Plan a Life Not Just a Living

For as long as I can remember,  I know I have always wanted to be a doctor.

When I was in high school, I met  a family friend  who is an anesthesiologist. She is kind, warm, compassionate.  She attended to me when I had my first minor surgery before entering college.  She is  partly practicing and partly holding an administrative position. She was simple, pretty and elegant.

Mostly I was attracted to her demeanor. Warm, soft spoken but firm at the same time. She reassured me while going through the procedure. She seem to like what she is doing. She has a family  and spends a good amount of time with them.  I sensed a great mix of work and family life. I kept that in my mind through the years.

I want a life like that ,I told my young self.

I have kept that image  of  work life balance in my mind. Many years forward, I am a physician and had opportunities to do administrative and training work in my hospital.

Have I done it?  The balance?  I must admit not all the time.  But I found a good means to  find my way back  when it tips  off to one side.

I would like to teach you how.

Let me share  one story with you.   In one training session, I met Dr. A. She is a young fellow in her last year of training. We had an activity where they were asked to create images of their desired future.

How would life be 5 to 10 years from now?

How would each day of waking up look like?

Where am I ?

Who am I with?

What is my work place like?

How is my weekend?

Do I have a family? How are we?

Many questions. The answer to which had to be placed on a board with the most colorful and representative pictures we could find.

Then it was time to share. As she was called, I noticed she was teary eyed. The exercise was a revelation to her. Looking at her board, she saw that her ideal life was way off with the lifestyle of her chosen field. She wanted a predictable day time job that would allow her to do other things. No night calls. No emergencies.

She cried. I can sense regret and sadness.  She is on her last few days of training . Then I told her, “you know, your practice  can be as you define and design it”. She couldn’t get back the years she spent training for her field but she can practice in a way that could fit her desired ideal life.

I see her around these days. She is happy. Her practice is mostly ambulatory. She trained further in a subspecialty that makes it more of a day job. This field does not require night calls and is seldom an emergency.

Create your vision of life and work.  Keep it where you can see it. Make it a reminder to yourself each day you wake up.

.Why plan a practice when you can plan a life?

What’s your plan? Share yours.

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Why Doctors Should Know Finance-Expenses

Stories written in numbers….that’s what financial statements tell us.  Simply, it just tells us what happened , what was done and what probably we could have done. This is the second of my series on why doctors should know finance.We talked about income last time.

Today, I am writing on expenses.  Who among you keeps track of them?  I admit, even as I try to, sometimes its difficult for me.  I have tried a notebook, my cellphone, an excel file etc. For now, I am into using my credit card and check book.  The plus point is the written documentation of my spending.  A quick look tells me where the bulk of my spending lies.  Am I eating out most of the time? Has my cost of transportation increased? How about my electrical bill?  Your billing statement or checkbook reveals to you your spending pattern.  If it were a pie, look at how much portion goes to one category and so on. Decide what you can do about the portioning of your expenses if there is a need to.  Try to look at what it is telling you. You wont know unless you look.

Needs vs. Wants.   Just how these two are defined can be a whole lot of discussion.  For me, I just ask “how this spending is already hurting you, or potentially hurt you and the people you love in the future?”  An example would be if i spend a lot of money  on expensive clothes because without them I already feel I am incomplete  or that I have to touch  the money I am saving for my son  just to be able to buy one.  Another question I ask myself is “Can I do without it?”. Some years back, I decided to get rid of our television.  I thought it would be horrible. I have been without it for more than five years now.It gave me more personal  time with my family  and less late nights as well.

Living within one’s means.  If you were reading an income statement, it would be Income-Expenses. If you see numbers in red or enclosed in a parentheses say  (15,000), then it means you are living way beyond your means. What would you do?  You may want to go back to your list of income sources and try to increase it. Or you may want to look back into your spending and decrease it.

Let’s write your income statement now.  First, list down your income sources. Then write your Expenses.  Deduct your Expenses from your income.  It would be great to have a  positive number when you do the math.

What’s your income statement story?


Do you have other ways to track your expenses that you can share?


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Why Doctors Should Know Finance -Income Statement

If I ask you right now, do you know how much you are making from your practice?

If you are like me, sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t.  Until I made a conscious effort to  know all the time.

To quote my finance teacher in post graduate school, “numbers tell you the story.” We were studying Financial statements  (income statement, balance sheets, cash flow etc). Those stuff I would normally let my accountant take care of. Then I realized, “Hmmm, she’s right—these really tell the stories.”

Let’s talk about how these financial terms should make sense to us even if they seem like an entirely different world altogether.  Now  you know how others feel when we start talking about medicine, diseases  and all that jargon! For a while I thought my accountant was getting back at me when I asked him to explain those financial terms!Maybe its his way of telling how difficult medical terms are!

As doctors, our expertise and our time are two of our most valuable assets.  Knowing how much we make when we make use of these two  helps us make good decisions about how we use them.  I have to make a preliminary statement here.  We know many of the things we do , we do  for the love of it.  That’s considered a given in this discussion.

Lets go to Income statement.  Income statement is nothing but a story on what we engage in that yields an equivalent sum of money for us (income). It also tells us how much we spend to be able to do what we do and to live a life  comfortable enough for us (expenses). Lets say, I chose to do nothing else  but see patients  all day, 6 days a week in my own private clinic. I also admit patients in the hospital. Lets say, I do procedures and get paid for it.  If you want to be more detailed with your story, you can specify how much you earn from private patients, HMO patients etc. I do nothing else that yields some amount of money. Because  I am just starting, I have nothing else  in the form of investments or savings that is making money for me. Then the first part of my income statement would be:

Revenue from











***if by chance I accepted an administrative post in the hospital or is a  retainer in a company and receive something for it, then I can include it in the revenue

Salary/Stipend/Retainer fees


***if after sometime, I already have investments like an apartment I am renting out , then this becomes part of my income

Rental income


***other possible sources of income  may include interest income or dividend income from investments you make. If you are a resource speaker for conventions or seminars, it can be included in your revenue too. If you write for a medical journal or a health publication and you earn from it, then it forms part of your revenue.


If you add all these, then you know how much you are making on a monthly or annual basis.

What story does it tell you? It can tell you where the most of your income is coming from.  It tells you where you have the least effort but for which you receive comparatively better revenue.  It tells you where you are spending more time but is receiving very little.  It tells you how much you are receiving from something you need not spend much on  but is generating some amount of money for you (investments).

If you write well and you churn out good articles in half an hour and you get paid a handsome amount for it, does that tell you something?  Change of career? he he he… This only tells you that you may have other gifts or talents that can easily generate income for you. Its about time to tap it!

It tells you to find other ways you can generate revenue without you being actually present (its called passive income).


How about you write this part of your income statement now.  See what it tells you.


Any other story you discovered?


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photo by Matt Banks/