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The balancing act

Here’s how to achieve excellence at home and work while avoiding burnout.

How many calendars do you have? Me? I have five: a large one on my desk, a planner in my briefcase, Outlook, my cell phone, and my kitchen refrigerator! A bit over the top, but it’s orderly and works for me. While I might write things several times, I am able to keep up with myself. We all struggle these days in the mad, mad world of health-care administration and having a life outside of work, so order is good.

Many of us wake up and go to sleep thinking, “How can I possibly do all of this?” Your schedule may look like you’re pulled in a million directions: manage (or work in) a busy practice, get the kids to the ball field, cook dinner, participate in a book club or yoga class, etc. How do you find time for the massage, movie, book, or lunch with a friend, despite having to prepare for a presentation or board meeting?

I don’t run to the ball field anymore, but I work upwards of 60 hours a week and am on call 24/7, with not one but two cell phones. Again, a bit over the top, but I like the separation of business and personal affairs. Yet, I still spend time with family, friends, and me. It’s all about balance.

So, how do you turn off your professional light and turn on your personal light ... without feeling guilty?

Manage your time

If you have a date or a scheduled appointment or class, plan your day around it like you would with any other commitment! For example, if you have a board meeting that will last until 8 p.m., plan “me” time in the morning for any hobbies or personal tasks, such as a round of golf or participating in your child’s classroom. If I have a 6 p.m. meditation class, I may start my day at 7 a.m. to not feel “guilty” about leaving the office early. There is nothing selfish about doing what is healthy for you and your family, as long as your work life does not suffer. Planning makes the balance work without having the guilt associated with it.

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As administrators, we set the example for others. This may include that we show up on time, be present, do our jobs, remain professional at all times and always bring our best game and have fun! If we can’t have fun, then we should try our hand at another profession. If we can’t be passionate, then we are in the wrong place and we can’t possibly be present for others as we expect them to be for us.

Forget “perfect”

We can strive for excellence in all we do, but there are times when we just won’t hit the mark; we’ll make a mistake; we’ll beat ourselves up. We’d like to tackle our entire professional and personal to-do lists today, but oftentimes we are lucky if we don’t carry much of the list onto the next day.

We need to have multiple trains of thought and multiple balls in the air that can cause constant stress. And, if left unchecked, this stress can lead to burnout.

The key to avoiding burnout is to let go of perfectionism. Rather, strive for a healthier option: excellence.

Most practice administrators I have met are overachievers. A lot of overachievers develop perfectionist tendencies at a young age when demands on their time are limited to school, hobbies, etc. But, as we grow up, life gets more complicated. We have more responsibilities and less time to commit to our agenda. The demands on time are greater.

But we can strive for excellence, the quality of being outstanding or extremely good, rather than refuse to accept any standard short of perfection. I would rather be extremely good or outstanding then consistently carry the stigma and stress of having to maintain perfection.

The Yankees’ Aaron Judge is considered one of the best young players in baseball. The expectation is that when at bat he will always hit a home run (perfection); but, what if the bases are loaded and he hits a low ball that manages to score two runs (excellence)? His expectation when he took the plate was to hit that home run (perfection), but he fell short (according to him) and brought in only two, leaving him and another man on base. Failure? I think not. Still an excellent score — he could have struck out!

So, release yourself and enjoy the view! There is no perfection — there is doing your personal and professional best at all times, in all situations and honoring that space of personal pride and receiving, at the same time, professional accolades, personal and professional accomplishments, and reaching the same goals without all the pressure! Are you breathing yet?

Unplug

“There are times when you should just shut your phone off and enjoy the moment” says Robert Brooks, a professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. Phone notifications can interrupt off time and inject an undercurrent of stress in your system. So, don’t text at your kid’s soccer game or send work emails while with family, Brooks advises. Make quality time true quality time. “Resilient people feel a greater sense of control over their lives” says Brooks, while reactive people have less control and are more prone to stress.

Set aside at least a few hours to stay away from screens and do something physical or creative that you really love.

I recently stopped charging my cell phones in the bedroom at night. I no longer want to get up in the morning and immediately grab my phone/iPad to see what emails I have, what tweets came through, what news happened over night. That can wait. I rather prefer to start my day balanced and open to receive.

Meditate and exercise

Meditation and Chi Gong are my morning rituals; it is my time. No electronics. I wake up, breathe, stretch, and go right into meditation. And I choose to end my day with meditation. It’s what keeps me centered and balanced.

Exercise is essential for well-being. It lifts your mood and can even serve to put you in a meditative state, according to Mayo Clinic. For me, this is Chi Gong.

Turn down invitations

If you’re feeling the stress of work and your personal life; stay home. Don’t socialize — use the time block for you. Whatever that looks like to you, do that.

A lesson I learned a long time ago is if I cannot show up for myself, I cannot be of service to or show up for others.

Take time off

Don’t feel guilty about taking a day off. Communicate with your doctors and managers when you will be out, and make sure they are well equipped to handle things in your absence.

Similarly, do not sacrifice your health for your job. If we don’t stay healthy, balanced, and focused, our jobs will suffer. Your employer should welcome your time off so that you can recharge and rejuvenate. After all, our doctors take vacations to recharge, so we should too. We owe it to ourselves, our employers, our families, and our sanity.

Time with your loved ones should be a top priority. Also, it leads to a higher quality of life. “We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends, and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends,” says Daniel Gilbert, Harvard happiness expert.

Conclusion

There is a fine balance between our professional and personal lives. Find your magical balance, whatever that looks like for you. Never compromise your personal time for anyone — it’s like giving up on yourself.

Take that long weekend, stay at the ball field, join a book club, go to yoga class, play golf, play bridge, read a book, color, turn off your phone — whatever makes you joyful. By doing so, you will be able to offer so much more to your employer, employees, and yourself.

I hope you find your guilt-free magical balance. OP