Work Life Balance
The year was 1999 – a year that would become the most defining year in my professional life. I was building a new veterinary hospital, one that would be four times the size of our old hospital and cutting edge for a hospital in the late 1990’s. I assured myself that we would never outgrow this new “Taj Majal.” I was working 60+ hours per week while overseeing this new hospital construction. I was regularly meeting with contractors and subcontractors. At the same time, we were building a new house for our family. My days were becoming longer, and my free time was becoming shorter and shorter. What was supposed to be a great, new venture for our practice of 5 years became an increasing time commitment and the demands associated with the growth were growing by the day. I felt overwhelmed and was not sure how to overcome the demands of being a full time veterinarian, a practice owner, overseer of a new hospital building, all while being a husband and new father at the same time. I kept my best behavior in front of the staff, but internally I was overwhelmed. I was feeling the stress of burnout. I was coming home after working 12-14 hour days only continue to work, doing all the paperwork and administrative tasks required of a young practice owner.
Thankfully, my wife intervened and stopped me in my tracks. She informed me that this could not continue – it was affecting me, her, and our family. She would not allow it.
Together, we worked on a list of the essentials vs non-essentials in my professional and personal life. What was I willing to give up or delegate to other? At the same time, how could I carve out the needed personal time for re-energizing and relaxing? I still remember my wife and I spending a Sunday afternoon making a list of priorities – the actual process was uplifting for a veterinarian/practice owner who was one-step away from burnout.
As a result, I cut back on my clinical duties. Since I’m a morning guy, all of my construction meetings moved to 7 am. I would make it a point to be home for the much-coveted family dinners at least 3 nights per week. Finally, one day a week dedicated to me and my family – be it golfing (I’m a terrible golfer) or doing things me and my wife enjoy together – going for walks, reading, going to a good restaurant, or watching our beloved Chicago Cubs together.
When I find myself occasionally feeling the professional drain of too much work and not enough balance, I think back to that pivotal time in 1999. I have no regrets about the decisions I made for myself, my hospital, and my family. My best advice – do not let this wonderful profession become a drag on your personal life – allow it to fulfill but not overwhelm you.