The snow may still be melting (or falling) in some parts of the country, but the calendar says spring is here. Don’t let these precious weeks and months before the dog days of summer arrive slip by without taking time to enjoy each moment. Work is important, but all work and no play – well, you know the end of that old adage. Finding a good balance between taking your career seriously and maintaining a meaningful personal life will help you enjoy each day more fully, avoid stress and burnout, and may actually make you more productive when you are on the job.
Separating work from the rest of life is more challenging than ever before, now that it’s so easy to stay connected. Particularly if you enjoy your work and/or have a demanding position with a great deal of responsibility, it takes discipline to resist the urge to check your office e-mail on a Saturday or “one last time” before going to sleep. This is just one of the many symptoms that may indicate you are out of balance.
It can be difficult to let go of the habit of putting work ahead of most everything else. Let’s face it; we live in a culture that places a high value on productivity, and most of us are rewarded for being dedicated to our jobs. If you sense that you’re focusing on work more than you should, know that it may take some time to break out of that routine and develop a different rhythm. Some people, teetering on the edge of burnout, can’t even remember how they used to spend their leisure time or what gave them pleasure before they slipped into the pattern of overworking.
The interesting thing about a work/life balance is that what it looks like is unique to the individual. One person can maintain a sense of balance by taking three-day weekends regularly throughout the year while another will need three uninterrupted weeks off to feel renewed. You might spend your off hours training for marathons or playing on a tennis league, while your co-worker finds pleasure in quilting each evening and traveling to quilt shows on weekends.
When trying to strike the balance that you’re looking for, ask yourself what you truly enjoy and what makes you feel engaged, energized, and renewed. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you “should” like, for example, hiking in the wilderness or volunteering at the homeless shelter. If you enjoy those activities, that’s fine. But if you don’t, be honest with yourself, and engage in whatever it is that will genuinely support your efforts toward a work/life balance.
If you are in a leadership position in your practice, set a good example by maintaining proper balance yourself and encouraging it in others. For example, don’t leave for vacation and tell everyone that you’re available by cell phone if anything comes up. Keep an eye out for employees who tend to show up early, stay late, and work through their lunch hours. Let them know that you appreciate their work ethic, but you also know from experience that downtime is important.