Work–Life Balance: Can You Actually Make That Happen?

  • You D
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Let me start off by saying - there is no such thing as "work-life balance" in a biomedical research career. In today's modern society, the world is evolving at an unprecedented fast pace. The speed of progress in the biomedical research field is astonishing. The publications indexed by PubMed was -9,000 during 2000 and increased to 60,000 during 2013 (1). Unfortunately, the growth of federal and private funding for biomedical research is much slower. In fact, it is estimated that the resources that National Health Institutes retains today are less than 75% than they were in 2003 (2). The everincreasing competition for funding makes work-life balance almost impossible. From a personal perspective, I have not yet encountered a successful scientist with a laid-back lifestyle throughout my research career from 2004 (when I became a graduate student) to present day. In fact, in my experience, most successful scientists struggle with busy schedules and lack of work-life balance. My Ph.D. mentor- Dr. Stephania Cormier- who is a tenured, full professor now, started her career as an assistant professor in 2002. She is highly intelligent and disciplined to a level that intimidates people; however, she still constantly works during weekends and holidays to clear off her work lists. When I was a student or postdoctoral trainee, I dedicated my life to research. Some of my experiments were inherently time-consuming, so I had to stay up till 03:00 a.m. the next day although I started at 07:00 a.m. At times that I returned home at regular hours, I read papers, books or tutorials related to my research. I did not have a life outside of my research, and at that time I did not feel that I needed one. Research was fun and the excitement from a successful experiment, publication, or presentation for a national meeting was satisfying... until my son Arthur was born 3 years ago. He is demanding and exhausting, but also amazingly adorable. Naturally, as a mother I want to spend time with him, and do not want to miss a single step that he makes as he grows up. This change in my life inevitably affected my dedication to my career. All the extra hours that I used to commit to research are gone; suddenly need a life away from the bench. The only option I have is to achieve a work-life balance, even if it seems a "mission impossible." This may sound depressing, but realizing the truth is the first step to fix the problem. The problem is time! My workload has remained relatively the same, but now the time I have to complete tasks is about two-thirds of the time I had before having my son. 1 his means that I must increase my efficiency at work one-and-a-half fold. To most scientists, including myself, who are already highly efficient, it is difficult to further increase efficiency. With this in mind, I have researched effective time management methods and practiced a few principles (3, 1). Here are some tips that have really helped me.




You, D. (2016). Work–Life Balance: Can You Actually Make That Happen? Frontiers in Pediatrics, 3.

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