Has the concept of a work-life balance outlived its usefulness? It’s a question that comes up in all professions, but especially in medicine, when patient demands are only a few taps away on any internet-connected device.
According to Dike Drummond, the Happy MD, work-life balance does and should exist for any physician who is at least a little concerned about burnout. Achieving a work-life balance, however, takes some work.
“It’s not something that happens by accident,” Drummond says. “You have to plan for it. You have to get good at creating boundaries and holding them.”
Drummond has worked with 164 organizations on four continents, helping more than 30,000 doctors. Many of those doctors have achieved work-life balance from these two things: what he calls the schedule hack, and building a relationship with bosses.
The schedule hack
Most doctors will have a schedule, Drummond says. Ask them to show it to you, and they’ll produce a calendar on a phone that’s loaded with work appointments. It’s much harder to find a doctor who manages their personal time with the same rigor.
“Med school and residency don’t teach the off switch on a doctor. Ideally, you have to have a way to shut off the doctor when they’re not on call,” Drummond says.
The scheduling hack ensures that “doctor mode” gets switched off at the right times so doctors can be fully present with friends, family and loved ones.
“Setting up a calendar takes a little bit of effort. It’s a future plan. Most people will obey a future plan. If it’s on the calendar, it gets done. If it isn’t, it doesn’t,” Drummond says.
Once a week, typically on a Sunday, Drummond says you should sit down with your spouse and/or family. Take out a paper calendar and plan family time for the week ahead. Every other week, plan a date night with your spouse and put it on the calendar. On your date nights, Drummond says, before anyone has even ordered an hors d’oeuvre, schedule the next date night.
If you’re single, Drummond says it’s time to get back in the game. Online dating is great for time-starved doctors. Work to put dates on your schedule hack calendar.
Once you and your family complete the calendar, everyone takes a picture of it with their phone, committing to the schedule hack.
“Without a regular time and process, you’re fighting an uphill battle,” Drummond says