How To Set Boundaries for Better Work-Life Balance

Many doctors (and other professionals!) find it hard to get their work done at work, and find themselves routinely bringing charts, or other work, home to finish.

This impacts work-life balance and can interfere with your personal relationships, family time, and emotional wellness.

While we are talking about creating effective boundaries here as a means of improving work-life balance, it should be noted that a multi-focal approach to this problem is most effective, including

  • improving focus and efficiency with work tasks
  • making decisions around planning your time accurately, and
  • following through on your decisions

The approach varies somewhat with work tasks and personal issues, and I’m focusing specifically on work boundaries here.

Doctors often have a hard time saying NO—to patients, partners, or others.

This is also a boundary issue.

Deciding in advance what you will and won’t allow (your protocol) minimizes the decision time and the emotion involved in a difficult “no” conversation.

How To Create Work-Life Boundaries

? Define Your Work Protocols

You can define your protocols for how you will handle different scenarios, and then train your staff so they’re clear on your expectations and your boundaries.

The reason you need to define protocols is to constrain your work to the time available in a workday.

This is related to Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the period of time available for its completion.

If you don’t define time limits for work tasks, they will ever-expand and bleed into your personal time.
Defining your protocols is the key to getting your work done at work so you can actually enjoy your personal and family time.

✅ Workday Protocol

  • Decide what days/times you will work, when you schedule patients, what time you will leave work, and your protocol for taking work home (or not)

*Note: These are all things YOU decide, which may come as a surprise to some of you. Just because your partners do it another way doesn’t mean you can’t choose something different.

✅ Administrative work protocols

  • Decide when, how much time you’ll allow, and specific parameters for dealing with charting, emails, lab results, patient messages, and other administrative tasks that can eat up your work day if you allow it,

*Note: it’s important to spell these out explicitly, and preferably in writing. Be specific and clear. Ask them to repeat the instructions/steps back to you so you confirm their understanding. This may take extra time but will save you future time and headaches!

✅ Decisions & Projects

  • Create limits on research for decisions you need to make (I will spend no more than 20 minutes researching flight options or I will research no more than three options for replacing a piece of office equipment.
  • Projects or anything that includes more than one step/action should be broken down into the smallest component parts, a time limit assigned to each individual item, and then scheduled into your calendar.

✅ Weekend protocol

  • Decide if you will do any work on weekends, and if so, decide how much time and when.

*Note: If you don’t work standard business hours, your “weekend” protocol is your non-working or off-days protocol.

✅ Vacation time protocol

  • Decide if you will do any work on vacation, and if so, decide what type of work will you do, how much time you will spend, and when.

One final thought I want to leave you with.

? Remember as a physician, you are the asset.
? Your brain is the asset.
? Do whatever needs to be done to protect the asset.

This means:

  • Setting clear boundaries to protect your time and energy
  • Fueling your brain and body for high performance
  • Ensuring enough downtime for rest and recovery
  • Enlisting the help you need to protect the asset

That may require getting family to help, hiring additional staff, outsourcing or delegating tasks that don’t require your brainpower, or investing in additional resources such as coaching to help you build and protect your asset.

Your brain is the money-maker.

Don’t ever hesitate to invest the time, money, or other resources necessary to keep it functioning optimally!

Here’s to protecting the asset,

P.S. If you want help creating boundaries to protect the asset – I can help you with that! You can schedule a free coaching consult here.