Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker is the founder of The Happy PharmD, which helps pharmacists create an inspiring career, break free from the mundane "pill-flipping" life. He is a Full-time Pharmacist, Media Company founder, franchise owner, Business Coach, Speaker, and Author. He's also the Founder of Pharmacy School HQ, which helps students get into pharmacy school and become residents.
We spend much of our time talking about work-life balance, and chasing after it, but such a balance is not possible. Life is exceedingly more important than work, and your most important relationships exist outside of the workplace.
The greatest tension of our lives results from our efforts to equate the 2. Because we have the same number of hours every day of the week, our time is a zero-sum game. When we invest more time one place, we must necessarily decrease the amount of time we spend in the other. It is worth noting, though, that we rarely hear people struggling because home is taking too much of their time. The question then is this: what do you do when work occupies too much of your time, and attention?
Begin with the 'quality vs. quantity' question, and decide to focus on creating quality time with your family. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with electronics, limit their presence during your family time. Begin real conversations about real life with the people you love.
One study suggests a correlation between family dinners and healthy teenage behavior.1 Families who eat dinner together have fewer episodes of teen drinking, smoking, and drug use. Family dinners also seem to insulate kids against the negative impact of bullying, and decrease the likelihood of suicidal thoughts in teenagers.
We sometimes fail to recognize unreasonable or impossible standards when we see them. Within our families, we often expect more than is reasonably possible, and we end up disappointed as a result. We must recognize that families are made of imperfect people, and we must set reasonable expectations.
Have discussions about responsibilities within the family, and about who is accountable for each. Strive to reach an agreement so that your loved ones will understand your expectations and you’ll understand theirs. These conversations will eliminate unmet expectations, and the disappointment that results.
In some cases, your job takes more of your time than it should. Perhaps your schedule doesn’t allow you to prioritize differently.
In other cases, burnout in your job robs you of your motivation to enjoy things outside of work, and it skews your perspective and your priorities.
When that happens, explore what’s possible.
Pursue new opportunities. Connect with people who are doing new things, and figure out ways to get involved. Network at pharmacy events, and find out about pharmacy opportunities that are unfamiliar to you. Get curious. Research innovations, and changes that are happening within pharmacy. Build your network so you can identify new opportunities and take advantage of them.
Stop Seeking the Impossible
Your career and your family aren’t the same, and treating them as though they are results in frustration. Just as a tree and a pencil are both made of wood, the two are very different.
Your family, your passions, and your desires shouldn’t suffer because of your career. Because your life outside of work is infinitely more important than your job, seeking balance is the wrong goal. Instead, realize that work-life balance is unrealistic, and stop holding yourself to that impossible standard.
Determine your own priorities, and then invest your time, and effort into something truly achievable. People rarely reach the end of their lives wishing they had spent more time at work.
1. Sen B. The relationship between frequency of family dinner and adolescent problem behaviors after adjusting for other family characteristics. Journal of Adolescence. 2010;33(1):187-196. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140197109000372?via%3Dihub#!. Accessed May 24, 2018.