My Top 5 Physician Work-life Balance Worries for 2013

January 1, 2013

I excel at worrying, and spend a tremendous amount of energy worrying about all the wrong things. Here's what I'll worry about the most in the New Year.

An e-mail with the tagline "5 things you need to worry about in 2013" from a medical magazine recently caught my eye. I have to admit that at this point, I’m not really searching for additional things to worry about. In fact, I excel at worrying, and like most worriers, spend a tremendous amount of energy worrying about all the wrong things. So, in the spirit of the New Year, I’ve decided to worry about these five things in 2013:

1. When I don’t walk the walk. Physicians have a wealth of knowledge about living a healthy lifestyle and, if statistics are to be believed, are generally lousy about following it. So, in 2013, I’m going to worry when I don’t take my own excellent advice about diet and exercise.

2. That I’m not spending enough time in front of the fire with a good book. I’ve finally come to accept that my to-do list may never be done. If I had 36 hours in a day, I would certainly have no problem filling every last minute. We’re all busy, we’re also stressed, overwhelmed, and somewhat unhappy with the many things we need to do. So, instead of worrying about my never-ending list of tasks, I’m going to worry when I don’t spend enough time relaxing.

3. Doing stuff I don’t like. It’s unlikely that I will no longer need to clean out the garage, answer midnight pages from patients requesting a refill of their nasal steroid, or not have to contend with icy roads this winter. However, I do have a lot of choice about where my time and energy is spent and on what. When I look around at whatever I’m doing and decide that I’m not enjoying it, I’m going to worry about how I ended up in that position and how I can prevent it in the future.

4. Taking the good things for granted. There are many wonderful things in each of our lives. As physicians, we probably have an overabundance in terms of material blessings but many of us enjoy many other intangible benefits as well - families, friends, a profession, freedom, and opportunity. I’m going to worry if I start taking my great life for granted.

5. The time I spend complaining. Attitude really is 99 percent of our experience. It can be so easy to complain about things. It’s more challenging to choose to emphasize and focus on the positive. This doesn’t have to be done in a forced, Pollyanna-type demonstration of unbridled optimism. Instead, it’s just like anything else we "see" - a matter of focus and perspective.

So there’s my worry list for 2013. I challenge you, if you choose to worry at all, to worry about the important things.