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A physician's guide to balancing work and family

A physician's guide to balancing work and family


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Finding the right balance between work and family can be difficult in many professions, but it can be especially difficult for physicians. Physicians often face the unique challenges of understaffing, overwork, and immediate patient emergencies. Additionally, physicians have such a positive impact on their patients' lives that it can be difficult for them to pair back their practice or work hours as they know its effect on their patients.

Often, physicians also find themselves increasing their workload and earnings to offer their family and their children the best life possible. But, unfortunately, this trade-off between time and money can negatively impact the family life they are trying to improve.

In Morgan Housel's recent book, "The Psychology of Money," he writes about finding the right balance between work and family in his life and some of the lessons he's learned along the way.

In regards to the trade-off between time and money, Housel tells the story of Karl Pillemer, a gerontologist who wrote the book "30 Lessons for Living." In his work, Pillemer interviewed a thousand elderly Americans searching for the most valuable lessons they could offer over their decades of experience for his book.

"Your kids don't want your money (or what your money buys) anywhere near as much as they want you. Specifically, they want you with them," Housel quotes Pillemer.

Housel then goes on to write, "Take it from those who have lived through everything: Controlling your time is the highest dividend money pays."

Housel and Pillemer make it quite clear: money can give you the ability to control your time, and your family wants that time with you, above all else.

So, what can you do if you feel your life is unbalanced?

Jim Dahle, a practicing board-certified emergency physician and author of the well-known blog The White Coat Investor, offers some specialized tips aimed at helping physicians find balance in their lives.

First, define what balance means to you.

Achieving balance is more of a feeling than a specific set of accomplishments, so you need to decide what that means for you. First, go through the exercise of writing down the things that are essential in your life. Next, get clear about what you like spending your time doing and what you do not. From there, it is a matter of maximizing the amount of time spent on the things you enjoy and minimizing the amount of time you spend on the things you do not.

Rotate your focus.

Different phases of life will require different areas of focus. For some, this may mean spending more time at home while their kids are younger, and then less as their kids are older and in school. Others may need to focus heavily on building their practice at certain times and ease off at other times. For those striving to balance their work and life, rotating focuses for different seasons of life can be essential. This can allow you to give a specific area the time and attention it needs, knowing it is temporary and your focus will rotate in the future.

Consider working part-time.

Jim Dahle writes about his findings over the years speaking with various physician groups. He says, "It has been fascinating to me over the last couple of years as I speak with physician groups. I ask them what they would do if I wrote them a $10 million check today? Would they show up at work tomorrow? And they almost all raise their hands. They truly aren't working just for the money. Then I ask them, would you be working the same number of days a week or number of shifts a month? And almost nobody puts their hands up. It seems to me that almost everyone in medicine wants to do part-time work."

Jim says the first thing he often tells physicians is to consider pairing back to a normal full-time workload to start as many physicians are working 60 to 80 hours a week. He says that different specialties may have an easier time downshifting, but he believes it can be a viable option for anyone.

He also mentions the importance of understanding what you are comfortable with regarding pay and working hours and not being afraid to say no when negotiating. In addition, Jim adds the importance of ensuring you are still working the minimum hours you will need to keep the necessary skills for your work, which will be different for various specialties.

Like anything, the decision to reduce work hours can come with many trade-offs, including a potentially significant reduction in income. That said, it can often be an excellent choice for physicians who feel their work and life are unbalanced and need a change.

TrueNorth Wealth is here to help.

At TrueNorth Wealth, one of Salt Lake City's leading wealth management firms, we focus on helping our physician clients strike the right balance between their money and their life. We do this by pairing each client with a dedicated CFP® professional backed by an incredible team. We understand that time spent managing your finances is time you could have with your family, which is why we offer comprehensive financial planning for all our clients.

For our team at TrueNorth, it is about so much more than money. It is about serving physicians all across Utah and helping them achieve freedom and flexibility in their lives. To learn more or schedule a no-cost consultation, visit our website at TrueNorth Wealth or call (801) 316-1875.

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Joe Griffin Ceo, TrueNorth Wealth


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