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7 ways to improve your work-life balance

You may always be telling your patients to find a better work-life balance, but how easy is it to do that yourself?

Here are seven key tips you might like to try.

1. Just say No – that may seem impossible when you’re called to an emergency and you pride yourself on always caring for your patients. But you do also have to look after yourself so in other circumstances, there may be times when you really do have to be firm and refuse yet another request to attend a meeting or perform some non-essential task. A good habit to develop is not to answer straightaway if you’re asked to do something extra. Instead, say you’ll get back to the person and give yourself a chance to consider whether you genuinely have capacity.

2. Emails – have got to be the greatest thief of time in modern society. You can make it clear to colleagues that you are not incessantly available on email but will reply within 24 or 48 hours. Once you’ve set the parameters, you’ll be surprised how little it bothers people. You’ll also feel much more productive and more in control if you set specific times to check your email and social media, rather than constantly responding to notifications.

3. Work smarter rather than harder – in the Health Service, you may well have trained yourself to work more and sleep less. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try and ‘work smart, not long’ where possible. This involves tightly prioritising what you’re working on and allowing yourself a certain amount of time per task. Ask yourself, do you really need to be doing whatever you’re doing or could you be at home with your family?

4. Forget about perfection – you’ve no doubt always been a high-performer academically and at work. You may well be the sort of person who goes back to complete something because you realise you haven’t done it quite as well as you could. However, sometimes it’s necessary to just step back and realise the ‘best is the enemy of the good’. You may need to tell yourself something may not be perfect but it’s good enough. This is true at home too – working Mums may have to accept that the house might not always be spick and span and the children might not be fed super-nutritious meals from scratch every day but that that’s OK.

5. Don’t be an adrenaline junkie – it’s easy to get into the habit of living off the rush of adrenaline all the time; dashing from one crisis to another at work, then packing as much as you can in on the way home, rushing to the gym, the supermarket and on to another activity. This can be exhausting for yourself and those around you. Maybe it’s time to learn the art of slowing down.

6. Think about where you’re heading – what will life look like when you retire? You may carry on working in a part-time capacity but will you have other interests to occupy you when work doesn’t fill every waking hour? As you no doubt tell your patients, exercise, relaxation and hobbies are all good ways of alleviating stress, so why not start exploring new interests now?

7. Above all, set your own rules – and ignore the ‘shoulds’. It’s your life so you know what works best for you. But if you are trying to improve your work-life balance, it’s worth telling your friends and colleagues so they can help. And evaluate your progress as you go along. Don’t try and achieve a transformation overnight.