Lawyers are known for their stressful profession—the demanding hours and struggle for work-life balance. That’s why being family-friendly has even become a recruiting point for some firms. But what if you don’t work with that kind of culture? Is there a way to negotiate a balance between the personal and professional?
You’re probably telling yourself there are never enough hours in your day. And, of course, it seems that way, especially when an emphasis is placed on billable hours. But if your time is focused exclusively on work, other parts of your life will suffer. So, what can you do to win Life v. Work? Does it really have to be one or the other? Or can there be a compromise?
A Critical Win
The work-life battle is real, which is why lawyers are ranked among the highest for depression, drug and alcohol abuse, heart disease, suicide, and divorce. It’s obvious working long hours and investing time to assure clients get the best outcome means your personal life pays a hefty toll. But there are ways to minimize the damage.
“Be Kind to Lawyers Day” (April 9) is an opportunity to make some changes. You can settle one of your most important cases yet—Life v. Work.
A Bad Rap
Let’s face it: Lawyers have long battled a poor image. Whether it’s due to portrayals in books, movies, or just bad press, lawyers rank low on the honesty/ethics scale. Nevertheless, when a legal situation occurs, people count on an attorney to “save” them. Their perception seems to change.
The bad rap is one reason why Steve Hughes, an American communication expert, created “Be Kind to Lawyers Day.” He wanted to honor lawyers. It’s even become an international holiday. And, if you’ve never practiced balancing your personal and professional life, it’s a great opportunity to be kind to yourself by taking some steps toward self-care.
A Well-Blended Life
Though complete balance may be impossible, you can focus on blending your personal and professional life in a way that fits you best. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but it is possible to achieve many work objectives while still taking time for your health and home life.
Work-life blend refers to how you prioritize your work and personal life. It’s defined by your passions, goals, and current circumstances. In other words, it starts with you.
- Determine your values and priorities—Though the money you make is important to your lifestyle, there’s a place for downtime, relationships, and hobbies, too. What do you value the most? Your priorities should align with those values. Yes, there will be changes as you go through your career, but your priorities should be based on what’s most important to you in each phase. For example, you may find building your practice is a priority early in your career, but having more flexibility is critical when you start a family.
- Make self-care a priority—This should be critical at all stages of your career. After all, if you don’t take care of your health, no one else will. So, take the time to eat better, exercise more, and get enough sleep. There are many good podcasts, like Resilient Lawyer, that can help, too.
- Control your schedule—you’ll want to set boundaries for things that are important, whether it’s appointments, family events, fun with friends, vacations, or communication. You may want to schedule the times you check email or phone messages and block what’s unavailable. Granted, there may be emergencies that require bending these “rules,” but they should not be the norm. And, if you must bend the rules one day, enjoy flexibility on another.
- Manage technology—This is part of taking control of your schedule. Technology can be a wonderful tool, but it can also be demanding, promising accessibility 24/7. If managed correctly, however, it can help you work more efficiently or remotely, even scheduling communication when it’s more convenient. There’s a lot to be said for taking regular breaks (unplugging) as well.
- Ask for help if needed—When things get overwhelming, identify the tasks only you can do and delegate or outsource the rest. Also, take advantage of your local bar association’s resources; they often provide a variety of programs to help with physical, mental, and emotional stressors, as well as counseling for behavioral health or substance abuse.
- Model the blended life—If you’ve been able to achieve a healthy blend of work and play, then become a leader for others. Encourage them on their path and share what’s worked for you.
- Look for what’s funny—The legal profession can be so serious, but it’s important to get a healthy dose of laughter every day. There are countless resources documenting how critical this can be for your health. Try this tongue-in-check video and its follow-up. Maybe even this coloring book. Look for the humor and make levity part of your day.
A Small Shift
Perhaps these ideas sound overwhelming, especially if you’ve never made your personal life and health a priority before. But don’t let that add to your stress! Instead, choose one area and focus on that. Even small changes can help move you in the right direction.
If you have other ideas for living a more blended life, please share them below.
This article is for informational purposes only.