8 ways to finding a healthy balance between work and life
The demands of being a young lawyer are usually significant. If you are a solo attorney, you are probably spending a good amount of time trying to develop your business, meeting with clients and also thinking about your future. You might be an attorney in a large firm who is trying to find time to attend your children's activities, while struggling to also find the time to meet with clients. Some lawyers feel that they must live to work and not work to live. It is difficult to find the balance between work and life when our culture insists that we remain "on" at all times. Despite this trend, you owe it to yourself to find balance in your life. If not, living to work might prove to be harmful to your health. Follow these tips to help you find the balance you need.
Limit yourself to a set number of hours you will work per week or day. Of course we all know that this will not be possible at all times, but set this up anyway and work toward it. Set a time when you will not accept calls, check email or respond to a work-related event, say after 8 p.m. Make sure your co-workers and leadership know about these boundaries.
Many think that setting boundaries might set you up for failure in the long run, as others might think that you are not fully dedicated to your career. Setting boundaries doesn't mean that you are not completing your tasks. It just makes you complete them in a more efficient manner (see "Work smart, not long," below). As long as you are cranking out the work and achieving your goals, leadership should see your dedication and respect your boundaries.
Consider an alternative work arrangement
Alternative work arrangements are not only for working mothers; they benefit both women and men. Consider a reduced work schedule, in which you get compensated for the time you work. Job-sharing is another option, where you share one position with another attorney. You might be able to take advantage of flex time, where you work the same amount of hours per week, but might have different time ranges, such as 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., instead of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Some lawyers can telecommute one or two days a week. This option allows them to work remotely (from home or someplace other than the office).
Exercise and eat healthy
Ok, so this is a no-brainer, but it is worth repeating. It is a proven fact that exercise combined with healthy eating improves your mood and boosts your energy. Even if you can only find time to get physical three times a week, it is still beneficial to your health. And if you're healthy, then you are more productive at work, and your clients will thank you for that.
Talk to others like you
You might envy the co-worker or other attorney acquaintance who is able to practice law while still going to his or her child's lacrosse game and being able to meet up with friends at happy hour. Talk with the co-worker to see how she or he is able to achieve this balance. Maybe that co-worker is able to step away from work to attend these events, yet finds time after the kids go to bed to finish that brief that is due in the morning. You never know until you ask!
Take advantage of technology
Technology can work in your favor to help you work from home, on the road, in a coffee shop, on an airplane—you get the idea. Just remember the boundaries that you set for yourself. No checking email after 8 p.m., right?
Learn how to manage stress
First, recognize the signs of stress. Are you constantly tired? Can't concentrate? Find yourself lashing out at co-workers? Maybe you keep getting headaches, have stomach problems, or have lost interest in things you used to find fun. All of these signs point to stress. If you don't manage your stress, you will not be as productive as you can be, and your career could suffer.
Take breaks, meditate, take a run, call a friend, take a class on stress management. These are all ways to help you manage your stress load and will help you become a better lawyer.
Work smart, not long
Determine the best ways to complete your tasks. Each day, plan what you will accomplish and stick to it. Set up time on your calendar where you will not accept any interruptions from phone calls, email, office walk-ins, texts or other disruptions. Make sure that your co-workers know about this time so that they are less likely to contact you during your blocked off time.
Learn more about time management skills. Take note of how you actually spend your time. You can do this by keeping a log of what you do each day. List all of your activities, how long they take and analyze this log to determine how you can manage your time better in the future.
Set life goals
Life goals give you something to which to look forward. Perhaps one of your life goals is to finally take that trip to Alaska with your significant other. Maybe another goals is to run a marathon. These are fun activities that you know will be rewarding as long as you can get your work completed in an efficient manner. Think of your life goals as a way to motivate you to work smarter, achieve your goals and find the necessary balance in your life.
Remember that you have a duty to your clients to be a competent lawyer. If you are overwhelmed with stress and cannot find balance in your life, you might not be giving your full attention to your client's needs. Take the time to recognize and control the balance in your life. Not only will you be more satisfied in your career, but your clients will also benefit.