Typically the idea of work-life balance consists of finding a way to manage your time for all of your priorities, including school/career, family, leisure time, sleeping, eating, working out, etc. It’s a commonly discussed theme in medicine, which is a very demanding field for both trainees and those in practice. Striking that work-life balance (or at least trying to) is in itself a major challenge, but I’ve recently faced something else that’s just as challenging—work-work balance.
Work-work balance is the term I use to describe the feeling of being pulled in dozens of different directions for only school/career-related activities. This has nothing to do with finding the time for sleep, or talking to my parents on the phone, or having dinner with friends. This is all about deciding how to divvy up my time in relation to various commitments. I have a commitment to my patients, so I must spend some time looking up what happened to them over the weekend while I was gone, thinking about their problems, and coming up with ideas for their care. I have a commitment to my schoolwork, so I must spend some time studying for various shelf exams, completing clerkship homework assignments, and preparing for lectures. I have a commitment to my research, and that involves collecting data, analyzing it, writing it up, and collaborating with others. I have a commitment to my future, which involves attending meetings about residency planning and taking all the necessary steps to make sure I’m on track for the application process.
The third year of medical school is by far one of the most challenging in each and every one of these aspects, because it’s when all the responsibilities pile on, and we’re just barely gaining incremental competence. Some nights (or mornings…) I come home and question everything—why am I doing this to myself? But then I remind myself that 1) Third year is a finite period of time that is like this for everyone, and I’ll get through it like those before me and 2) As things get harder, I’m also stronger, better, more equipped to handle everything that comes.
Now, for some work-life balance: I’m off to bed.