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By Cherie T. Buisson, DVM, CHPV
Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Veterinarian

On a recent trip, I took this photograph of my family’s suitcases. Can you guess which one is mine? Did you guess “the big one”? Why? Maybe because I’m a woman, and so I must bring too many clothes? Is it because I overpack?

Well, you’re right about the suitcase, but for the wrong reasons. It hit me as my husband and I were traveling across the country: I carry a big suitcase, but it’s because I often end up with lots of extra stuff. The suitcase held all my clothes and toiletries and my pillow. What it also needed to carry was all the stuff that didn’t fit in my husband’s nice, neat, tiny suitcase. His suit in its suit bag. His airplane cushion that he decided he didn’t want to carry on for the return flights. These things fit easily into my oversized suitcase. You know, the one I had to pick up and put in the car and roll through the airport.

It got me thinking: I hear all the time that vet professionals don’t have time to get everything done. We’re harried and overworked. We never stop moving and doing. I’m beginning to understand that part of the reason we’re so busy and unhappy is that we’re carrying everyone else’s stuff in our suitcase!

Do you have any idea how much time I’d have to get stuff done if I wasn’t meal planning, cooking, making grocery lists, ordering the things we need online, doing laundry (which does not actually mean just putting it in the wash, but making sure it’s not wrinkled, folding, and putting away!). It’s not as though I think those things are “not my job”, but at some point, they became my responsibility instead of shared tasks. Why? Because I took it upon myself to do them quickly and efficiently. The same goes for taking the garbage out and trimming all the foliage in our yard – my husband gets these things done before they even cross my mind – so I let him continue to do them.

Sometimes we get so caught up in all these self-imposed time eaters that we forget we chose them. Guess what? We can un-choose them too. We can delegate them to someone else, or put them off. If we’re honest, some of them we can just stop doing altogether. Every now and then, it’s good to look at what we do in a day and see where we can trim the fat. Furthermore, if everyone in the household or clinic sat down and listed their tasks, I bet we’d find some balancing that needs to be done. There’s likely going to be some grumbling, but if no one else would swap task lists with you, there’s a reason why – you’re doing too much.

Take a week or two and analyze how you spend your time. If you need to, get a timeclock app or make a spreadsheet. Figure out how much time you spend sleeping, working, spending time with your family, taking care of your pets, and doing things just for you. See if there are ways for you to be more efficient. See if there are things that make you unhappy that can be eliminated. Make sure that your you-time isn’t getting neglected. If it is, put it on your calendar – along with anything else you are tempted to skip so you can work more or be more stressed.

Life is a trip, and every second of time you have has to fit in that one suitcase. Be picky about who and what gets to take up space in there. While you’re at it, remember that you have to be able to carry this thing without breaking your back. People will always ask you to pile extra stuff in your suitcase so they can have an easier trip. It’s ok to tell them no and to suggest that they might want to get a bigger suitcase of their own. If we’re smart, we may even be able to downsize because we are only carrying the things that we need to be comfortable and happy.