Work Life Balance Top 3 Success Factors

Posted by Dike Drummond MD

gorilla-277x300One of the keys to de-stressing your days and living a richer, more satisfying life is BALANCE … specifically … more work-life balance. I have written before about how your medical career is like living with an #800 Gorilla.

The Gorilla rampages through your life, doing whatever he pleases and leaving no room for your family, your interests outside medicine or even  your own health and fitness in some cases. Achieving more Work-Life Balance is a process PUTTING THE GORILLA ON A DIET by giving it some boundaries and creating more balance between medicine and the rest of your life. In the end it is still a Gorilla … just one that doesn’t outweigh YOU.

In our Work Life Balance and Boundaries Master Class,
I teach 11 Independent Success Factors  for creating your own Work-Life Balance and Boundaries.
Each and every one addresses a myth or a blind spot that is specific to doctors.

I recently polled all the students in the class … asking, “Which of the 11 Success Factors do you find the Most Powerful ?”

Here are their Top Three … and I go into full detail on each one in the post below.


work life balance third place success factor

Success Factor #3

” It’s not about doing MORE
it is about doing things DIFFERENTLY “

Failure to understand this SIMPLE and POWERFUL CONCEPT is the main reason why 85% of all new years resolutions — and other life change efforts — FAIL.

If YOU try to create more work life balance without understanding this success factor … you will fail too. That would be a tragedy when just a small change in your awareness will increase YOUR success rate dramatically.

Put as simply as possible … there is no room in your life to do ANYTHING MORE than you are already doing. If you try to reach ANY New Goal by taking on a bunch of New Actions … your chance of success is 15% or less right off the bat. Here’s why …

Your life is already full … full of habits that are invisible to you. Look at the image below.

work life balance not about doing more opt

The glass on the left …

- is your current life and your current comfort zone filled to the brim with your habits. And just like your habits, the water filling this glass is invisible. Notice it is full to the brim right now – just like your life. There is simply no room for anything else.

The glass on the right …

- is what happens with a new year’s resolution — or if you just came back from a conference all fired up and wanting to do a bunch of new things — or if you read one of those big lists you can find on the internet of “things you should be doing for work life balance” and start to do some of them.

Because the Glass is ALREADY FULL — your new actions flood the system, make a big mess and you give up in just a couple of weeks and call it a FAILURE.

Then something tragic happens.

You begin to think some things about yourself and your goals that just aren’t true.

You wonder …

=> Do you have the willpower ?
=> Is there something wrong with you ?
=> Is this even possible ?

This is not about willpower, you most certainly have what it takes and YES — WORK LIFE BALANCE IS POSSIBLE.

Remember: “It’s not about doing MORE — it is about doing things DIFFERENTLY”

=> Your New Actions must be IN PLACE OF some of your Old Habits.
=> We always think “INSTEAD OF …  ” when creating your work life balance action plan.
=> You must IDENTIFY AND REPLACE Old Habits with the New Actions that are targeted at putting the #800 gorilla on a diet and getting your life back.

This is how you MAKE ROOM for your New Actions … rather than trying to pour them into a glass that is already full to the brim. You will have to make some choices … which is where the #2 Success Factor comes in …

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work life balance second place success factor

Success Factor #10

” Focus on THRIVING

You cannot become a practicing physician without going through a rigorous program of psychological conditioning. Simultaneous with the acquisition of  your clinical skills in Medical School and Residency, you were programmed to adopt a number of Life Habits in order to SURVIVE THE TRAINING PROCESS. 

Surviving your training is job #1 for all of us

Along the way you learned some coping skills that are a two edged sword

- GREAT for being a successful physician
- NOT SO GREAT for creating work life balance

With a number of the doctors in the Work Life Balance and Boundaries training — the first step in this shift came in stages … as they recognized their Survival based programming and realized

=> It is O.K FOR ME TO WANT a life outside of my practice (I am not crazy)

=> It is POSSIBLE FOR ME TO HAVE a life outside my practice ( it CAN happen)

=> I CAN ACTUALLY CREATE a life outside of my practice (I can DO THIS )

=> I can even choose things that are rich, juicy, satisfying … the things my family and I really enjoy … things I have denied myself for a LONG time

=> I can choose to do these things for myself —> to support me in my own experience of THRIVING

A GIANT STEP to creating the work life balance is to notice when you are focused on SURVIVAL  – on just Getting Through One More Week – and ask …

“If I was focused on THRIVING  what would I do differently this week ?”

physician leadership dirty little secret

and the Winner Is …

work life balance success factor number one opt

Success Factor #6

” Treat Yourself Like a Dog ”
( Celebrate ALL Wins )

This work life balance success factor is my favorite too — for two reasons

=> It is the natural antidote to the “Nose to the Grindstone” syndrome
=> It makes every day a celebration

The best way to teach this concept is to ask you a couple questions.

I am going to go ahead and assume you regularly make your own list of things you want to get done. You know “action items”, your To-Do List … right? You make them either in your head or on a piece of paper. Here is question #1

When you finish an item on your list … what do you do?

98% of the people I ask that question say, “What do you mean … I go on to the next item of course”

Here is question #2 …
Remember the last time you played with a good dog … like the one pictured below …


What would you do with that dog if it did something for you … Like … fetch a ball?

I imagine you said

=> Praise … “Good boy/girl”
=> Scratch it on the head
=> Give it a treat

Why don’t you do that for Yourself ?

Two things quickly become obvious …

=> We treat our dogs better than we treat ourselves
=> If we treated our dogs the way we treat ourselves – THEY WOULD LEAVE (pretty darn quickly)

It’s just a HABIT
A Habit of NOT Celebrating

You can change this habit. This is the essence of this work life balance success factor.

Pat yourself on the back. Pump your fist and say “YES”. Buy yourself an ice cream sandwich. Schedule a massage, a date night dinner out with your sweetie or a play date with your kids.

ANY time you do ANYTHING to create more work life balance … TREAT YOURSELF LIKE A DOG …

… scratch your own butt and give yourself a treat and a pat on the head.

You will learn multiple ways to celebrate in the work life balance and boundaries training. They include everything from the simple fist pumping “YESSS”, through walks in the park and ice cream sandwiches (one of my personal favorites) up through massages, weekend getaways and more.

When we are talking about creating more work life balance … every day contains something to celebrate when you treat yourself like a dog.


There you have it — the Three Most Powerful Success Factors for creating work life balance — as voted by course participants. Of the eleven Success Factors we teach … these are some of my personal favorites too.

Number 3
It is not about doing MORE, it’s about doing things DIFFERENTLY

Number 10
Focus on THRIVING not just SURVIVING

Number 6
Treat Yourself LIKE A DOG


If You Would Like to be on the Early Bird List for our Work Life Balance and Boundaries Mastery Course When it becomes available (in the next month)

CLICK HERE and give me your email address and I will make sure you are one of the first to be invited. (how exciting)

[ BTW, here is the wikipedia entry for work life balance ]

Tags: Physician Burnout, Work Life Balance, Physician Coaching