Physicians Can Have Full Personal Lives

How can a dedicated physician integrate a medical career with a full, rich personal life? Here are five suggestions, ranging from balancing priorities to tending to your own health as carefully as your patients’ well-being.

Review Your Priorities Often

Priorities change at various life, career, and family stages. It’s essential that physicians regularly reflect on their priorities. A proven technique is to write your life priorities in a column in order of importance. For example: home, family, health, career, leisure, friends, financial security, relationship, spirituality, service, personal development, and any other category of importance. In a second column, list these same areas in order of the time you actually spend on them. Comparing the two columns helps show whether your time is spent where it matters most to you.

Know What You Can Control

With only 24 hours in a day and 168 hours in a week, managing your time is essential. Yet, parts of life are simply beyond our control. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, author Stephen Covey writes about “circles of influence,” things that concern us that we can control, and “circles of concerns,” things that concern us that we cannot control. Spending too much time thinking about issues over which you have no influence is a waste of precious time. It is important to ask yourself, “do I have direct influence regarding this issue?” If not, focus on issues where you can make a difference.

Your Health Matters, Too

Physicians know that those who take care of their bodies are more productive, happier, and feel more balanced. Yet, for some clinicians, eating well, sleeping enough, and exercising regularly get crowded out by other demands. Some physicians take better care of their cars than their bodies! Get started by selecting just one aspect of self-care to improve and ’tune up.’

Take a Meditative Moment

Both spiritual and emotional well-being affect energy, efficiency, and ultimately productivity. Spirituality can come in many forms, including sitting on a beach, snowshoeing in the woods, looking at the stars at night, or sitting on a porch in the summer. Each can be spiritually nurturing experiences and increase emotional well-being. Even 15 minutes of walking outside can do wonders for a feeling of balance. Walking with a spouse, partner, child, or friend also allows the bonus of connection with a special person. Mini-meditations during the workday — even five minutes — can help you keep your day on track.

Expect the Unexpected

There will always be surprises, good and bad, at home and at work. Accept that things you couldn’t have anticipated or prepared for will happen. The key to managing the event is not losing sight of your own well-being. Talk to friends and family. Seek out support — and professional help, if appropriate. v

Donna Singer, MS, PCC, is principal of Donna Singer Consulting, LLC. This article first appeared in Vital Signs, a publication of the Mass. Medical Society. For more information on work-life integration, contact the MMS’ Physician Health Services Inc. at (781) 434-7404 or visit www.physicianhealth.org.