Chapter 4: Know when it’s time to work and when it’s time to play

As I’ve gotten older, I started to resonate with the phrase “all work and no play makes Jim a dull boy”. As life has become more hectic and demanding, finding the balance between work in play has not been easy. Many times, I find myself bribing myself with a break or any form of enjoyment if I finish x amount of work. As helpful as that could be, it also can be potentially harmful. This is because you start to associate productivity with being deserving of rest or the pleasures of life. Sometimes it’s okay to finish 1-2 things off of your list and still decide to take the night off. Maybe you were not able to even start work today… this does not mean you should punish yourself until you get the work done. I have learned this lesson the hard way. I would force myself to check boxes off of my list for the sake of productivity without realizing I was not fully present while completing any of the tasks. There is nothing worse than wasting time by forcing yourself to do work that, in your eyes, is not considered quality.

So, how do we develop balance? Well, I think the first step is to acknowledge is that your personal balance will look different on some weeks, and it will most likely never look like that of those around you. Once you have accepted that, move into embracing what exactly balance looks like for you. Is it getting 10 things done during the day and then taking your evenings for you or is it getting as much as you can done and setting aside time for yourself each day? Personally, I know that some days will be more schoolwork heavy than others so on those days I decide whether I want to spend time at the gym or do some other form of self-care. If I notice that school has been overwhelming me, I try not to add anymore school related tasks to my plate. I ultimately take a step away for however long I need to. Returning with a clear mind will allow you to approach the work in a calm manner rather than feeling pressured to get to work. A close friend of mine constantly reminds me to lean into work rather than forcefully pushing myself to do it.

This past week I have been on spring break... for some medical students, spring break is just time to catch up on work or get ahead of the tide. I wanted this time to be a mixture of both but I honestly have not been feeling like engaging in intense studying. I can feel my peers working hard and it made me feel awful. I found myself forcing productivity at certain points, but I had to check myself. If I feel like I need to take this week of spring break as an actual break than that is probably what is best for me. Imagining what others are doing and comparing it to what you are not doing will only make you feel bad. You should not feel bad for taking much needed rest. I know that next week I will be back on a strict study schedule, and I needed to slow things down this week.

Starting to practice balance earlier rather than later helps you make these decisions without feeling too guilty. This is because you know better than anyone what you need for you and how much time you need to complete tasks. To start your day, make a list of what must get done by the end of the day and a list of things you would like to do for yourself. Assign a time frame for your work-related tasks and then a time frame for your personal items. Once your work time frame has ended, let it end... move onto your personal time–– regardless of what has not been completed from your work tasks. This rule has helped me hold myself accountable for fitting in my personal time within the day. With practice and patience, you will develop a plan for yourself that includes not just your work but your personal necessities.

Meet the Author
Tiffany Lacroix is in her first year of medical school at the CUNY School of Medicine. She has acquired a degree in Biomedical Science with a minor in African American Studies. As an undergraduate student, she was the president of the City College chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She was also vice president of a program dedicated to mentoring Black and Brown youth called You Can Too. Tiffany started a blog called Black Woman Empowered where she explores social justice issues, the plight of marginalized communities and discusses her journey as a Black woman pursuing a medical degree. She aspires to be an Obstetrician-Gynecologist not only to diversify the field of medicine but cater to the Black and Brown women who are dying disproportionately during childbirth. She aims to work towards mitigating the disparities within the medical field and act as a liaison between disenfranchised communities and the health care system. Read more about Tiffany >