The American Medical News recently published findings on what accounts for work-life balance and a handy ten step checklist to achieving overall life satisfaction:
1. Take time to assess your values and priorities periodically. Some people do this each year on New Year’s Day, or on their birthdays. When you think about what you want your life to look like, accept the fact that you are going to have to make some tough decisions to find balance and meet your personal and professional goals.
2. Try to avoid a cycle of constant “delayed gratification” by thinking “I’ll finally be happy when …” or “I can finally slow down when …”
3. Take short breaks — anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes a day — to breathe or stretch between patients. Studies show short breaks actually improve productivity, so you’ll more than make up for the time you lose by pausing for a moment.
4. When “perfect” balance is unattainable — for example at exam time, a busy rotation or before a deadline — make caring for yourself a priority by designating time for sleep, exercise and relaxation.
5. Visit your own physician to make sure you are taking care of your own health.
6. Talk to a friend or a counselor if you feel powerless to change a situation making you unhappy.
7. Find a mentor or role model who can give advice on career development, time management and setting priorities.
8. Carefully assess the daily routine at your office in collaboration with support staff to find ways to save time and energy. A well-run practice can mean a shorter work day, more satisfied employees, improved revenue and happier patients.
9. Perhaps you are working too hard and not “working smart.” Are you spending time on administrative tasks that you could outsource, or hire someone to do while you see patients? Could you eliminate commute time and stress by working on paperwork at home with a remote computer system?
10. Ask yourself whether you could be missing the big picture. Is your practice ideally located to attract patients, or are you spending time and energy on marketing across town? Where else are you spending time that could be eliminated by making one large adjustment?
What do you think? Share your thoughts and tips for achieving work/life balance in the comments section below.