Committing to New Year’s resolutions that are both realistic and rewarding can be challenging, especially if your goal is to achieve better balance between your work and home life. The DO recently spoke with three physicians with expertise in work-life issues to learn how they make time for recharging and relaxation while maintaining a busy professional schedule. Here are their suggestions for taking a fresh approach to work-life balance.
1. Put self-care on your calendar, advises Vania Manipod, DO, a psychiatrist in Ventura, California, who blogs about wellness and mental health. Whether it’s dinner with friends, a trip to the gym or 15 minutes to enjoy your morning coffee without checking your email, scheduling enjoyable activities can help ensure they’re not nudged aside by other responsibilities.
2. Revisit a favorite hobby from your past. “If taking up a new interest sounds daunting, try reconnecting with an activity that you know gives you peace or makes you feel good about yourself,” Dr. Manipod advises. Interests that involve art, music, nature or physical activity can be especially rewarding, she says.
3. Create time for yourself by delegating at work and at home. Many physicians have already delegated some responsibilities, such as letter-writing, to other members of their team. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to periodically assess everything you’re doing and determine if there are additional duties that can be delegated, suggests Nahille Natour, MD, a hospitalist and physician career coach in Houston. You can take the same approach at home by deciding annually whether hiring professionals to handle your laundry, grocery shopping or housecleaning would be worth the financial tradeoff.
4. Create a schedule and stick to it. If possible, Dr. Natour suggests designating one day a week to stay late at work to catch up on charting, and being sure to leave work on time on other days. Beginning the day with a goal to leave on time can help you view last-minute requests with a more critical eye: “Learn to say no to additional responsibilities that aren’t an emergency, especially if taking them on would compromise your priorities for the day,” Dr. Manipod advises.
5. Consider looking into a career change. “Physicians should be living the dreams that fueled them to enter medical school in the first place,” says Pamela Wible, MD, a family medicine physician and motivational speaker for physicians in Eugene, Oregon. Although changing jobs isn’t an option for every physician, a role that’s less time-intensive or offers more vacation days can make a big difference, says Dr. Natour, who worked in private practice before becoming an obstetrician-hospitalist. “For me, the change has helped delineate what is work time and what is not work time,” she explains.
6. Make regular plans to take time off. Vacation time, whether it’s an epic trip or a three-day weekend at home, is an important way for physicians to recharge, Dr. Manipod notes. “Everyone has a general idea of how long they can go without a vacation before their productivity and motivation start declining, so it makes sense to be proactive about scheduling time off,” she says.
7. Allow time to transition between work and home. “As a physician, sometimes you work long hours, go home exhausted and spend the rest of the evening thinking about your patients and your to-do list at work,” says Dr. Manipod. Taking half an hour to disconnect—either during your commute or when you get home–can help. Instead of trying to squeeze productivity into each minute of the day, allow yourself to indulge in something wholly unrelated to work, such as a catnap or stroll around your neighborhood after you’re home.