One of the biggest challenges veterinary professionals face is finding a healthy balance between their personal and work lives. Many practice owners and practice managers alike struggle to maintain a normal schedule and far too many find it next to impossible to enjoy much-needed time off. Is work-life balance really achievable? Can there ever really be true harmony between career, family and self for those in the veterinary field? While some days will definitely be better than others, the good news is, this type of balance is indeed doable. Here are a few keys to success.
If you’re not particularly adept at managing your time well, chances are you struggle with balance in your life. Effective time management in the veterinary industry (and in any industry, to be honest) involves identifying what’s most important and tackling those things accordingly. Recognize that you won’t always be able to check everything off your to-do list, but if you get better at managing your time so that you’re most productive, you’ll be able to go home each day with a sense of accomplishment (and at a decent time).
In line with time management, mastering the ability to prioritize what’s most important to you is another key to achieving work-life balance. List out what is most critical to your practice success daily, weekly, monthly, etc. The top five things on your list are what you should focus most of your energy and attention on. Remember to include matters of self on that list as well. That means taking care of your own wellbeing, like getting enough sleep, exercising, proper nutrition, etc. Prioritizing self-care is important in preventing burnout.
Realizing that you don’t have to do everything yourself can be incredibly liberating. It can also do wonders for staff morale since you will be empowering your team with your trust. Unfortunately, asking for help and letting go of certain tasks is something many veterinarians find difficult. The reality is, many of the day-to-day functions you’re bogging yourself down with can, in fact, be handled effectively by other members of your team, freeing you up to focus on more important business initiatives, like practice growth.
The following steps should help make the delegation process run more smoothly:
- Select the right person to delegate to
- Explain the task and/or expected end result
- Express confidence in and gain commitment from the selected person
- Agree on a deadline
- Step away
- Perform regular progress reports
- Reward a job well done
Delegating at home can also alleviate some of the heavy burden you’re experiencing.
Openness to Change
Ironically, the one thing that remains constant in life is change. Processes change, technology changes, the people around us change and we change as well. To truly achieve balance in your life, you must be willing and able to respond to those changes, either by accepting or adapting to them accordingly. Sometimes negotiations must take place, both at home and in the workplace, to arrive at an arrangement that is acceptable to all parties.
The fifth tip for achieving better work-life balance is to be willing to accept that sometimes things aren’t always ideal. In work and in life, things do not always go exactly as planned. Accepting less than perfection can be challenging – especially for veterinarians – but flexibility is essential. Try to focus on what you and your team have done right and keep the right perspective. Understand that life is often a juggling act. A ball may drop from time to time, but it’s possible to pick it up and get back on track.
Striking a healthy trade-off between your personal and professional life isn’t always easy, particularly when it comes to those working in the veterinary industry. By practicing the five skills above, you’ll gradually find the balance you are looking for and, as a result, your life will flourish in all aspects.