Work-Life Balance, Part I: Establishing Boundaries
Have you ever noticed how many professionals in the
healthcare field don’t attend to their own health?Or how many of us don’t practice what we recommend to our
patients?Or, how many of
us in healthcare delivery or healthcare business develop
stress-inducing habits such as working late, skipping exercise, and
eating on the run?And
even worse, have you noticed how the inability to manage ourselves
(our communication and behavior) often leads to ill-health for us
and/or our staff?
Aspiring to balance our work with the rest of our life is almost a
it, and it seems that few know how to achieve it.We often don’t even know the source of our malcontent or
After dealing with my own journey of malcontent over 10 years ago, and
having experienced both the clinical and business aspects of
healthcare, I can happily say I am operating at an “advanced”
level of “balance” and work-life integration.
Am I perfect?Am I the
guru of professional enlightenment and balance?
Not hardly, but I know I’m far more “balanced” and
whole now than 5 years ago, and even 2 years ago!
I am still evolving as a person, parent, spouse and
reflection, however, I believe there are two significant realizations
that helped me make a quantum leap forward into the zone of
I had a difficult period in my life that forced me to make a choice to
STOP being a whiner who feels stuck and frustrated, and START being an
adult who is responsible for my own joy.Second, every day I deliberately and consciously exercise
CHOICE in how I spend my time, who I hang out with, and what kind of
work and activities I focus on.My
objective these days is to remove the “shoulds” in my life.
In this newsletter and others to follow in the coming months,
my associates and I will address the issue of work-life balance.Some people prefer the term “work-life integration,” as it
more accurately describes the reality of what we really want to
that is integrated with a meaningful life.“Balance” may imply a conflict between work and life.
However you choose to describe it for yourself, I am
suggesting five principles to use as your framework and blueprint for
principles have evolved as I have evolved, and in particular as I work
one-on-one with professionals and healthcare executives to achieve
balance may not be their stated focus, but it’s invariably an
implicit objective---and happily a by-product of our work together.
In this article I’ll focus on the first principle:
articles will address the other principles.
Five Principles for
Achieving Work-Life Balance
Clutter and Tolerations
a Reserve in All Areas
and Developing Your Unique Gift
that God will Illuminate the Next Step
Do you know how to protect your space, family, time and sanity?
This is a two-part question, really.
First, do you know what boundaries you want to establish?Forget about money, social etiquette and being nice for just a
How many hours do you want to work?
When do you want to come home?
What do you want your responsibilities at work and home to
How do want to be with people?
How do you want people to be with you?
Take the time to write down the answers to these questions and also
expand your description of how you want your life to run.
You may be saying to yourself, “But I can’t be that
selfish” or “This is great, but I have to work late sometimes.”
Instead, say to yourself, “I make my own choices.I am responsible for what happens to me in my life.”
Adopt an attitude of CHOICE.
Look at your circumstances as being the result of the choices
For example, if you are exhausted from working late because
you have overbooked yourself in order to meet you financial production
goal, then the stress you and your family feel are a result of the
choice you made between extra money versus emotional well-being (more
on this when we discuss Principle #3, Having a Reserve in All Areas).
Similarly if you are irritated by a colleague of yours who is rude and
sometimes takes advantage of people, it is your CHOICE to accept this
The second part of establishing boundaries is learning how to
communicate in order to maintain and protect your boundaries.Your communication signals to others that you have a choice and
you are honoring that choice.
There are a series of questions and statements that I teach
my clients to use in their day-to-day interactions to help them
of these phrases are good to learn early: “Do
you realize” and “I ask that.”
Do You Realize?
Using the phrase “Do you realize” to open a question is a
powerful AND respectful way to state your boundaries to other people
who may not be aware---or may need reminders---of your boundaries.Here are some examples of how to use this phrase:
Do you realize that you interrupted my reading when you came
into my office?
Do you realize that scheduling that meeting at
means we’ll have to cut it short so I can be out of here by ?
Do you realize how rude you sounded when you called that
manager to our conference room?
Do you realize that you were 20 minutes late for our meeting?
I Ask That . . .
Using the phrase “I ask that” to open a statement is a
powerful and somewhat more forceful way to state your boundaries. If
you find that “Do you realize” is not working with some
individuals, consider the “I ask that” statement.Here are some examples:
I ask that my schedule be blocked during these times.
I ask that when I am with you, you speak a little quieter.
I ask that we start the meeting on time, follow the agenda
and conclude on time.
I ask that you make it to our appointment on time, otherwise
I will leave.
Are you serious about achieving emotional well-being,
eliminating stress, and integrating your work with your life?
It can definitely happen for you if you are ready to take
specific actions now and over time that follow the Five
Sometimes creating work-life balance is less about the
ADDITION of “happy events” and “stuff” to our lives, and more
about pruning away the junk and clutter of annoyances and empty
obligations. I’ll cover
more of that in a future article introducing Principle #2, Eliminating
Clutter and Tolerations.
Gaillour, MD, FACPE
Strategic Advisor and Executive Coach for Healthcare
Professionals and Business Leaders