Priorities: How I’ve Managed to Make Life Work
Wade I. Newman
A few months ago I was asked about my experience of having children while going through dental school. My knee-jerk reaction was to say, “Don’t try it,” but could I really respond that way? I managed to do it, didn’t I? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I in fact had managed to make it work, by prioritizing my life while I was in dental school.
The ability to establish these priorities and stick to them made my dental school experience easier than expected. Now in my sixth year of private practice, I realize that I’m still using those same priorities today. Dental school of course became office hours, but relatively nothing else changed. I’d like to take a moment to share the priorities I established in dental school with you. If I can do it, maybe you can too?
I was one of the few members of my class that had a child before the start of dental school. My son was 11 months old on my first day of class. I have to admit; I thought I wasn’t going to get to participate in his upbringing while I was in dental school. I intended to try my absolute best, but had no doubt the balancing act I was about to undertake was going to be difficult. I decided that everyday I needed to set the priorities of the day, broken down into hours if needed. I had three categories on my priority list: 1- Family, 2- Myself, 3- School. Each day I would mark my calendar with these three categories, making sure I allotted time for each. Reminding myself daily of these priorities made it easier to fulfill them, and it didn’t take me long to fall into a routine.
My family, also, was able to develop a routine. My son, Jordan, quickly caught on to the priorities, “Family time? Family time?” was a frequent phrase of his. When family time came around, it didn’t matter what happened in dental school that day. My son didn’t care that it took me four hours to do one restoration that ended up looking like a lump of unburnished amalgam. He wanted to hear about Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse. In a way, Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse were probably good for me too. Being with my son took my mind off of dental school, made me think like a kid, and allowed me to live in the moment. I realize now that those times are what helped me keep the trials and tribulations of dental school in perspective.
Jordan is now 11 years old, and I can’t believe how fast time has quickly flown by. He is involved in more activities than I ever though imaginable. Just as my son has grown, my practice has grown as well and continues to demand more of my time and attention. Life is a never-ending balancing act, and though the daily scenarios may be different, my priorities remain unchanged. This morning, before I left for work, I reviewed my schedule and noted, as I always do, my three priorities: 1- Family, 2- Myself, 3- Office.
There are numerous publications about life strategies and prioritizations. This was just my personal take on what I learned about prioritizing. Sharing my story of how I balanced my life beginning in dental school, and still carry it with me today, could help you get a hold on your hectic life. Children or no children, going through dental school is tough, no question about it! Having your priorities balanced might lessen the load a bit.