanced. Can’t wait to check out future posts and implement my own productivity system. Looking forward to achieving a state of physician zen :).

Zen Productivity
4 years ago
Reply to  Dr. McFrugal

Thank you so much Dr. McFrugal. You have been instrumental in getting this project together. I look forward to both of our journeys towards achieving physician zen someday 🙂

4 years ago

Welcome to the blogosphere.

I am sure you will find out that blogging is a great creative outlet (but also a huge time vacuum so beware of your productivity in other aspects of life). I have been doing it for over a year now and time has absolutely flown.

Zen Productivity
4 years ago
Reply to  Xrayvsn

Yes, thanks so much for the heads up XRAYVSN! Now that I have started in this world, I can now start to see the incredible amount of time and thought that you and others have put into this “creative outlet”. I look forward to learning more from you and others on this great adventure 🙂


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