A Simple Strategy for Breaking Out Of Work-Life Balance Frustration

My life as a nurse practitioner can get a little bit crazy sometimes. Balancing a schedule packed with working odd hours in the emergency department, a sig-o, friendships, family members, sleep, household responsibilities, etc., etc. is a constant battle. You’ve been there.

As nurse practitioners we are highly productive individuals We’ve attended graduate school, many of us while working full-time jobs. Our work days are demanding. We’re on our feet, interacting with patient after patient. Our disposition for achievement doesn’t stop with our careers, we take on personal ambitions, hobbies, and family commitments. Life is a messy, complex thing. It takes only one, small decision to tip the work-life balance scale. Once this scale is off balance, life feels exhausting, and out of control.

Personally, when my work-life balance scale gets out of whack, I feel immense frustration. I go through the motions, fitting each obligation into my day, but performing at suboptimal levels. Irritation mounts as I am not able to execute to my fullest. I compensate for a lack of time by cutting back on sleep which only serves to backfire, pushing the situation further from my grasp. I’m barely making it. Have you ever felt like this?

Fortunately, I’ve met a few wise individuals who’ve experienced similar problems in the past, and have come out on the other side with wisdom to share. My favorite piece of advice for these situations has been this: “You can’t do more than two things well at any given time”. In other words, devoting your time, mental, and physical energy to more than two life elements simultaneously results in the situation I described above.

Recently, I have been taking this ‘two things’ rule into account and it has certainly saved my sanity when it comes to work-life balance. While I feel the need to maintain a healthy lifestyle, excel at my nurse practitioner career, spend time with family, and work on a growing list of home projects, devoting attention to each simultaneously won’t yield the results I am looking for. If I decide to train for a marathon and renovate my home, for example, I can’t expect to impress my boss in the emergency department by taking on additional shifts. If I choose to do so, my race training or household projects will inevitably fall to the wayside.

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Sure, I always have more than two life components going on in the background. The sentiment relates more to going above and beyond in any of these elements. When I catch myself frustrated about work-life balance, or lack thereof, I choose my ‘two things’ for the week. What will I focus on? This allows me the freedom to prioritize these items, meanwhile maintaining a more practical status quo in other areas.

The ‘two things’ concept works for both short-term and long-term life plans. I may choose two elements of life to prioritize for the month, or, I may ground myself when I feel overwhelmed by selecting two things to focus on over the course of a single afternoon.

If you’re a nurse practitioner feeling frustrated or overwhelmed by your career and life responsibilities, try the ‘two things’ rule. Decide what your two priorities should be (or, what you want them to be), and let other things fall to the wayside. You can’t be the perfect employee, the perfect friend, the perfect mother, handle life’s responsibilities, and take amazing care of yourself all at once. Take turns. Be intentional. Implementing the ‘two things’ rule into your daily life may not remove any of your roles or responsibilities, but it will help you balance them more intentionally (and sanely!).

Do you feel out-of-balance in your life as a nurse practitioner? What two things will you focus on today?


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