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Balancing Home, Work, and Academic Life while Advancing Career


General

Author: Debbie Beck, PhD, MSA/MSN, RN, CNE

Many nurses struggle with finding the appropriate balance of caring for themselves and their families while simultaneously being productive in employment settings, and successful in engaging in academic course work.  Most who have launched and maintained a successful career while maintaining this balance acknowledge that this is no easy task. By utilizing some pre­planning and effective time management strategies career aspirations can be fulfilled while maintaining this essential balance.

Setting Goals

Setting short- and long-term goals and committing them to writing is often the best place to start.

Once these goals are established revisiting them can aid in determining if appropriate timeframes have been set. Once goals are identified place them in categories in a notebook under separate headings labeled care of self, family, work, and school. These initial planning stages do take some time and reflection but are worth the effort in the long run. Once both short- and long-term goals are committed to writing for each category, use visualization to imagine a snapshot of what this goal would look like if it were photographed once accomplished.

For example, if a long-term goal is to complete a bachelor’s degree in 4 years imagine what that might look like as the degree is handed out at a graduation ceremony.

Having a clear vision of the endpoint or the accomplishment of a goal is helpful in both the planning and evaluation of the steps required along the way. Working backward from the endpoint list the steps along the path of goal achievement for each category: care of self, family, work, and school. Next, list the approximate time frames for each step. For example, under the category of self­-care, a step might be to spend 30 minutes exercising. In the care of family 60 minutes may be allocated to meal preparation. Consider the relationships of the categories to each other and order them according to priority.

Time Management

Time management requires skills that allow individuals to set goals and make decisions in order to better organize our lives; finding the best steps and strategies to maximize time management is equally important. Time management allows tasks to be placed in priority order from the most important to the least important and then setting a time plan or goal for meeting them.

Once priorities are established and time frames set use a month-­at­-a­-glance type calendar to list the steps or tasks previously identified for each category.  Each task can be color coated with a highlighter or a different color ink based on which major category it fits into.

For example, the care of family activities might be blue, work obligations written in red, and academics in purple. With practice, learning to set measurable goals and listing steps to accomplish them, becomes a form of project management of one’s life and career aspirations. Goals are then broken down by month and transcribed into a plan of action for each week.

Weekly goals are broken down by day and prioritized according to items of greatest to least importance. Each day incorporate activities for previously identified categories of care of self, family, work, and academics. Some flexibility must be used to dedicate more or less time in certain categories where needed. For example, if there is an important project due at work on a particular day, that might take a higher priority than a school assignment due in a week. Revisit the list throughout the day and cross out items that have been completed. At the beginning of each day begin a new list and carry over any tasks that did not get accomplished. Determine if unrealistic time frames were used while calendaring. Repeat the process for each day, week, and month. Periodically stop and evaluate the steps taken toward accomplishing goals. Determine if the steps toward goal achievement need to be modified and celebrate any success!

Care of Self and Family

Each day ensure that time is set aside for the care of self and family.  There is a return on investing in the time spent on self-perseveration and maintenance.

Get enough sleep, eat well-balanced meals, and engage in exercise. Take short refocus breaks after several hours of intense work. Gather together for family meals, engage in dialogue, and actively listen during interactions to facilitate good family dynamics. Sharing household chores is another way family members can be engaged in productive quality time. Working on school assignments at the kitchen table while children are doing homework provides an opportunity to role model persistence in completing academic goals and instills the life­long values of education.

Nursing can be a challenging yet satisfying career. With some planning and the use of effective time management strategies, nurses can better manage their careers and achieve professional development goals while balancing the care of themselves and their families.


Bio Debbie Beck PhD, MSA/MSN, RN, CNE

Debbie is an accomplished educator, consultant, and administrator with over 35 years of experience in the nursing and health care field. She has been recognized by Todays Nurse for outstanding leadership and for contributions to health care worldwide.

Her background includes experience as an Associate Professor, Consultant, University Chair, Head Nurse, Nursing Supervisor, and Faculty Mentor.  In the academic environment Debbie has worked in both in a traditional classroom setting, online, and in blended modalities.  She is a Subject Matter Expert for Nutrition, Health and Wellness content and is an active member of curriculum development and design, assessment, and policy development for a university-based nursing program. As a Campus College Chair, she supervised, coordinated, and evaluated educational programs and operational activities for undergraduate and graduate Nursing and Health Care offerings at 7 Metro Detroit Campuses. She has planned and participated in the development of several community service and CEU educational seminars and conferences.

Administrative experiences in practice settings include development and implementation of multiple quality assurance improvements, recruitment, retention, and evaluation of department staff.  Debbie is a member of multiple social service and professional nursing and organizations, is published and continues to be actively engaged in research.