Fresh perspective for success in healthcare

Attention Doctors: 8 Strategies to Actually Achieve Work-Life Balance

Balance. It’s the holy grail of American workers—especially those in the healthcare industry. But it’s not as far of a stretch as it can seem after a stressful 13-hour day, a killer commute, and a hungry family waiting for you to get the burgers on the grill. All it takes is a bit of that commitment and grit that got you through med school—and these 8 actionable strategies to make it happen.

1. Prioritize.
“No one ever said on their deathbed ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.” Look at your list of priorities and values. Are you spending time in the relationships that matter the most to you? Are you spending time on activities you value? Are you prioritizing your time based on what you value? If not, think about changes to your schedule that will allow you to prioritize what is important to you.

2. Delegate.

If you find that you are not prioritizing some things that are important to you, delegate. In the work setting:

• Be the leader, create systems, and empower your staff to manage the systems.
• Have staff screen your mail so you only see items that you truly need to.
• Create systems to handle repeated tasks, like lab review and prescription refills (but you will need to be available to monitor that the system is producing the results you expect).

You can similarly build a team at home to manage needed tasks that are getting in the way of priorities. Many of these tasks require time you could better spend addressing the other priorities that will improve the quality of your life. Consider developing a team for:

• Housecleaning and laundry
• Lawn services
• Personal shopping
• Handyman for things that break around your home
• Baby sitter so you and your spouse can have some time alone
• Cooking or a meal deliver service

The list is not exhaustive, and please don’t get a meal service if cooking brings you joy. These are examples of things you can outsource to free up time and spend more time in areas important to you.

3. Double Dip.

Make sure everything you do meets more than one goal. For example, by volunteering for the utilization review, EMR, or clinical documentation committees at your hospital you can expand non-clinical skills that will help your reimbursement, make you more efficient with your EMR, or improve your documentation while simultaneously meeting your hospital committee requirement.

At home try to find activities that allow you to spend more time with another person important to you, improving that relationship. Consider making date night a cooking class, take an exercise class with a friend, take an art class with your child.

4. Maximize Transition Times.

I use my commuting time to transition into work and then back into family mode on the way home. On the way into work I listen to some sort of audio CME related to my clinical practice or an administrative responsibility.

I also have a boundary ritual when I pull into my parking lot at work and when I pull into the garage at home at the end of the day. In the morning as I turn off my car, I take in and release a big breath saying that I am going to be present for patients and staff. In the evenings, I reverse it and say I am going to be present for my wife and kids. On most days it helps me get ready for the day and separate from whatever happened at work.

5. Eliminate Time-Wasters.

What are the things that don’t support your important values at all? These may be the same at home and work. Wasting time watching YouTube or playing video games or scanning social media? Consider eliminating things that are not meaningfully contributing to your values.

6. Minimize Interruptions.

If you do not actively manage notifications on your smart device or computer, you may spend all day looking at email, texts and social media. Consider blocking time to address email and have staff only interrupt for true emergencies. Most items do not need to be addressed immediately. And batching activities can significantly improve productivity.

At home, consider the reverse. Leave your smart device in another room so work issues do not encroach on your family time. When you do need to work at home, find a separate “work area” so interruptions can similarly be avoided.

7. Use Technology to Your Advantage.

While technology can often get a bad rap, it too can help promote balance. If you have an extra minute at work, video conference or facetime with your family. Technology can potentially allow for a work from home scenario too—video conferencing can go a long way in eliminating travel time and enabling more time at home.

8. Communicate.

Find a mentor or colleague who you can discuss work-life integration with. A work mentor can provide guidance and help you develop skills. At home, neighbors and friends can help you develop your team with recommendations for childcare, house cleaner etc. And make sure you communicate your work-life goals and issues to your boss. Don’t assume your boss knows what you’re dealing with. Communication is key.

If you’re looking for more ways to achieve balance in your life as a doctor, consider easing your financial stress with a fast, easy doctor loan from Bankers Healthcare Group. Invest in new technology, consolidate your business debt, or participate in conferences or continuing education classes to help you create a working life that works in balance with the rest of your life.

Dr. Pat Bass

Dr. Pat Bass is a physician, writer, educator and scientist that cares for both adults and children. Currently an Associate Professor of Medicine & Pediatrics at Louisiana State University Health Science Center in Shreveport, he participates in an active clinical practice, medical education activities and health literacy research. View full bio on authors page

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