7 life hacks to achieve Zen

November 21, 2016
Kathryn Primm, DVM
Kathryn Primm, DVM

Kathryn Primm, DVM, owns Applebrook Animal Hospital in Ooltewah, Tennessee, but has a growing career as a writer, a speaker and an online voice for veterinarians and pet owners alike.

Veterinary practice may not be easy, but follow these tips to find some balance.

1. Separate yourself

There are two of you. The “work” you and the “other” you who lives outside of work. Set work time and down time for yourself. This is easier if you're an associate because your schedule is more defined. (It's harder if you're a practice owner). But do it. Set boundaries for yourself.

For example, many years ago when I opened Applebrook Animal Hospital, I knew I needed a day off during the week. I had been an associate first and worked weekends, so I learned how much personal stuff I needed to do on my weekday off, like dentist appointments and car maintenance. When I opened Applebrook, I planned ahead to be closed on Wednesday afternoons. It probably hindered my business growth, but I'd already learned I needed it. It wasn't ideal and now that I have other doctors helping me, we don't close, but it was a sanity saver for a long time. 

2. It's OK to say no

You can't do it all. In the end, you can't take on more than you can physically and mentally handle and still hope to do a good job. If, in this moment, you need to prioritize things your boss asks of you, then say no to other things, like pet sitting for a neighbor or dinner at your church. Each person has a different amount they can manage. Don't look at your neighbors to judge yourself. Only you are you. If you know that you need time to relax, don't commit to anything during your scheduled relaxation time. Your work ethic is a direct reflection of your character, but you need an “off ethic” too and it is just as important.

3. Organize and plan ahead

Now that you've planned work time and off time, organize and maximize every second of your time when you've elected to work. Make that time work for you so your free time is truly free. When you're not seeing patients, even at lunch, do other personal productivity tasks, like paying bills online or scheduling appointments. Make hay while the sun shines and work hard, so you can rest and have fun at other times.

For example, I run home during my lunch break and microwave a healthy frozen entree or eat at the hospital. That way, I can set up personal appointments, sort laundry or make grocery lists. I keep an ongoing list using the “Out of Milk” app in my phone so I never get to a store without it.

4. Let technology work for you, not against you

My smartphone and iPad are my life blood, and the Google calendar I set up and can share with important people is critical. It sends me reminders so I don't get swept away in something else and forget. I can buy groceries online and I can prearrange haircuts online after hours. Social media and gaming can be a huge time suck. Save these endeavors for free time so that they don't add to your stress.

5. Financial success can take time

No matter how hard you work or which path you choose, financial success takes time. There were years when I had no paycheck at all. My husband kept my family afloat as I built up my practice. I owed money on school loans, on my equipment and on my SBA loan to start my business. I rented my building and I had to pay to turn the lights on. Everything came before my paycheck out of necessity. But it was an investment in my future. Don't subscribe to the belief that owning a practice or being a veterinarian is easy street. The piper must be paid. You will be unlikely to have indulgences unless you willing to compromise on other things and you should realize that indulgences may have to wait. 

6. Have some fun

Fun doesn't have to be expensive. You can have fun and stay on budget. Look online for blogs about fun and cheap things to do in your city. You can go hiking or visit a museum. Board games can be fun too and aren't expensive. Walk your dog at a new place or go to garage sales. Volunteer to take a shelter dog hiking with you.

7. Eat right and exercise

This sounds trite, but studies show that there are compounds found in food that can help stabilize blood sugar and balance brain chemistry. Make time for exercise, because not only does it improve lean body mass, but also sleep quality and healthy brain chemistry. When you're going 100 percent at your productive times, you'll need all the nutrients you can get. But never forget why you're running 1,000 mph-it's so you can coast down the other side of that hill!

Want a reminder to take with you? Download this one-page visual representation to hang in your break room.

Illustrations by Katie James