The concept of balancing work life and nonwork time is a myth, said Mia Cary, DVM, CEO and Change Agent at Cary Consulting in Greensboro, North Carolina. A more realistic approach to finding equilibrium with one’s work and personal life is considering it an integration, something many of us have had opportunity to contemplate or tackle during the past few years when working at home, at least some of the time, has become more common, Cary added, during a session at the 2022 Fetch dvm360® Conference in San Diego, California.
Often when traveling for business, a person sitting next to Cary on a plane would ask if she was traveling for work or pleasure. That got her thinking about one had to exclude the other.
"We spend around 90,000 hours at work in an average lifetime, which includes weekdays, and also a lot of evenings and weekends. If we’re spending that much time at work, we could be missing a lot of fun and pleasure,” she said.
It’s important to develop the skills that allow us to make better choices to more smoothly integrate our work and personal lives so that we allow ourselves to experience the fun and pleasures of both. Cary, who has worked in clinical practice, as well as industry, offered several “smartcuts” to help that integration.
- Blend Responsibilities: Find ways to complete personal errands during the workday, or tackle a work chore during no-business hours.For instance, drop off dry cleaning on the way to the office. Want exercise or a connection with nature during your day? Go for a walk at lunch. Are you a person who needs to completely disconnect during vacation, or is it better for you to set aside time during each day, or during a specific time period, to tackle a work task?
- Keep a regular schedule: Scheduling helps you organize your day, set priorities and track productivity. Cary found that in addition to scheduling meetings and deadlines, it is effective for her to block time on her calendar for writing, dealing with email, and other tasks.
- Work with purpose: Determine what motivates you in life, or just to get up the morning. Writing a personal purpose statement is a helpful exercise to hone this. Knowing your purpose gives you parameters to determine daily priorities and makes it easier to decide to what you should say yes or no to during the day.
- Do not always compartmentalize: For years, it seemed the norm was to have our work and home personas as something different. That is exhausting, Cary said, and we should be able and encouraged to be our authentic selves in the workplace.
- Work in bursts that work for you: Create specific goals that you can achieve in whatever time chunks work for you. For Cary, that’s about 30 minutes. Then take a break, or do a fun or relaxing activity before tackling the next work task.
- Love what you do: If your personal purpose statement doesn’t align with your job, look for projects that align with your purpose.
- Leverage Technology: Post COVID-19, there is greater acceptance of how much more we can do away from the office thanks to technology, such as Zoom meetings. Invest in the technology—apps, software, other—that allow you to work anywhere, anytime.
- Focus on productivity over time spent: What needs to be done? And what needs to be completed in the day to feel good about it? Focus on what you’re doing, rather than on the minutes doing it.
- Manage expectations: Progress over perfection.
Cary M. Smartcuts: work-life integration. Presented at: Fetch dvm360® Conference; San Diego, California. December 2-4, 2022.