How is your work/life balance these days?
Did you just snort in total exasperation?!
Medical Journals, blogs and my colleagues on the front line of healthcare are increasingly referring to the fact that Healthcare Professionals are at breaking point, burnt out, working harder than ever, doing longer hours but earning less, seeing exasperated patients who have been waiting for longer than usual, often not having enough time to do an examination as thoroughly as they’d like, let alone to do a personalised plan of care or to take on additional challenges like multimorbidity and polypharmacy.
I spend a lot of my working week helping people to really examine their time management, so that they can step outside their hurly burly days for an hour or so in the safe space of coaching, see the overall picture, evaluate and refocus so that they live a life of controlled purpose each day. Regularly, and through being coached myself, I find myself turning my magnifying glass around and doing an audit on how effective (or not!) my own time management is.
I’m one of life’s natural multi-taskers and find it impossible to do nothing. Even when I’m “relaxing” I have my phone, laptop and notebooks nearby. As a result I get a lot done, but sometimes realise there is no room in my day for unexpected eventualities.
Multi-tasking, while constantly lauded as an essential quality for most jobs, is only effective if it’s productive. If you notice that you are becoming chronically sleep deprived, have stopped exercising, have to scrabble around the ironing pile looking for clean clothes or are opting for convenience food most days of the week – it’s time to reboot.
Whenever I need to re-examine how I spend my time I actually write down what I need to do every day and sort it in order of importance. Then I ruthlessly identify the things that steal my time and I delegate or relegate.
I read a lot of time management tips and blogs and for the most part I’m already doing most of what they recommend, but one comment in an online article struck a chord with me, because I’m inclined to fill each and every day with things to do. It was that you must allow some time every day and week for the unexpected, because life is life and emergencies happen.
Just because you are a a healthcare professional doesn’t mean you don’t need to regularly remind yourself that getting adequate sleep, eating well, exercising and enjoying time with family are ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL to life. These are the things that provide the physical, mental and emotional nourishment we need to work and be productive, but they are often the things we tend to cut back on when work and other responsibilities take over. When we do this for too long, work becomes harder or less productive – so really – what has been achieved by cutting back on sleep and leisure time?
In fact, a study of neonatologists found that their work prevents them from having leisure time, and concluded by emphasizing the importance of leisure time in maintaining a good quality of life. Engaging in leisure time activities, such as “spending time with one’s family and friends, and being engaged in physical activities, can prevent burnout.” Source
Even more seriously, “Sleep Deprivation can impair job performance and increase risk for worker errors and injuries. Errors made by fatigued healthcare workers also can endanger patients.” (Running on Empty: Fatigue and Healthcare Professionals. Medscape. Aug 02, 2012.)
I love this passage from the coaching textbook “Co-Active Coaching”…
“Balance…should not be confused with reaching some ultimate equilibrium. There is no static point in life; life is inherently dynamic. We are constantly balancing. Balance is not about slowing down, although slowing down may be just the recipe some days….Balance coaching is designed to restore flow, to get clients into action on today’s issues in a way that brings them back into alignment and back in control of their own lives.”
So, for your sake and for those who depend on you, grab a pen & a piece of paper and take a few minutes to plan some changes (however small) to make a difference; to help you rearrange your life, refocus your priorities, ensure you allocate enough time for the good things in life or whatever you need to ensure the perfect balance for you. You are so worth it.