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Is There True Work-Life Balance?

Updated: Jul 25, 2021

Work-life balance. It’s this phrase everyone writes about in their personal statements when they mention their extracurriculars. As medical students and future doctors, it is particularly important that we have other things in our lives outside of Medicine as work and studying can get very stressful.


For that reason, medical schools tend to try and find out how you maintain a work-life balance through their respective application processes. Not only does work-life balance indicate that you have ways to relieve your stress, it also demonstrates personal qualities that are important to have as a doctor, such as leadership, teamwork, initiative, and more.


I wholeheartedly agree that everyone should try to ensure that their work (whether it is a degree or a job) does not consume their entire lives. However, the word “balance” implies that there is a 50/50 split between work and life, as if work and life are two competing entities.


The Seasonality of Life


Life has a fluctuating course. You’ll be focusing on different things at different points in your lives. For example, when you have a big exam/deadline coming up, you would probably be spending more time revising. Not that you should be doing it at the expense of sleep and wellbeing, but “life” would probably not be your main focus at that point in time.


I’ve been thinking about the concept of work-life balance a lot recently. Ever since we started Semester 3, we have much less free time than what we used to have in Year 1. Neuro has been rather overwhelming and most of our time is spent trying to cover the vast amount of content included in the semester.


While we’re not sacrificing our sleep and physical activity, there definitely is no so-called “balance” in our lives at the moment. It feels exhausting trying to maintain a “balance”, as if both work and life have to be juggled equally. Medics are such overachievers that you’ll see your peers running 3 different societies and doing so many other things outside of the course. It doesn’t seem like those individuals themselves have a particularly good work-life balance, do they?


How can we consider this instead?


Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon likes using the phrase “work-life harmony” instead. He states that happiness at home will translate into happiness at work, which I completely agree with. I’ve linked the article that briefly discusses this, there are also Youtube videos you can check out on this topic if you’d like!


Ever since I came across this way that has reframed my perspective on work and life, I started thinking about how the things I do in Medicine and things outside of it work together synergistically. Medicine is a huge part of my life, but I try to cultivate my other interests including learning languages, reading and training in Karate.


I try to give myself flexibility with my time but establish boundaries so that my time is used mindfully. I think this has made a huge difference with how I approach time management and really helps with achieving my goal of staying sane this academic year! We’ve covered some of the aims we had this year on Instagram, check it out 🙂


Conclusion


In short, I don’t believe that there is true work-life “balance”. Instead, I think we should reconsider our perspectives on work and life because they don’t have to take up equal proportions of your time. As long as you’re keeping yourself sane, enjoying what you do and keeping on top of work that has to be done, you’re probably doing it right 🙂


And that was the end of this post! This was something that I’ve been interested in for quite a while, and I hope you enjoyed reading a different style of blog post this week! I hope you are all safe and well whichever part of the world you’re in 🙂


P.S. This week, we’ve started our new series, International Insights which consists of contributions from various international UK medical students sharing their stats, experiences, and advice so make sure not to miss it! Posts will be up on Wednesdays and/or Saturdays, check out our first entry for Manchester Medical School! If you are an international student doing Medicine in the UK and are in Year 2/above, we’re still looking for contributors to International Insights. Do get in touch with us through email or Instagram if you’re interested!


-Jean.

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