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Work-Life Balance

by Dr. Joe Whalen

Gone are the days of the 60-80-hour work week. One of the things I love about the Millennial generation is they not only want a work-life balance, they demand it! Good for them. Life is a journey so why not enjoy it? The number one regret of retired veterinarians is that they didn’t spend enough time with their families. When I purchased my first practice, I worked side by side with the previous owner, Dr. James Bilcer. On many occasions, he would kick me out of the practice saying, go spend time with your young family, this is what’s important, you’ll never get that time back. I never turned him down when he said that, and I took the lesson to heart. No matter how motivated you are to succeed, spend time with those you love.

Taking Dr. Bilcer’s advice, and balancing that with my passion for veterinary medicine, here are my thoughts on work-life balance.

First, you need to realize that you can have it all, but you need to define what “having it all” means to you. To do this, you need to write out goals. Around New Year’s every year I write down a list of personal and professional goals. When you write down goals and periodically review them, most of them tend to happen.  For me, “having it all” was to be able to take a month’s vacation, and spend ample time with my family, while achieving enough financial success to travel, fund my children’s education, live comfortably and achieve financial freedom by age 50.

My advice to young veterinarians is to be optimistic and passionate about your career and life in general. You can have a great life and a great career.

That was the pep talk, now here is the reality. You have to be more efficient and work harder than your colleagues. The saying, “The harder you work, the luckier you’ll get” really is true. How do you become more efficient? You need to value your own time. This was the lesson I learned from Dr. Bilcer. The sooner you realize this, the less time you’ll waste. How do you work harder? Early in your career you spend 5 hours per week becoming a better veterinarian and learning additional skills. Whether you become an owner or not, this will be time well spent. If you have the opportunity to become a practice owner, you need to decide if you’re willing to spend these additional 5 hours per week working on the business side of your practice. If you are, you’ll be well on your way to financial freedom and earnings of 2-3 times(or more) what an average associate earns.

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