Life-Work Balance

Urgency & Importance matrix

Adapted from Stephen Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Figure out what is important to you

  • Evaluate values and priorities
    • Trade offs may be necessary (ex: more leadership opportunities versus more personal time)
  • What is rewarding to you
    • On their deathbed, no one ever expresses regret that they did not spend enough time at work

Eliminate activities (and people) that drain your time and energy

  • Track how you use your time
  • Consider the importance/urgency matrix
  • Find collaborators that make your work fun and inspire you
  • Learn how to say no
    • Figure out a decision algorithm that works for you
    • Use trusted language for saying no “unfortunately, I am in the midst of several pressing deadlines and thus cannot take on this commitment. Please do not hesitate to ask if a future need should arise.
    • If in doubt, never say yes until you have slept on it
    • If you say yes, say yes completely

Find ways to be more time efficient:

  • Capitalize on your strengths, and collaborate with others who fill gaps in your expertise
  • Spending time on hiring right person can save a lot of time over the long-run
  • Consider work plans that accomplish more than one goal
    • Examples: Convert grants or presentations into review papers; Walk meetings/outdoor meetings to get exercise and fresh air
  • Find win-win situations
    • Examples: Where appropriate, have post-doctoral fellow help co-mentor student which can benefit everyone; If don’t have bandwidth to lead a paper, find someone else to do it (with you as senior author if possible).

Build down-time into your schedule

  • Schedule one thing to look forward to every day
  • Plan vacations and time off
  • Protect that time

Don’t apologize for making time for what is important to you

  • Saying no to X (that committee, paper review, meeting) means saying yes to Y (your children, your health, your quality of life)
  • You do not have to explain why you are not available, just that you have competing demands or are just not available.

Prioritize your health

  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Sleep

Find what relaxes you and do it

  • Meditation, exercise, reading (not work reading), movies, hobbies, sports

Let go of perfectionism

  • Don’t need to do a stellar job on everything you do (just on most important things)
  • Don’t need to be an expert in everything

Unplug from technology

 

Get support from others

  • Identify role models who have good balance
  • Find a mentor/coach/guide
  • Peers can be great source of support for navigating work-life challenges

Make structural changes

  • Revisit old habits and patterns

Start small