Tunnah’s musings: A little less conversation, a little more action please

Paul Tunnah


The digital age has accomplished many good things. It’s connecting us in ways that were unthinkable just a few years ago and turning the world into a much smaller place, day by day. Disparate groups of individuals with common interests from across the globe can now connect and share ideas, inspiring new solutions through the wisdom of crowds.

In our healthcare world, this means face-to-face meetings and conferences are no longer the sole source of collaboration and there are countless online communities in place for patients, doctors, pharma employees, service providers and so forth. Even if you don’t take part in these, it seems we are fast approaching a point where you will be seen as some kind of societal pariah if you are not sharing your every move on Facebook, Tweeting about your latest observations or, at the very least, taking the time to make sure you have more connections than your colleagues on LinkedIn.

“…it seems we are fast approaching a point where you will be seen as some kind of societal pariah if you are not sharing your every move on Facebook…”

So will this drive massive advances in healthcare?

Yes, and no, because it all comes with a price. In a work capacity, it means that people expect technology to enable us do to more and are seldom prepared to wait for a response. Combine this with the inevitable resource cuts that any recession brings and, in simple terms, we are probably all being asked to do twice as much as we were ten years ago, plus being distracted by constant online noise.

And so we see the rise of my favourite phrase of the modern world – “I’m sorry, I haven’t got the bandwidth”.

The phrase always makes me smile, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it has become as clichéd in the lexicon of corporate buzzwords as notable stalwarts such as “double-digit growth”, “leveraging capabilities” and “think outside the box”. But secondly, and more importantly, it implies that our available time is not under our own control, just like the poor, overstretched server that has been hit by too may download requests.

In reality, you are 100% in control of your time, no matter how much it might not feel like it. You have total control over what you choose to do and choose not to do. Of course, each has its own consequences, but you can choose your actions and your consequences.

“In reality, you are 100% in control of your time, no matter how much it might not feel like it.”

If we therefore assume you will never have enough time to do everything, here are some tips I try and use to make sure I balance my time:

• Pick out 2-3 tasks each day that are the most important and do these before you do anything else. If you start with these then you will feel like you have achieved something, even if you accomplish nothing else that day. It’s easier said than done because the important tasks are usually not the easiest or quickest ones!

• Learn to say no. It’s something I have never been very good at, I have to admit, but the alternative is taking on unnecessary work that means you are going to let someone down and potentially let other more important tasks slip. Just don’t say “I haven’t got the bandwidth” when you do.

• Allocate chunks of time for specific activities, particularly ones that will make you more efficient and create more time down the line. Doing one thing at a time is much more efficient and giving yourself a deadline really helps improve efficiency I find. Time devoted to what Stephen Covey (he of the Seven Habits fame) would call “quadrant 2” tasks is particularly well spent because it will stop you fire fighting in the future.

• Turn off social media and other distractions every now and then. Really. Before you accuse me of being hypocritical as I appear to be on Twitter all day, believe me I dip in and out selectively and the scheduled Tweet is your friend!

In case you wonder where this is going and if I am trying to turn myself into some kind of life coach, let me reassure you that I am not – I still make many mistakes with managing my time. But I think learning to manage time effectively is particularly important in our world of healthcare.

I often partake in online and offline discussions about healthcare issues and make time every day to read at least a few articles on different aspects of our industry, including all the pieces generously submitted by authors for pharmaphorum. This is most definitely a good use of my time, because it stops me “doing” and keeps me “thinking”.

The trick is then balancing time between this learning and actually being able to develop innovative new solutions off the back of it – going back into productive implementation. The challenge is that the “doing” bit is naturally the harder of the two. We all have ground breaking ideas from time to time, but it’s much more difficult to actually bring them to life.

“It’s time to see this maelstrom of ideas convert into real healthcare solutions.”

So for all those working in pharma, my advice is to make sure you get involved in all these great discussions. Join, at least once, one of the great Tweetchat groups (#hcsm, #hcsmeu or one of the other geographic variants), peruse some of the more interesting LinkedIn discussions, take a look at what patients are saying on forums, read some new articles (maybe even comment on them) and get out to good events to share ideas face-to-face.

But once you’ve done that, learn to turn off Twitter and your email, take a break from Facebook, stop answering the phone and make sure you take time to plan how you can develop new products and initiatives off the back of these ideas. It’s time to see this maelstrom of ideas convert into real healthcare solutions.

With those thoughts, it’s time to stop writing and move on to doing something else so, until next time, stay well.

About the author:

Paul Tunnah is Founder and Managing Director of www.pharmaphorum.com, the dynamic online information and discussion portal for the pharmaceutical industry featuring news, articles, events / company listings and online discussion. For queries he can be reached through the site contact form or on Twitter @pharmaphorum.

Is there too much thinking and not enough doing in pharma?