When Is It Time to Live for Yourself?

Shelly Reese


January 14, 2013

In This Article

Key Steps to Living for Yourself

Regaining balance is an individual journey. Experts recommend these steps:

Make "me time" a priority. Financial planners encourage would-be savers to pay themselves first. The same applies to time. "You've got to have the mindset that says, 'I deserve this and I must do this' to make changes real. You need to work at this the same way you work for CMEs," Ferron says.

Find your source of strength. Dr. Hicks helps clients with a series of directed conversations that help them better understand where they derive their strength and comfort. Understanding what motivates you and gives your life meaning enables you to focus on these areas and incorporate them into your daily life.

Shift your mindset. "What you think and feel creates your reality, and you are the one in control of your thoughts and feelings," Lesetz says. Although science-minded physicians may be reluctant to embrace such a touchy-feely approach, she's quick to point out the proven power of the placebo effect as evidence of the mind's power to effect change.

Study your practice. Effective time management is essential. Perhaps you have practice management issues that are contributing to your time crunch or stress. Does your staff squeeze in extra patients? Are you using mid-level providers as effectively as possible? Can you trade onerous responsibilities for more fulfilling ones? Lesetz notes how one hospitalist she coaches was able to relinquish scheduling responsibilities for his group and assumed responsibility for a nursing educational program, which he finds much more fulfilling.

Don't try to do everything perfectly. Focus your energy on what's most important, says Ferron. "With all of the demands that physicians face, something has to give; it's far better to choose what that is and where you are going to simplify."

Don't look for quick fixes or extreme solutions, says Ferron. Before you think about getting out of medicine, look for missed opportunities and ways to make realistic adjustments in your schedule that will give you more energy.

Be realistic. If you want to work exercise back into your life, don't plan to run a marathon or immediately hold yourself to a daily schedule. Doing so will create additional stress and submarine your chances of success. Start by squeezing a workout or two into your week.

Make yourself accountable. Dieting and exercising are both easier when you have a partner. Talk to a colleague or friend who is struggling with the balance issues as well and hold each other accountable.

Recognize your humanity. Accept that changes in your own life circumstances may affect how much time and energy you can devote to your practice. Don't beat yourself up that, as a parent or a caregiver for aging parents, you can't devote the single-minded attention to your craft that you did as a newly minted physician. "The line really does move," Lesetz says. "Doctors need to listen to their own internal-guidance system."