How to Achieve Work-Life Balance as a Veterinarian: Take Back Your Time

Lauren van Oeveren
March 18, 2022

When you’re busy with work, errands, and/or kids, it can feel near impossible to achieve work-life balance. However, finding that balance is important in a number of ways. Especially in an emotionally-taxing profession like the veterinary field, it’s crucial to make time for yourself. A recent study found that lower levels of work-life balance lead to higher instances of burnout.

How can you go about creating balance when it feels like you’ve got obligations 24/7? There are several ways that you can implement habits and routines that will improve efficiency and productivity in all areas of life.

In Part 1 of our three part series, we outlined how setting clear boundaries in your work and home life will help you work towards finding more balance. Now, we’ll cover more granular ways to take back your time and regain control over your packed schedule.

Take back your time

It’s not only important to prioritize self care in your personal life but also when it comes to work. It can be difficult to fully step away, but finding places to compromise and places to set strict boundaries will help you to feel in control of your schedule and ensure that you can leave work at work.

Set times where you can fully step away from work

Do you find yourself coming home after a busy workday with stacks of lab reports, medical records, and patient notes on a weekly or daily basis? If it’s inevitable that you’ll need to bring home admin tasks, try to limit these days to once or twice a week. This will free up your other evenings and allow you to focus on you.

Do you find yourself constantly answering calls from coworkers during your free time? Or, are you calling to check in on patients and get updates on your days off? It’s amazing to be so dedicated to your job, but the emotional toll and the fact that you’re never truly stepping away can start to make an impact on your overall work-life balance.

Try setting hours where you can be contacted about work and hours that are off limits (barring emergencies). If coworkers do need to contact you, how should they do so? Phone, email, and text all have different levels of urgency and require varying levels of time dedication. Setting boundaries and giving expectations of response time will relieve the pressure to respond and allow you to really check out. Implementing times when you don’t need to think about work will free up your mind to focus on you and your needs!

Take small breaks when you can

There are small things you can do to improve your work-life balance during the workday. Whether it’s ten minutes in between patients or a longer bathroom/coffee break, try to find time increments where you can take a breather and decompress.

Leave on time and take a full lunch at least once a week

As a veterinary professional, it’s not realistic to expect a perfect 9-5 schedule, but doing what you can by making small changes will help you feel like you have more balance and create time for you to relax.

Leaving on time and taking a full lunch may seem like small changes, but they can make a large impact on a busy schedule. You can try implementing these on the same or different days, but setting this small boundary will ensure that you get time to recharge during the day or allow you to make it to happy hour with your friends on time and not stressed.

Identify pain points at work

A study on burnout in the veterinary profession found that mean scores on the work-life balance scale decreased as the number of patients seen per day increased, implying caseload has a significant effect on the work-life balance.

Additionally, there wasn’t a significant difference in work-life balance across roles and specializations. 65.7% of study participants suggested that they would like for management to help them achieve better work-life balance.

This article by DVM360 contains recommendations for vets who are feeling overwhelmed by busy schedules and high caseloads at work as well as suggestions for management to improve employee job satisfaction.

Optimize your schedule outside of work

If you’re not allowing yourself time to fully recharge outside of work, it’ll be much harder to focus when you are at work and make for more hectic and stressful workdays. Outside of setting boundaries (see Part 1), there are some simple ways to create a more manageable schedule for yourself.

Create a list of the errands and household chores that you need to do on a regular basis. This can include cleaning, laundry, grocery runs, going to the gym, and anything else you want to fit into your schedule! From there, you can decide on a schedule that works for you and that helps you to check these tasks off your to-do list. Check out this article for tips on prioritizing these tasks.

Consider adopting a Sunday reset routine (or whatever your “Sunday” is). This allows you to plan for one day each week to get things done. Focus on getting more time-intensive chores like laundry out of the way, then plan your meals and schedule for the week. Top it all off with a relaxing bath, your favorite Netflix show, or a fun pizza night in with your family—after all, you deserve it!

Try relief work

Now that you’ve optimized your routine outside of work, create your dream schedule by becoming a relief veterinarian! Relief work allows you to work on your terms. With Roo, you’re able to hand-pick which shifts you want to work, choose the hospitals and types of settings you work in, and get paid right away.

There are a number of reasons why becoming a relief vet creates better work-life balance, including:

Switching up work locations and adding variety to your routine helps to prevent feelings of burnout. Burnout can reduce cognitive functioning and make you feel exhausted, which will make achieving work-life balance more difficult.

Relief vets are able to create their own schedules. If you’re sick of missing your kids’ soccer games every Saturday, or curious to take the Wednesday afternoon yoga class at the place that just opened, you’ll be able to factor those into your schedule!

If you’re in need of a long weekend, relief work allows you to schedule around that! It’s also much easier to take breaks and plan vacations when you’re in charge of your own schedule.

Parents, new moms, those who are experiencing burnout, and more can benefit from relief work! If you’re interested in getting started, schedule a meeting today to find out how you can join the Roo-volution!

Track a week in your life

Carry around a notepad, a planner, or use your phone to make notes of everything you do in a week. Try to do this daily, both at home and at work, to get an idea of how you spend your time on a weekly basis and identify opportunities to save time.

Did you notice yourself driving to the same place multiple times? Maybe you got groceries on Tuesday, realized you ran out of toilet paper on Wednesday, and stopped by the pharmacy to pick up allergy medicine on Friday. See if there’s any way you can combine these errands into one big trip to free up time, save gas money, and turn several small tasks into one larger, catch-all shopping trip!

Did you notice lots of 15-minute admin/note-taking intervals at work which interrupted productivity? See if you can combine them all into one time slot, perhaps right before lunch or at the end of the day. (Or not, if it’s working for you!) Identify any time spent doing repetitive or similar tasks and brainstorm ways to optimize, such as prepping all patient rooms at the beginning of the day or cleaning as you go rather than waiting to clean until the end of the day.

Set the pace for the day

Do you notice that your commute is a million times more pleasant when you leave the house at 8:15 sharp instead of 8:20? Try setting your alarm just 10-15 minutes earlier in the morning to ensure you’ll be out the door on time. And as a result, enjoy less rushed mornings and calmer commutes.

If you’re not a morning person, then try prepping for each day the night before! Set out your clothes, plan your lunch options, make sure you have your daily vitamins and eye contacts ready to go, and enjoy the chance to sleep in a little and feel more rested and prepared for the day!


It’s all about finding what works for you! Whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, find what works for you and create routines around that! Building timesaving habits into each day can make all the difference when it comes to getting better rest and feeling mentally prepared to handle your day.

Making small adjustments goes a long way. We’ve gone over how creating boundaries, optimizing your schedule, and prioritizing time for work, rest, and fun will all help to improve work-life balance and reduce burnout. Part 3 will cover ways to optimize your mindset and focus on growth and self improvement, all while improving happiness and job satisfaction.

How do you take back your time? If you’d like to learn more about getting started with relief work, click here.

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