Dr. Cotton agreed, adding that establishing a value system early on is another key to attaining that dream of balance and maintaining it throughout one’s career.
Explore This IssueNovember 2006
I think you have to truly value your work, he said. I love my job and I’ve never felt like I didn’t want to go to work. But I also value my home as a haven; I do not take work home.
Dr. Cotton believes the value of time away from work cannot be overestimated and should never be discounted. He doesn’t even take his computer with him when he goes on vacations and highly recommends that others pick up that same habit. He recalled a young colleague who was preparing to leave for a week of vacation to visit relatives and was planning to take his laptop with him.
When I asked him to promise me that he wouldn’t take his computer with him, he said he didn’t think he could do that. I said, ‘You are about to spend a week with the people who mean the most to you in your life. I can assure you the hospital will be here when you get back, whether you take your computer or not, and when you retire and the hospital no longer cares about you, your family will.’
Issues Change as Career Advances
Now, some more bad news, followed almost immediately by more good news.
The challenges don’t end when you complete your residency and are firmly established in practice.
Balance at work varies as you move through your career path, Dr. Smith noted. When you’re a resident, it’s really uncontrollable; you’re really subject to the will and at the mercy of the people that you’re working for. As you get into mid-practice, which is about where I feel like I am, you can start to control your work requirements to some extent.
Taking personal control of your schedule, according to Dr. Cotton, is an important first step in managing the balance between your home and work lives.
The only thing I micromanage in my life is my schedule, he said. My secretaries do not run my schedule for me, so I am in control. That allows me to be personally responsible and it gives me the framework to allow for flexibility when the unexpected arises.
And when a spouse and children enter the picture, the unexpected can arise in waves. All three panelists spoke to the challenges of balancing work, parenthood, and dual-profession marriages.