1. Mattock, Sarah L. MSN, RN, CRNP


Simply stated, work-life balance is something that is both difficult to define and difficult to achieve. Leaders, throughout the continuum of trauma care, need to have a sound understanding of what work-life balance means and set an example of a healthy work-life balance for those they lead. This article offers strategies for enhancing work-life balance and challenges individuals to use self-reflection as a means to furthering their personal and professional growth.


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Simply stated, work-life balance is something that is both hard to define and hard to achieve. In fact, the meaning of work-life balance is different for every single person.


Leaders are often viewed by their team members as role models. As a result, leaders need to have a personal understanding of what work-life balance means to them as well as being able to maintain a healthy work-life balance. If this work-life balance is practiced by an entire team, it should promote more efficient team functioning.


I continue to work daily to improve my own work-life balance. Does acknowledging that I am not as strong as I would like to be in this area make me an ineffective leader? I believe, in fact, that it says exactly the opposite. It demonstrates that I have done a self-evaluation and seek to grow personally and professionally.


In my experience, sharing truthful information with peers has helped me, and my peers, become better as leaders. In her article, "The Importance of Preventing Burnout Among Physicians and Nurses," Dr Bridget Duffy1 writes, "Advocates of health care reform often talk about the Triple Aim-improving population health, elevating patient-centered care and reducing costs. When thinking about new ways to transform health care, we must extend our approach to the 'Quadruple Aim,' that is, to ensure we focus on solutions that prevent initiative fatigue and burnout for our nurses, physicians and other care team members." I encourage you to evaluate your own work-life balance and strive to grow along with me to decrease and subsequently to avoid initiative fatigue and burnout.



There are many tools, articles, and classes available to assist with evaluating your current work-life balance. There is no magic formula, and no one can delineate this difficult balance except for oneself. I began my journey to an improved work-life balance in February, 2015, by reading Jen Uscher's2 article, "5 Tips for Better Work-Life Balance." She offers ways to bring balance to your daily routine.


Build Downtime Into Your Schedule2

My initial reaction was, "I already do that." The truth, however, is that I relied on my work calendar, also available to me 24/7 on my phone, to know what I needed to be doing and when. There was no downtime scheduled on my calendar, and therefore little downtime in my life.


Slowly but surely, I have started to focus more on adding downtime items to my calendar. Family commitments and events as well as personal appointments go on my calendar, with built-in travel time so that I can not late, as soon as they are scheduled. If an item is on my calendar, I am less likely to cancel or schedule something work related during that time. Also, I now schedule time, blocked as "busy" on my calendar to work, uninterrupted, in my office. This allows me to complete work that I previously would have completed at home or even on the weekend.


Drop Activities That Sap Your Time or Energy2

To start this step, I tracked my use of social media and nonessential websites for 1 week. I was amazed at how much time I was wasting. I encourage you to reflect on the last week, or better yet track your own nonessential activities that sap your time and energy for a week. Perhaps it is not just social media or websites. Regardless, I think that you will be surprised at the amount of time and/or energy that can be spent on insignificant activities. Consider limiting or eliminating any nonessential activities you identify. It certainly has made extra time in my schedule.


Rethink Your Errands2

For me, this is a work in progress. Making a list of errands that need to be completed has greatly helped. However, I know there are many more things that you can do. To start, getting groceries, hair appointments, or washing the car after work, instead of on the weekend, has allowed me more time at home, where I am able to be spending quality time with my husband and children. Simple changes, as I mentioned previously, made to one's schedule can save time that can be spent on something more productive and meaningful.


Get Moving2

This one was hard for me. Before and during nursing school, I was a professional figure skater and later coached young skaters. I skated for hours upon hours and I was in great shape! Then, I had kids and my life completely changed. I did not exercise routinely for several years and to be honest, I felt completely miserable physically. In fact, at one point, my weight exceeded what it was when I was 9 months pregnant with my children. I knew that I needed to exercise, but I made excuses-that I didn't have time or that I was spending that time with my family.


Thankfully, I changed my habits and now exercise consistently. I advise you to learn from my mistakes. Don't make excuses. Get moving. Even if it is just walking for 30 minutes a couple times a week, you owe it to yourself. And, I promise you will feel better physically and will be better able to focus on your work.


Remember That a Little Relaxation Goes a Long Way2

Colin Powell3 is quoted as saying, "Have fun in your command. Don't run at a breakneck pace. Take leave when you've earned it; spend time with your families." Maybe it is my military upbringing, but General Powell is one of the leaders I most admire. For me, words of his are very powerful. In fact, they are laminated and hang behind my ID badge as a daily reminder. We all earn time off. Remember to take it! Trust the team that you have surrounding you to carry on in your absence. You owe time off to yourself and to your precious family.


While these 5 tips helped me greatly over a 6-month period, I still felt I could do better. In her article, "6 Tips for Better Work-Life Balance," Deborah Jian Lee4 urges us to let go of perfectionism. Striving for perfection is overwhelming and for some people, can be quite frustrating. My new word is "excellence." I now strive for excellence. While it sounds easy, I need daily reminders that it is excellence, and not perfection, that I and my team are working toward. When I focus on excellence, and not perfection, my stress level is noticeably and confidently different.


While I didn't necessarily realize it, I had perhaps the best tool already in place to assist me in my work-life balance challenge. In Groysberg and Abrahams'5Harvard Business Review article, they stress that no one can do it alone: "A support network is crucial, both at work and outside of work." My family is amazing. I could not ask for a more supportive husband. My work team is top notch. Over the last 3 years, I have taken the opportunity to become actively involved in my professional nursing organization the Society of Trauma Nurses (STN). The support network that the organization continues to provide me is second to none. I have met some of my best friends through STN. I have received phone calls, encouraging text messages; even a simple "I'm thinking of you" e-mail and I have had the pleasure to provide the same type of support to fellow STN members. STN has become part of me. It is a professional nursing organization that provides me with a great network that I consider part of my safety net. I encourage you to become involved. Not only will it enhance your career, but also it will likely assist you in improving your work-life balance.



Work-life balance is something that is both hard to define and hard to achieve and different for every single person. I hope that you will take the time to evaluate your work-life balance and consider using some of the tools that I have listed above. You owe it to yourself. After all, you are your own greatest and longest commitment.




1. Duffy B. The importance of preventing burnout among physicians and nurses. Accessed June 1, 2015. [Context Link]


2. Uscher J. 5 tips for better work-life balance: beat burnout by making more time for the activities and people that matter most to you. Accessed February 17, 2015. [Context Link]


3. Harari O. Quotations from Chairman Powell. A leadership primer. Accessed June 1, 2015. [Context Link]


4. Lee DJ. 6 tips for better work-life balance. Accessed June 1, 2015. [Context Link]


5. Groysberg B, Abrahams R. Manage your work, manage your life. Harv Bus Rev. 2014;92(3):58-66. [Context Link]


Commitment; Errands; Exercise; Relaxation; Schedule; Team; Work-Life balance