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What can a GP learn from an Entrepreneur

Duncan at computer

4 years ago I left my career as a Family Doctor to start FourteenFish. Despite being very happy working as a GP it was an easy decision as I knew if I didn't give this opportunity a try I would always think what if.

Myself and my business partner were not sure how our adventure would turn out and it has been a fantastic 4 years with a sharp learning curve. In a few weeks time I am talking to doctors training in General practice about my career and it got me thinking – if I was to return to General Practice what would I take back from my experience? Here are two things that immediately sprung to mind.

Emails, emails, emails

It is unusual for anyone to not have issues with email management. In the first year of starting up FourteenFish we read quite a few books for entrepreneurs. One of the first being Tim Ferris's the 4 hour work week. I don't work 4 hours a week now (quite the contrary) and there is little hope of GPs (or others in a service profession) being able to make their work more efficient to be able to work just 4 hours a week.

That doesn't mean there aren't valuable lessons in this book that are useful for anyone. The most striking for me was about email management. There is a great graph in the book which I have borrowed from a post on the 4 hour work week (this post has great tips itself for productivity and is worth a read: how to be more productive).

Email checking graph

The light areas of the graph are your productive time, and is intended to show how it's not possible to have sustained blocks of productive time if you're contantly checking your email. Instead, checking your email on a schedule (e.g. every two hours) allows you to really get into the zone and focus your mind on the task at hand.


I have never been into sport. I was always been more of a mathematician and assumed I wasn't "sporty". I then read the book Bounce by Matthew Syed. In a nutshell this describes how for the vast majority of us it's rubbish that we aren't "sporty", "arty" or "musical". It is practice that makes perfect not some inherited talent. Yes, this is a simplification but this new knowledge for me alongside a realisation I needed to get off my butt and do some exercise meant I got into running. The idea of me running, and in fact running for pleasure, would never have been in my 5 year plan but now I love it and can't imagine life without it.

In the last few years I have ran 5 ultra marathons. The benefits in life and especially in terms of productivity are massive. It's a fantastic stress reliever and if I returned back to General practice I would make sure regular exercise continued to have a place in my day. Currently I get up and run just after 6am which is a great start to the day.

Stepping back

There is of course much more than these two headlines above alone. There is also much I have brought to the table from my previous experience.

The most notable of these was regular learning by attending events. For GPs this has long been established practice. At FourteenFish my business partner was sceptical at first but soon was converted as to the value. It doesn't really matter about the quality of the event itself (though naturally it helps if it is decent) but the value in every 6 months or so stepping back away from the every day grind and reflecting on the last 6 months and the future direction should not be underestimated.

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Thursday 30 June 2016