MTP: The Balancing Act Between Personal and Professional Life

Suchman and Ramamurthy define balance as something that "each of us strikes between our own enrichment and depletion" which is "critical to our physical, emotional, and spiritual health". For many researchers and clinicians it is challenging to successfully balance their professional responsibilities with personal priorities, including spouse, family, personal and spiritual growth, as well as physical health.

The lack of balance between the personal and professional life can cause a burnout, a syndrome that includes emotional exhaustion, depersonalization of relationships, patients and the work, reduced sense of accomplishment (negative self-evaluation), and can be associated with impaired job performance and poor health.

To prevent this stage of complete exhaustion it is essential to reflect on and clarify personal values and choices. Spending time with family and friends, religious or spiritual activity, self-care, including nutrition, exercise, and a supportive spouse or partner serve as key factors in balancing work and life. In addition, it is important to control the workload, find a meaning in work, and settle limits as well as learn to use administrative support systems adequately. As John Gardner puts it: "Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle or the prize in a treasure hunt. Meaning is something you build into your life. You build it out of your own past, out of your affections and loyalties . . . out of your own talent and understanding, out of the things you believe in, out of the things and people you love, out of the values for which you are willing to sacrifice something." To maintain the work-life balance it turns out to be crucial to define values and to ask fundamental questions about the reasons why you chose your profession, the areas where you think you are irreplaceable, and what would you like your life to be like in 10 years?

The Management Matrix below serves as a helpful tool to define personal priorities and barriers you face in allocating time and energy. Download a printable version of the Management Matrix (PDF 75KB).

 Urgent Not urgent
  • Crisis
  • Medical emergencies
  • Pressing problems
  • Deadline-driven projects
  • Last-minute preparations
    for scheduled activities
  • Preparation/planning
  • Prevention
  • Values clarification
  • Exercise
  • Relationship-building
  • True recreation/relaxation
Quadrant of Necessity Quadrant of Quality &
Personal Leadership
  • Interruptions, some calls
  • Some mail & reports
  • Some meetings
  • Many "pressing" matters
  • Many popular activities
  • Trivia, busywork
  • Junk mail
  • Some phone messages/email
  • Time wasters
  • Escape activities
  • Viewing mindless TV shows
Quadrant of Deception Quadrant of Waste

Presentation: Personal and Professional Balance — view as PowerPoint (37MB) or view as PDF (19MB)