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After 10 months of no fixed routines, I realized a little routine is important and helpful - Newsletter issue #5

Ahmed Negida
Ahmed Negida
Hey Friends,
Last Saturday night, I was talking to my friend (Mahmoud) discussing a project then I offered to specify a weekly time to discuss the updates every week. My friend asked WHY I have recently introduced a little fixed routine in my life (which is against my personality!). This is an important question and here is the detailed answer.
Throughout the past year (since the beginning of March 2020), I had already finished my internship practically (but not officially). I decided to spend the entire year (2020) with no fixed routine. So, was this good? The answer is Yes and No. Yes, because I felt FREE and LIBRATED from any work obligations. No, because my attention span was reduced and my stress levels increased. I noticed a decrease in how long I can keep my mind focused on doing one thing at a moment simply because my mind is very busy with long to-do things that I have to navigate through and I have not set the appropriate system to enable me from navigating inside all the studies, tasks, work, activities, business, and research that I’m involved in.
By the beginning of 2021, I decided to introduce a fixed routine to my life gradually and the results were surprising both ways. Then I recently listened to the two books entitled “How to be a productivity Ninja …” and “Atomic Habits”. Both the authors of these top-rated books emphasized the need for attention management. We are living a busy life where everything is competing to take our attention including work, family, mobile phone notifications, friends, news, social media, … etc. Our brains are receiving an overwhelming input of information every day. Seven years ago, I read a similar sentence by Brain Tracy in his famous book “the Focus Point” but at this time, I did not fully understand the meaning (perhaps my life was not too full to realize this problem). Now, this sounds true, I personally receive an average of 20-40 new important emails per day and I am involved in dozens of projects and works.
From January 2021, I decided to make a fixed time to address all inquiries, questions, and revisions required for my research team. Every Tuesday from 6:00 PM to 8-9 PM, I dedicate this time to my team BUT throughout the week, I never receive any notification, question, or inquiry about anything related to this work which keeps my mind less distracted. Then I started to gradually set a specific time for all recurrent tasks in my life. This turned out to be a great step. The results were good on both my stress levels and attention span. Also, my mind is now much clearer to focus on other things. Furthermore, when you specify a time for every routine recurrent task, your brain will automatically learn about the pattern of behavior and will help you to be mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared for things before they happen. Every year in March, I have a vacation usually in Ras Elbarr (If I’m in Egypt). This week, I canceled my booking at Steigenberger Hotel El-Lessan at the last minute and I did not go because I found I do not need to take a break.
This transition from the “time management” concept to “time & attention management” was helpful for me. I realized that even the minute I wasted in the past checking my email inbox on my smartphone was not well-spent, simply because I did not reply until I opened my laptop. When I opened my laptop, I found all emails marked as “read” and I had to search again through the inbox for every important email. Furthermore, I had to keep (in my mind or written) a list of all important emails to address at the end of the day or the next day. So why this extra effort? It is better to determine a specific time to check, read, and respond to emails immediately. We have to fight the unresistible desire and curiosity to know whatever new things are coming to us and are important for us.
Following these personal experiences, I now realize that a bit of a fixed routine is important to organize the information digestion process, increase attention, and decrease stress.

Good article(s) I read this week
That Is Not How Your Brain Works - Issue 98: Mind - Nautilus
YouTube videos I liked this week
I’m a fan of Bobby Fischer and his brilliancy (although I disagree with some decisions in his chess career).
Bobby Fischer solves a 15 puzzle in 17 seconds on Carson Tonight Show
I’m still watching friends (currently at the end of season 6). The good news this week is that the team started filming a NEW season of friends! One of the best things I like was Janice saying “OH MY GOD”. This video shows the whole collection.
Courses that I'm taking this week (week #11 in 2021)
I’m about to finish Garry Kasparov’s masterclass in Chess. Yesterday, I finished the last videos in the “endgame” and “opening theories”. Next week, I will finish the case studies part. This course is EXCELLENT and the theory and philosophy that GK provides are VALUABLE and to the point. I really wish I had taken it once it came out.
Courses that I'm teaching this weekend
Twitter Highlights
Prof. John Meara (program director of Harvard PGSSC) shared excellent news today. For the first time ever, the 2021  US senate appropriations bill includes a provision to support and fund national surgical plans NSOAP in LMICs! Lismore Nebeker, Director of Research at Mobile Surgery International has led this teamwork. My PGSSC-GNI supervisor (Dr. Kee Park) mentioned on Twitter that this is what effective Global Surgery advocacy looks like. 
🔥Ahmed Negida, MD🔥
Congratulations 🎉 this is the real outcome of the cumulative collaborative efforts of research and advocacy in #GlobalSurgery

[END] ... Thank you very much!
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Ahmed Negida
Ahmed Negida @NegidaMD

I’m Ahmed, a medical doctor from Egypt, a Ph.D. candidate in the UK, and a Global Neurosurgery Fellow at Harvard Medical School.

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