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The Balancing Act
Achieving life balance isn't easy. Changing your approach requires trust and commitment.
âI FINALLY FIGURED IT OUT,â SAYS DR. JIM GUENTHER,CVPM, MBA, a consultant with Brakke Consulting Inc.,based in Asheville, N.C. âIt was one of those rare âah-ha!âmoments that combines urgency and new clarity. The urgencycame from our daughterâs birth; I committed myselfto being one of her best friends and being there for her. Todo that, I needed to give up working so hard. At the sametime, I was learning from younger practitioners in our practicethat I was a workaholic and that I was failing to spendthe time needed for family and personal growth.âYou canât do everything,â says Dr. Guenther. âSo toachieve life balance, you must decide how much time youwant to spend in practice, how much time you want tospend with your family, and how much personal time youneed.â A little change, he says, can go a long way towardenhancing your professional success, personal happiness,and overall well-being.
Itâs not easy. âThe best we can do is try to work in thepresent and establish a priority list thatâs reasonable and yetflexible,â says Dr. Mark Rick, senior associate veterinarianwith Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center in Los Olivos,Calif. âOur spouses and families must be aware of the natureof our business and realize there will be times when apower struggle will arise.â
Is it time to make a change?
âIf you get to a point where you donât want to be at workor work as many hours, you need to re-evaluate your prioritiesand decide whether itâs time to make a change. Ideally,youâre happy going to work,â says Dr. Deborah Spike-Pierce, a partner at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital inLexington, Ky.
Dr. Guenther says you need to consider a change:
> if you no longer have fun at work or donât want to bethere when youâre scheduled
> if youâre constantly stressed and irritable, or if you experiencehealth issues related to stress
> if you experience marital problems because youârenot around, or if your two-parent household functions asthough it were a single-parent household because of yourschedule at work.
âWhether we want to admit it or not, most equine veterinarianswant to please everyone,â says Dr. Guenther. âButyou just canât be everything to everyone.â The key to life balance,he says, is realizing you must please yourself and thepeople youâre committed to-family first and practice second.âThis is a possible goal when you build your practice ontrust and communication,â says Dr. Guenther. âWhen youempower your team, rather than trying to handle everythingyourself, you can rely on your staff members whennecessary to give you a little breathing room.â
Building in time for yourself
Dr. Spike-Pierce retooled her duties to accommodate theneeds of her 10-month-old daughter. How? She focused hercareer on interpreting radiographs and doing orthopedicwork, which rarely requires emergency calls after hours oron the weekend.
âMy workweek is more structurednow,â Dr. Spike-Pierce says. She worksfewer hours and sees scheduled appointmentsonly.
Another way to build in family andpersonal time is to reduce your hours.âHiring an associate can help an overworkedpractice owner find more balance,âsays Dr. Guenther. âWhenthereâs someone to share calls with,you can get away from working 24/7and get down to working five 12-hourdays, or five 10-hour days, or even-heaven forbid-a 40-hour workweek.â
And Dr. Spike-Pierce says changingyour work hours may not mean thatyou have to change your financial goalssignificantly. âMaking more money demandsthat you either work harder orsmarter,â agrees Dr. Guenther. âAndworking smarter means you need toleverage your knowledge to others to letyour practice grow without you beingthe main rainmaker-a strategy thatgives you time to do what you want.â
Dr. Guenther suggests every practiceowner hold an annual retreat.During the retreat the doctors need totalk about their goals for the next year.And they need talk about themselves,he says. âHow can we make this workso we all achieve success, our goals, orwhatever is going to bring peace ofmind in our lives? In other words, howwill we achieve balance?â
Consider your interests, too. âPersonalgrowth comes from pursuing yourinterests. When you learn more aboutsomething that excites you, you get achange of pace and you stimulate yourbrain,â says Dr. Guenther. âAt the sametime you feel rejuvenated, becauseyouâre excited about something new.â
Choices at every stage
If youâre just getting out of school,youâll be working harder to gain experienceand explore areas of practice.Youâre excited about your career, andat this stage the extra money is probablypretty appealing, says Dr. Guenther.You also need to build yourclientele and build the practice. âButas your life changes, you may need tore-evaluate,â he says.
The truth is that you could experienceburnout at almost any stage inyour professional life. And if you overreach,the problems affect every area ofyour life. Dr. Rick says an out-ofbalancecentrifuge makes an interestingmetaphor. âIt wobbles around onthe tabletop, makes excessive noise,and perhaps even stops due to the sensorswithin,â he says. âLikewise, if youget out of balance, you lose direction,lament your trials, and eventuallyreach burnout or blow a fuse.â
âThe hardest part of achieving lifebalance is committing to it,â says Dr.Guenther, âItâs like a diet.â The key, hesays, is finding the urgency that makesyour commitment a strong one. âWenever have enough time. So it all getsback to making choices.â