A doctor stated in an article dealing with the work-life balance that deciding to be a physician/practitioner is like inviting an 800-pound gorilla to be your permanent house guest. It takes up all your space, time and food. A medical career or anything in an adjacent field that requires interaction with patients (or people, in general, for that matter) has about the same effects on your personal life, if not managed appropriately. What about the work-life balance?
And if we are to extend this to the fields of nutrition and dietetics, we must point out that this is especially true for nutritionists/registered dietitians working as freelancers. Though it might seem hard to believe for those who are employed with a somewhat regular schedule, freelancers tend to overwork and forget all about the work-life balance. Before they know it, their workload exceeds their capacities, takes a bite out of their personal life and impacts their efficiency, which can harm their reputation, an essential factor for every nutritionist and RD working on his/her own.
Always wondering how your patients are doing, if they are following the meal plan, if there are any unwanted effects that you haven’t warned them about, if their expectations are met etc. These are just a few of the things that can go through a nutritionist’s mind while away from his/her practice. Additionally, many patients need reassuring when they start a new meal plan and maybe they don’t see results as soon as they would expect. How many times were you interrupted in your free time by a patient’s text message asking you about the efficiency of a meal plan, the unexpected effects, how hard it is and, of course, if exceptions are allowed (“I’m going to a wedding and they are serving this and that. Is it a problem if I deviate from my new diet for a day?”)?
While it is almost impossible to prevent this—I’m sure you tell your patients that they can text outside your working hours in case of emergency or if anything serious comes up, but they use the term ‘serious’ too loosely—there are ways to detach yourself from this.
Obtaining the perfect work-life balance can be done in more ways than one, but we decided to go through some of the most efficient.
Learn how to say “no”
When you work as a freelancer, it’s hard to draw the line between professional and personal. This is because you always feel like you could do just a bit more, earn a bit more. Also, you often feel that you can’t let go of a new collaboration because it’s something that you really love and enjoy, even if this starts to take up personal time as well and often leaves you drained. You use the satisfaction that you get from the results on your patients as the solace.
If you already have a lot going on and you receive another proposal that might seem interesting, try to analyze your current workload and filter your professional work. Stick to what you could benefit from in the future. Choose projects and collaborations that will help you make your work more valuable in the future (not necessarily more popular, as you already have too many patients on your hands, which is why you area reading this article). So, choose value and prospects for further development. For other proposals, just say ‘no, thank you’. There’s no problem in saying ‘no’.
If you find this hard to do, it’s time to grow. Delegate the work and hire your first employee. We’re going to elaborate on this in a future article.
Keep your calendar organized
However, in order to get that work-life balance we are all striving for, you need to draw the line between personal and professional more clearly. You can try to set strict days and hours for work and don’t let anything interrupt your personal time.
First of all, you need to have a well-organized calendar. You can start with an appointment scheduling template for each day, week and month. Write down all your appointments and don’t overbook. Take the necessary time for each patient, include breaks and time for research. Everything you actually do needs to be on that calendar. Keep the calendar up-to-date. Be firm with the schedule and the decisions you make. You can use an all-in-one management app for scheduling and booking your patients and activities, keep track of their evolution and plan ahead. Nutritionist Assistant is a great such tool.
Make a list
In an effort to keep your professional life separate from your personal one, make a list of the things you want to do outside of your job: spend more time with your family, work out, do yoga, travel, take a trip with your friends, visit a friend, start a new hobby etc. This is a very efficient way to put yourself first. The patient doesn’t need to always come first. Now that you have the list (make sure you only add things that you really want to do; otherwise, you won’t be serious enough when it comes to actually going through with them). Now schedule each and every one of them. Mark them on your (well-organized) calendar. Act as if these are set in stone and whenever work steps in, you can use your already scheduled activities to say “no”.
In case you don’t have time to go through this entire article, here’s a short recap that you can print and just stick on your desktop, fridge or bathroom mirror.
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