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Physicians are especially susceptible to professional burnout—a feeling characterized by emotional exhaustion, a loss of enthusiasm for work, feelings of cynicism, and a low sense of personal accomplishment. An unmanageable schedule can lead to a dissatisfying home life as well as depression and poor performance at work. Physician burnout can not only affect physicians’ mental and physical well-being, but can also affect patient care as well.
Cultivating work-life balance helps to alleviate professional burnout. Work-life balance can generally be viewed as a level of satisfaction with both personal and professional life. It does not mean a 50-50 split between work and outside life, but rather it’s an allocation of your time and energy in a way that serves your goals.
WORK-LIFE BALANCE TIPS
Successfully achieving a work-life balance comes down to carefully defining what you want and need out of your whole life, not work or home in isolation, and then deciding how time should be allocated. The same work-life balance won’t work for everyone, so be honest!
Make an honest assessment of your immediate and long-term goals. Whether it’s making more time to exercise, or recognizing that your priority at the moment is working more to secure a promotion or partnership track, a genuine judgment of what you want will be an important tool in achieving your goals. It is also important to reassess these priorities as your life and work situation changes.
Avoid delayed gratification. Physicians spend such a long time in school and then residency and fellowships, that it becomes normal during that time to think “When I finish school…” or “When I finish residency…” and end up delaying happiness. Avoiding this thinking after completing your education can help you to exist in the present. Just be sure to not over-do it and bust your budget.
When considering whether to take on another project or responsibility, identify what is important to you and admit what isn’t. Don’t be afraid to say no, or to let go of something before you take more on.
On the line of knowing your limits, delegate what you can in order to focus on what’s really important. Whether that’s hiring someone to clean your home or to manage your investments, outsourcing to a professional can help keep your focus on the integral work that you do.
Reducing financial stress is another way to reduce overall stress levels. Come up with a financial plan to address everything from student loan debt to saving for retirement. Putting in place financial protections such as disability and life insurance will also help your stress levels by making sure that your family and your income are protected.
Organizational interventions like changing work schedules are another important way to relieve stress. Controlling work hours and scheduling has increasingly been demonstrated to play an important role in reducing stress and improving career satisfaction. When negotiating your contract, make sure to consider your scheduling! Think about your time management priorities and ask a contract attorney to help you negotiate what’s most important to you.
While there are many ways to achieve whatever form of work-life you are looking for, the key takeaways are to be honest with yourself about your priorities and to work through scheduling or delegation to achieve these goals.