Can Doctors Have a Work-Life Balance?

Doctors Work-Life Balance
This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Knowing What You Want From Life as Physician

Can Doctors Have a Work-Life Balance?

A work-life balance, according to the Cambridge dictionary, is defined as “the amount of time you spend doing your job compared with the amount of time you spend with your family and doing things you enjoy.” Unfortunately for doctors, the notion of a work-balance is not so straightforward. On average, doctors work around 60-80 hours per week! Being buried under piles of paperwork and enduring long work days can put a strain on your health, your ability to provide care, and your relationships at home. So, if you are having a hard time juggling your personal and professional life, trust that you are not alone. Can doctors have a work-life balance? Absolutely, and here’s how:

Establishing a sense of purpose

Working in a fast-paced clinical setting, it can be easy to experience stress, burnout, and a loss of purpose. For this reason, you need to re-disocover your passion for medicine by reminding yourself what drove you to medicine in the first place. Establishing a sense of purpose means you should take into account your needs and the needs of your organization and align them with your family’s needs.

Managing your time better

While you may not have the option to cut back on your hours at work, you can learn to manage your time better. Hand off tasks to other colleagues whenever you can. Doing so can free up your time and allow you to follow up on other tasks and responsibilities. As a doctor, your time is valuable so make sure that you are spending it the right way.

Prioritizing your tasks

You are only human and you can’t expect to do everything by yourself. Prioritize your tasks by defining what is most important to you. Plan out your short-term and long-term goals and work towards them. Do not waste your time on meaningless activities. Even working 2-3 hours less a week can give you that time to spend with your family and friends, thus allowing you to relax and ‘recharge your batteries’.


Being a doctor may not leave you with a lot of time to exercise, but you can start your days by doing a few quick breathing exercises or meditating. Exercise is a proven stress reliever. Once you get into the habit of practicing different relaxation techniques, you will find your energy levels and abilities to think/concentrate heightened. After all, a work-life balance is not just about prioritizing your work and home responsibilities, it is also able taking good care of yourself.

Re-evaluating your work and life goals

Life is unpredictable and transitions such as training, promotions, marriage, and childbirth take time. Some can even be overwhelming. So, do not feel as if you always have to say yes to everything. If your schedule is jam-packed, it is better to say no, than to say yes and perform poorly. Poor performance as a doctor can result in increased medical errors and lower quality care – something you should try your hardest to avoid. Re-evaluating your work and life goals from time to time can be helpful in creating or restoring your sense of balance.

Taking some personal time

How can you expect to take good care of your patients if you do not take good care of yourself? Go out for a nice meal, catch up on your sleep, cozy up with a good book – these are all things that you should make a habit of doing. Moreover, schedule family meals, date nights, workout sessions, family vacations, and anything else that you feel is important in your life. Taking some time for yourself and for your family is essential to achieving a work-life balance.

Developing a support system

Family and friends are individuals who are always by your side, no matter what. They can offer you advice on how to cope with certain issues or they can be a shoulder to lean on during hard times. So, talk openly with them when you are feeling overwhelmed and do not be afraid to ask them for help. Perhaps even consider hiring a baby-sitter or house cleaner to help you get certain chores and responsibilities done around the house. The less you have on your plate, the better.

“Work life balance is about creating a life that flows with you rather than a life you have to power through” – Jaime Marie Wilson

There is no single standardized approach for a work-life balance. The key to achieving and maintaining a work-life balance is proper planning and scheduling. When you are at home, do not think about work and vice versa. Before taking on different tasks, ask yourself: Do I have time for this? Will this greatly interfere with my professional or personal life? Finding your purpose in life, both at work and at home, means seeking out your own ‘personal balance’ and striving to keep the balance steady.

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