“If we don’t look after ourselves then we will be no good at looking after our patients.”
This is a great quote from Greta McLachlan, a general surgical trainee, who recently wrote an opinion piece in the BMJ. It underscores why achieving a healthy work/life balance is vital in medicine. It can enable you to feel more in control of you working life, which in turn leads you to having a far more productive working day. By being happier and less stressed, communication will also improve in the workplace – with colleagues and, importantly, with patients.
Six ways you can achieve a good work/life balance
Protect and plan your private time
Create a timeline of your activities. Either in a diary or mobile app such as Notes, input important dates such as family commitments, holidays, birthday parties, hens, stags etc. This ensures you never forget that you are unavailable to work on those days, but also allows you to plan for occasions in advance to take the pressure off.
Find your own exercise routine
A lot of forums and articles will tell you that you have to exercise for xxx hours, yyy times a week for good health.. But you should do what suits you – whether that’s going to the gym, for a run, attending a yoga class or playing sport with your friends. Do something you love and make exercise a must and a want at the same time. Finding even just five minutes in your day to exercise can improve both your physical and mental wellbeing.
Tap into technology
Working smarter, not harder can lead to a much more productive day. Use digital tools to help you find ‘short-cuts’ to build positive habits and save you time or hassle. Apps such as Medit help you to find the best medical content online, quickly. Allowing you to make the most of any pockets of time in your day for professional development – on a coffee break, during your commute, waiting for the kettle to boil!
Work towards something ‘fun’
Make time to book short breaks away or fit in a holiday. Even a long weekend every once in a while is better than nothing. This can be with your family, friends, partner or kids. It is important to make time for these things a couple of times a year. Having big and little things to look forward to can be very impactful in your everyday working life.
Take a break
Remember to take ‘time out’ throughout your day. It’s not beneficial for you or your patients if you are not fully fuelled and ‘tuned in’. Some days can be much tougher than others of course, but if you find yourself with a few minutes to spare, take those 5 minutes to meditate using the Headspace app, or go for a quick walk outside. You will come back more focused and more productive.
Leave work stress at work
Try to develop a mental ‘on-off’ switch between work and home. Stop thinking about work and the worries that flow from it. Easier said than done, right? Listen to music or podcasts during your commute home. Make your morning, afternoon or evening more active by exercising or running errands – whatever shift you are on. Carrying out and scheduling such activities immediately following your normal work hours can help you leave a bad day behind you.