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.

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