By Dr. Amelia Bailey, Ob/Gyn
My life is probably not much different than yours: many people vying for my time and attention, a to-do list that is never-ending, and too few hours in the day to get it all done. Saving time for myself is a luxury. I think it is called the daily grind because it cannot be done without coffee.
If you fall into the latter category, you aren’t alone. Everyone is there at some point; the smartest people find a way to manage work life balance gracefully. While my life is always a work in progress, I have recently spent a good bit of time rearranging the weekdays in order to feel more productive in all areas of my life: family, career, exercise, personal growth, and possibly most importantly sleep. That sounds great; but how to achieve work life balance? The following has worked for me: prioritize responsibilities and needs, set a schedule for the weekdays, and operate efficiently.
Prioritize your responsibility and needs
This is easier said than done but is a crucial first step. So, set aside some time to do this thoughtfully. Ask yourself what is pushed to the side when you have a looming deadline? Those things are closer to the bottom. What can you not ignore for too long? Those items are near the top. For me, sleep is very near the top of the list. Without rest, the body cannot keep moving, and the mind is unable to function at its highest capacity. While we all skimp on the number of zzz’s we get from time to time, it is essential to make up those missed hours of sleep in order to live a full, healthy life.
Set a schedule
First, write out the concrete portions of your schedule (work hours, recurring appointments, exercise classes); then fill in the remaining time with other activities based on their order of importance on your list of priorities. For example, here is my Monday plan:
5:30am Wake up
6am Exercise class
7am Get ready for work
7:30am Help daughter get up and out to breakfast
8:30am Work day
4:30pm Drive home and play with daughter
6:15pm Dinner with my husband and daughter
7:30pm Help toddler get ready for bed and off to sleep
8pm Read for work or fun
9pm Get ready for bed
9:30pm Lights off!
It may seem very planned, and it is. This is what works for me; you need to develop a weekday schedule that fits your life. Hopefully yours allows more time for leisure (if so, good for you!). I like to schedule weekdays so that I can relax on the weekends and enjoy that free time without guilt. I recommend including others in your planning process, especially people who live with you or are affected by your schedule. They can be great allies and encourage you to stick with it.
In order to do this, you must set time limits for focused attention spans during which you minimize outside distractions (phone, email, interruptions) but also factor in breaks. Experiment with the length of your attention blocks. For some, 50 minutes of focus with 10 minutes of rest works best while others need 25 minutes on and 5 minutes off. The important part is to have a break that relaxes you. Most of us are staring at a screen or written words while intently concentrating, so the computer or phone screen should not be part of your rest period. You can stretch, meditate, or even zone out. Whatever clears and rejuvenates your mind.
Change is hard, and old habits are tough to break. I understand, because I am currently in that process. Be sure to get buy-in and support from the people closest to you; they will want to see positive change in your life, and you may even motivate them to do the same. Also never underestimate the power of being rested in order to complete all of your other goals. Good luck; let’s do this together!
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Dr. Amelia P. Bailey is a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility (REI) specialist in Memphis, Tennessee. She is the Director of Minimally Invasive Surgery for her practice and an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. She completed residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville, where she served as Chief Resident, followed by a fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. While in Boston, she was a Clinical Instructor at Harvard Medical School and conducted joint research projects between Boston Children’s Hospital and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
As an REI, Dr. Bailey treats patients who are having difficulty conceiving or who have complicated gynecologic conditions and follows women throughout early pregnancy. Her expertise in sleep and women’s health, including pregnancy, stem from professional as well as personal interests. As the mother of two young children, she knows how important it is to get a good night’s rest and has used the Reverie Sleep System throughout both of her pregnancy and postpartum periods with excellent results.