Physician Goals for Work-Life Balance

April 8, 2016

Physicians often don't take the time to be mindfully present at home with their families. To do so, it takes the same amount of planning that work does.

Unless you've been working in the far reaches of Antarctica for the last several decades, you might have noticed fundamental changes in the composition of American families. The once-traditional, single bread-winner family, where the father works and the mother stays at home and raises two children is all but a memory. Today this structure represents less than 7 percent of all households.

Suppose you are married and have children or will be married and contemplate having children sometime in the future. With that in mind, what kind of family goals do you have and what type of goals might be appropriate for the whole family; i.e., where every member gets to offer input? Here are two different ways to approach goal setting.

Interrelated goals

Many of the goals you have for your family life are likely to be interrelated with the other major areas of your life. For example, one of your goals might be to provide for your children's education, buy a new home, and be able to retire with grace and ease when the time comes.
Any financial goals you choose to pursue for you and your family need to be initiated as early as possible. All benefits, including compound interest, accumulating principal, even the discipline to start saving and investing in this manner, are all facilitated when you begin at as young an age as possible.

If your child is in grade school now, and you want to be able to send him to college, it will be much easier if you start early. If your child is thirteen years old and you have five years to save, in order to accumulate a given sum you'll have to put away three times or more the amount than you would if you had started when your child was 3 years old.

More active interest

Suppose your goal is to take a more active interest in your family's activities. This means spending more time with them, actually conveying your interest and being a good listener. Many people say they want to be more involved with their family; they want to spend more time with their son; they want to attend their daughter's recital. The reality for too many parents, however, is much different.

If they're lucky, they catch the last ten minutes of the recital, spend a few minutes per day actually listening to their spouse, barely know their son, etc. Is any of this slightly familiar to you? The key to pursuing goals in several areas is balance. Nowhere is this clearer than in pursuit of family goals, because family members are more likely than others to let you know when you're not upholding your word.

How often would you like to go away with your family? Once a year, twice a year, monthly, perhaps even bi-weekly? Suppose your goal is to take an extended vacation of between three and six days quarterly. Perhaps during each of the eight other months in which this time away is not taken, you also seek to go on at least one weekend venture.

Reaching this goal would involve a good deal of planning - making reservations, coordinating schedules, allocating funds, ensuring that projects and tasks at work are taken care of well in advance of departure dates, and coordinating your children's academic schedules and other responsibilities accordingly.

Family dynamics

In many respects, how your family operates is representative of how your life operates. Do you want your children to greet you enthusiastically when they come back from visiting friends or some after school activity? If they don't regularly do this, then you might want set a goal of greeting them daily, or at some other interval, with open arms when you return from work or time away.

When you draw up a list of the things that aren't necessarily "working" in your family, and hence those areas for which you choose to establish goals, often what you find is that your own behavior and mindset are what needs changing first.