How do you maintain balance in your professional life? That is the million-dollar question. The most important thing to understand and accept is that balance does not mean everything is always being handled equally at any one time. This acceptance was eye-opening for me in my journey to achieve and maintain professional balance during my last ten years of practicing medicine and being a wife, mom, friend, and entrepreneur.
Having balance means that things may have to shift from one position to another over a matter of time. It does not indicate you are not doing a good job or cannot handle your responsibilities despite what you see others seeming to be able to withstand.
What you see in the outward display of someone else is not always the reality of how they are handling things. Learn to delegate duties. You are not in this alone. Others want to help you but may not know how or do not feel like they are needed. The growth of those around you will allow you to accomplish more than you could ever imagine. Embrace and appreciate the support of your significant other, family, and friends.
Listen to the advice that you give others. You are in the position you are in because you give good advice. You advise patients on how to take care of their health. You advise the administration on what things you need to better care for your patients. You advise nurses on how to improve workflow. If you did not give good advice, no one would keep asking you for your input on anything, right? So know that you really should listen to what you tell others to do because you really give great advice!
I often give coworkers and friends self-care advice. One suggestion I gave for managing time was being mindful that the to-do list will never end, so make a stopping point and actually stop. Determine a few things that are a must to accomplish and one or two that are optional. I found it hard to do this myself, but the mental exhaustion that I experienced before doing this was improved significantly after I actually did it regularly.
Practice what you preach because you are not exempt from being tired or burned out and take your own advice. Sometimes, you have to keep going because the deadline must be met. There is always going to be another project, but do not lose sight of yourself and what you need to do to rejuvenate. The light inside of you needs protection.
Even reading and contemplating how to respond to an extra email, text, or voicemail, though it may seem simple, can drain you. It can take you from your happy place that you just had to frustration, or from your peaceful zone to the wheels turning, and you can not shut off your thought process. Now, that bright smile is blank or frowned. Choose a time not to check email. Do not feel obligated to respond to the text or voicemail immediately. Think about it. How long did it take that person to respond to you or to initiate discussion on the matter?
Be comfortable in setting and enforcing boundaries. If you resigned or you died, what would happen? They would figure it out, and the work would continue. Have a support person or team. Be careful of the timing of starting something new. Strategically use your time with complementary activities. It is ok to say no. Give yourself some credit. Reflect on the significant work you are already doing. Shorten and prioritize your to-do list.
Accept that balance is not a phenomenon of equal parts at all times. Professional balance is the management of time, energy, mental and emotional fortitude in a manner that helps to sustain you in becoming a better version of yourself for continuous successful performance. Your success depends on how you take care of yourself. Protect your light and let your light shine!
Crystal A. Smith Maxwell, MD, MBA, FAAFP Founder & CEO LIGHT Family Wellness, LLC. She is a Women in White Coats fellow and co-author of The Chronicles of Women in White Coats book two.