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 ‘business’ hours trying to create ways to make life easier for both Healthcare Professionals and their patients, but about twice a year I find myself having to turn my magnifying glass around and conduct a tribunal of enquiry 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 I find I’m meeting myself coming back the other way. Having said that, I’m fully aware that what I do is nothing compared to the fabulous people who do 12/24/36 hour shifts in a hospital.
Multi-tasking, while constantly lauded as an essential quality for most jobs, is only effective if it’s productive. When I find that I’m becoming chronically sleep deprived, have stopped exercising, have to scrabble around the ironing pile looking for clean clothes or am 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. It was that you must allow some time every day and week for the unexpected, because life is life and emergencies happen.
I think it’s good to regularly remind ourselves that getting adequate sleep, eating well, exercising and enjoying life 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 what has been achieved by cutting back on sleep and leisure time? Nothing!
In fact, a recent study of neonatologists says that their findings “are similar to physicians’ feelings that their work prevents their having leisure time and emphasizes 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.)
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.
If you are a subscriber to “The Lion’s Share” newsletter you will receive the latest issue shortly, which includes a simple time management tool (even simpler than pen and paper!). I hope you find it useful.
Feel free to comment below and let me know your time management tips, and what small changes have made a big difference to your quality of life.