The term work-life balance has begun to be replaced in relevant research areas by work-life integration. Anyone in as demanding a role as a physician will roll their eyes at the notion of “balance.” You are not nine-to-fivers; work comes home with you often (literally and mentally); you work late, work weekends, work holidays. So let’s give up that work-life balance ghost.
What is more important—and I believe, achievable—for you is to clearly define your own meaning of balance. Let’s explore this further through the example of a physician friend of mine. She regularly works a heavy three-week stretch in Critical Care and Emerg, after which she makes sure to get out of town the one week off she has. Why? To protect herself from the pull of work as inevitably someone will ask her for something. For her, that’s balance. She optimizes that block of recovery and detachment—and that works for her. It’s achievable. She is consistent with it. It helps her recalibrate.
As much as the idea of quantity would be optimal, I encourage you to at least ensure that you immerse yourself in whatever opportunities you find to detach from work. If you have one hour in the evening, or two days next months or 17 minutes this morning plant the seed that readies you to be in that moment and fully realize the benefits. Do yourself the service of optimizing the time you do have to step out of the doctor role. It is about time optimization not management. To help you, here are some questions to consider:
- Do you protect moments for detachment and recovery when doing long-term planning?
- Can you plan for micro-moments during your day to get some personal space?
- Do you prepare in advance to make a smooth transition into moments for recovery? Or transitioning from work to home life? Being ready to detach and leave work behind helps ensure we maximize the experience.
- Are you feeling guilty for not having better “balance” or are you focusing in on what you can reasonably create as a starting point?