But I Still Have Checks Left!

By: Dana Jacoby

There is an amusing anecdote about a customer service representative from a local bank who calls the spendthrift owner of a checking account at their nearest branch. “I’m sorry to let you know that your account is overdrawn, and your past three transactions have been returned for insufficient funds.” To which the customer replied, “But how can I be overdrawn? I still have checks left!”

It seems obvious that the balance of our deposits must be greater than the amount of our withdrawals or we will quickly bankrupt our accounts. Since we opened our first checking accounts, we all know that to be true. But what about our other non-financial accounts?

In times of uncertainty, we often request more of people, staff, – and of ourselves – than the balances that we hold in reserve. The current pandemic, in addition to the other unusual situations in which we find ourselves these days, provide ample occasions to drain our relationships and bankrupt our accounts by asking more than we have invested. Here, we will focus on three accounts to consider when comparing our deposits and withdrawals.

Personal Accounts. For many people, the combination of the COIVD-19 pandemic, civil unrest, endless online meetings, and repetitive days have demanded more of us than we seem to have strength and ability to manage. At some point, if left unchecked, we become physically and emotionally ‘overdrawn’. We may see the same face in the mirror in the morning and we may appear to have checks left. But the truth is that, for many of us in healthcare, there are limited reserves left in the account. Now is the time to check in on our balance. Are we eating well, staying healthy, making room for exercise, relaxation, and enjoyment? What about our mental health? For many of us, the time on an airplane or commuting in-between meetings and patients provided an ability to read a book or quietly contemplate in what Cal Newton calls, “Deep Work.” Now those routines have been lost or transitioned and we need to care for the invisible assets that live in the mental and spiritual realm. Perhaps, at no other time in our lives, we need to grant ourselves permission to make intentional deposits into our personal accounts. With ample deposits, we can better care for ourselves, co-workers, and patients vs. trying to, ‘make it work’.

Joint Accounts. These are the accounts that are most intimate to us: our friends, our family, and the ones closest to us. What happens to these people impacts our lives directly, and their well-being is so inexorably linked to our lives that we share an ownership in the outcomes. Sometimes, these joint accounts are most accessible to overdrafts. These deposits are often the easiest to overlook. We have heard it said that we treat the people closest to us the worst during times of strife, and regrettably, that can be true. So, let us take a quick accounting. Who are the four or five of our closest “joint accounts,” and when was the last time we made an intentional deposit into their lives? A deposit might look like time spent or an intentional act of service. Maybe it is a compliment, or some moments of attentive listening. These are the on-purpose opportunities to make memories that become deposits into our Joint Accounts.

Business Accounts. Much can be said here about our transactions with our co-workers, patients, vendors, and partners. These relationships can be demanding even in the best of times. When the landscape is clouded with fear, uncertainty, unreliable communication and questionable information, our Business Accounts can quickly become overdrawn. Some relationships can be managed with online meetings and webinar briefings. But the most effective ones are with the people we already know. Beginning a new patient or business relationship is a more complicated commitment because we lose so many small deposits such as the warm handshake, body language and personal proximity. Likewise, the “work from home” structure demands much more from all parties involved – more trust, more communication, more accountability, and more understanding. We have grown accustomed to limited customer service and longer delivery delays, and while everyone is aware of the cause, it remains frustrating and disappointing. All of these become significant withdrawals in our business accounts. What is needed is a plan for “boosting our business-account balance.” The first step is to recognize the signs of a depleted account, and then talk about it with your co-workers and other staff members. Second, have a plan to make deposits. Many other cultures start their meetings with a significant amount of time talking about other topics before discussing business. Showing an interest in and an awareness of other people and what is happening in their world is critical, so plan for it by scheduling time to “check in” at the beginning of every meeting. In our society, this one small, intentional effort can fill our accounts with meaningful resources and prevent the “insufficient funds” call.

With all of that in mind, let us summarize three suggested take-aways for adding deposits to our accounts.

  1. Prioritize regular personal time for refreshing your mind, body, and spirit through exercise, reading and entertainment/enlightenment.
  2. Plan a getaway with your family and/or close friends – whether it is a short trip or just the backyard – and use the time for conversation, laughter and making memories.
  3. Prepare an intentional introduction time for your meetings that focuses on questions and conversation about our personal, human interests.

Becoming aware of our account balances is the first step in preventing overdrafts and ensuring our relationships are rich in resources. Author’s note: It would be great to hear your ideas about how you will use these concepts to build your accounts.