By Sofia Khan, MD
It’s not easy to balance a high-wattage career with family and personal commitments. If you’re interested in growing as a leader, how can you build a meaningful career while maintaining joy and balance?
At CEP America, where I am a physician partner and board member, there was enthusiastic backing to create the CEP Women in Medicine (CWIM) Workgroup. As part of this forum, we provide information on how to tackle the issues many professional women face. One thing we’ve learned is that you’re not alone. There are support and resources at your disposal.
If you’re thinking about taking on greater leadership responsibilities or are already in the trenches, here are five things I do that have helped me maintain my passion, energy, and balance, and be on fire without burning out.
- Smart outsourcing
Accept that you can’t do it all. One of the hardest things about burning brightly is having so many things going on at once. If you’ve never asked for outside help, consider it. Find someone (or something) to help you manage everyday responsibilities. It could be a virtual assistant or a short-term organizational coach.
Even occasional help can make a difference. Especially with the advent of technology, there are many services at your fingertips. Businesses like Instacart and TaskRabbit are great for those with busy schedules. There are also family-friendly apps popping up such as HopSkipDrive, a car service for kids, and UrbanSitter’s babysitting service.
- Keep your balance
When you’re over invested in your career, other important areas of your life sometimes get neglected. The book Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, by Susan Jeffers, PhD, has several exercises to help with balance. One of my favorites involves making a “life grid” with three rows of three squares. In each square, write down an important area of your life such as family, alone time, wellness, or work.
Look at your grid. Where does most of your energy go? Are there areas of your life you’re neglecting?
- Focus on priorities
What’s important to you? Because you can’t do it all, you have to figure out what’s really important. When you’re prioritizing, Stephen Covey recommends asking yourself two questions:
- Is it important?
- Is it urgent?
It takes discipline to let go of tasks that are urgent, but aren’t important to you. Try delegating these. Or, just say no. Letting go of tasks will allow you to focus on what’s important, even if they’re not urgent. It will reduce your stress level and help you gain control of your time.
- Learn the art of saying no
Because we can’t do it all, we have to say no many times. When we’re passionate about doing great work, we feel like we need to be part of everything. But you can say no and still be on fire.
Ask yourself: Are you excited by the request? If you’re not excited, why not? Is there a way to say yes without sacrificing? For example, maybe your partner can help out more, or maybe a big request can wait a few months.
And if you’re still not excited? Well, then the answer may be no.
The way to say no is honestly and directly. Remember, saying no can be a positive thing. When you value your time and energy, you teach others to value it too.
- Let go of guilt
If the thought of “not doing it all” makes you feel guilty, we can all relate. When you feel good, you have more positive energy to give to others. Everyone needs downtime to recharge. But we feel guilty about taking “me time.” Letting go of guilt and accepting your imperfections can be an important step for personal growth and can help you be a good role model for others.
At this point, you may still be a little skeptical. You may wonder: is it really possible to be on fire without burning out?
A lot of the challenges we anticipate are actually manageable in practice. Don’t feel you have to change in order to lead. You don’t have to be perfect. You can make a real difference for patients and our profession by taking a step forward and leading with passion and dedication.
This blog was adapted from a talk at the CEP America Women in Medicine Forum presented by Sofia Khan, MD, CEP America Emergency Physician Partner, and Kristin Gershfield, MD, CEP America Hospital Medicine Physician Partner.