Becoming more productive is the current ideal standard of business. Do more…and do it faster. Oh, and since you’re productive and efficient, make sure you add more to your plate. Burnout is such a serious issue, that the World Health Organization recently declared that it is, indeed, an “occupational phenomenon.”
Burnout is something everyone in the legal profession has experienced at least once. Some lawyers, paralegals, and other legal professional perpetually reside in that space. Burnout does more than make you dread your work. It can impact your physical and mental health, your productivity, and make it practically impossible for you to unwind.
Productivity Is Essential in the Legal Industry
Response deadlines, statute of limitations, initial consultations, depositions, settlement conferences, supervising law firm employees, returning phone calls and emails…the to-do list continues to grow. Organized productivity is essential in the legal industry. When lawyers miss deadlines, don’t communicate with their clients, or give clients the impression they are failing to act competently or diligently, an ethics complaint is likely.
The pressure to represent your clients well while you continue to grow your law practice can create intimidation and anxiety. Those feelings can lead to procrastination…and procrastination can and often does lead to the types of issues that can endanger your practice. The real question is: what can you do about it?
If You Want to Be More Productive and Less Stressed, Improve Your Work Life Balance
It may seem odd to some that as your workload continues to increase that we’re suggesting you improve your work life balance. You have 24 hours in a day. You have case matters up to your eyeballs. You’re looking to bring in even more clients. And you’re supervising your staff. You don’t have time to take off and recharge.
We know how it feels. We’ve all been there. The truth of the matter is that as a lawyer, you can’t afford to not work to improve your work life balance. Simple changes, such as the ones we’ll list below, can help improve your focus and your energy level. You may also see an improvement in mood and experience greater creativity.
Here are eight simple things you can do to improve your work life balance and why it is believed they work to improve productivity and decrease stress:
Take actual note of how you spend your time. You’re used to tracking billable time. To help you improve your work life balance, take a few days to track how you spend all of your time. By that, we don’t mean that you need to do double duty and document your every working moment during your hours of operation. We mean that in addition to understanding that time, document how much time you spend reading and replying to emails, on social media, and on your smartphone. Document how you spend your time that you aren’t working, too. The purpose of tracking your off hours isn’t to say how you should go run ten miles or participate in 30 hours of volunteering each week. Rather, we want you to consider how much of that downtime you spend on client matters or law firm management.
Do not check your work email during your off hours. We know that’s often easier said than done. However, one of the best ways to improve work life balance is to simply unplug. Turn off your email notifications. Do not check your work email from your computer or from your phone. It will be there waiting for you during work hours. Separating out your work from your personal life helps improve productivity and reduce stress by helping you learn to transition to a more relaxed state. It will also help you be more productive at work because you’re more refreshed.
Get organized in the office. Law firms must be organized. It helps you stay on track. Additionally, a more organized workspace can help you feel less stressed. Ultimately, how you choose to organize your office depends on your needs. Let technology help get and keep you organized.
Don’t try to do everything in the office. To better improve work life balance, don’t try to do everything in the office. Hire the right people who can help meet client needs and help keep the administrative side of things running as they should. As a lawyer, you should keep your focus on the activities that only you are allowed to do and, of course, provide proper guidance and supervision to your law firm employees.
Schedule “me” time directly onto your calendar every week. At the beginning of each week, take a look at your calendar. Block off time to do things you enjoy. This can be going for a run, taking a cooking class, going to a spa, or whatever it is you enjoy doing. This time scheduled for you should not be ignored. Appointments and meetings should not be scheduled during that time. You are under no obligation to tell others what you’re doing during that time. If you share your calendar with an assistant, mark that time as a private appointment. Taking time for yourself helps improve productivity and reduces stress.
Eat well and exercise. We know that this probably isn’t the most interesting work life balance tip, but it is one of the most important. Eating better food and making time to exercise can help you be more creative, feel happier, and be more productive.
Have a back-up attorney for when you’re out of the office. One reason many solo lawyers don’t take time off is because of the increased workload they’ll face when they return. You can plan your time out of the office for vacations in advance. Don’t plan any court appearances, meetings, or client contact for that time. This can help ensure that the back-up attorney is only contacted in an actual emergency. The back-up attorney you choose should be familiar with your practice area. Knowing that someone can step in if there is an emergency can be very reassuring and help you make the most of your time out of the office.
Provide advance notice about when you’ll be out of the office. Let active clients, opposing counsel, and the court know about when you’ll be out of the office. Advance notice can help ensure that nothing is scheduled during your absence (or that it is properly rescheduled). It can also give your clients peace of mind to know that they’re not being ignored.
We hope you’ve found this article helpful. What is your method to improve work life balance? Leave a comment below!