I find myself writing this as I’m working a stretch of consecutive night shifts. Trying to keep up with my new workout schedule (more on that later), family holiday activities, and the inevitable grind of being a full-time shift worker. I am not saying that in a negative way… in fact, I’m having the best winter I’ve had in a while. I’ve managed to find a way to cope with 12 hour shifts, family, friends, and fitness goals, and feel like I’m actually doing a pretty decent job.
Now before I start dispensing a bunch of unsolicited advice on how to achieve the perfect work/life balance, let me first admit that it has taken a while for me to get here. And not only has it taken some time, it’s also taken some serious self evaluation and some deliberate choices. The last 6 months have been full of adjustments since moving back to Canada and going back to my old job as a bedside nurse. And again, I mean that in the best possible way. I’ve had a pretty wonderful few months, and I can truly say that I’ve learned a lot of great stuff about how to be who I want to be. So in the spirit of sharing, I will endeavor to catch you up on what I’ve been up to lately.
As you may be aware, this past summer, my husband and I moved from the US back to our home in Canada where we both work as healthcare clinicians. We’d taken the year for my husband to do his Master’s degree and for me to work in Nursing Research. Once Joe’s degree was finished, we packed up all of our stuff, and ventured back to our wonderful, but hectic lives in the True North.
It was awesome, but it was almost too awesome. Going from a city where we barely knew anyone and had super stable (if not boring) 9-5 schedules, back to our home city full of friends, family, nightlife, and crazy high stress jobs with totally unpredictable schedules was a bit of a shock. It forced us to really step back and do a double-take. How much of this stuff do I actually need in my life? Do I have time to be healthy anymore? How did I used to go to the gym every single day??! Why do I always say yes when work calls me to do an overtime shift??
I found it was harder than I expected to maintain a training schedule while working 12 hour shifts. I was able to get out and stay active, but not always as much or as consistently as I wanted. It was becoming a lot harder to find time for those long distance weekend runs when I was trying to cram them in around night shifts and overtime and girls’ nights out and football Sundays at the bar. Why can I always find time for everything other than myself?
Needless to say, it was time to reevaluate things.
Finally, a couple of months ago, I took the time to sit down and seriously look at my life. I asked myself 2 important questions, and did my best to give myself honest answers. What are my top 5 priorities? and What 5 activities do I spend the most time on?
Of course, the two lists didn`t fully match up. If I`m really honest with myself, I spend more of my waking hours at work than almost anywhere else. Yet when I list my top 5 priorities, my job doesn`t even make the top 3. My marriage, my relationships with friends and family, and my health all trump my work. Yes, I feel it is truly a blessing to have a fulfilling and rewarding career in Nursing. But it’s not more important to me than having a loving home, or a healthy lifestyle. And things like money and status aren’t even on my top 5 priority list. So how do I end up letting my life revolve around a job??
I would say that realization was one of the most important realizations I’ve had in a while. What a great life lesson, to remember to step back and take a critical look at myself, even when things generally seem to be going just fine.
And the next piece of that important life lesson was, of course, finding ways to actually change. To put my money where my mouth is. I’m talking really practical, applicable actions that would help me refocus on my priorities on a day to day basis. How to get more quality time with my husband. How to fit quality exercise into a hectic work schedule. How to make sure I get rest on my days off. How to fit quality friend time in with my girlfriends. If there are only 24 hours in a day, something’s got to give.
Well I think the toughest part about all of this is really standing up and making a change for the better. It’s easy to say that money and work don’t matter, but hard to turn down overtime when there’s a big fat paycheck waiting for you at the end of the day. And that’s when you have to grow up, put on your big girl panties, and do the right thing. Invest your time in the things that are important to you. Throw your resources into that stuff, because that’s the good stuff. Yes, you will have to sacrifice, but in the end, don’t you want your two lists to match up? If you say your number one priority is family, but you spent the last 3 days playing video games alone in your apartment, are you really being true to yourself? How can you really be happy when you’re not living up to your own expectations?
In the next few posts, I’ll talk about some of the specific tweaks I’ve made to my lifestyle in order to make my two lists match up. But for now, maybe try making 2 lists of your own… As we come into 2015, start thinking about the person you’d like to be this year. How can you change your daily routine so that your top 5 priorities are actually the things you spend your time on? And hey, maybe you’re miles ahead of me on this, and you’re already doing those things… Let me know your secrets!! I’d love to hear about it. 🙂