Did you know this week the legal industry recognized Lawyer Well-Being Week? Was it on your radar? Or did your week fly by without you even noticing?
As we round out Lawyer Well-Being Week for 2022, I’d like to take a moment here to reflect on the reality of what “wellness” means for me and for many of my fellow attorneys these days.
As I’ve written about before, if you are an attorney I really think the word “balance” should be deleted from your vocabulary. Balance implies all things have equal weight, equal importance, and should be given equal attention. Living in such a state of equilibrium is simply unrealistic and unattainable for any person — let alone a busy lawyer — even in ideal circumstances.
It’s not realistic for a lawyer to expect to spend a perfect 8 hours sleeping, 8 hours working and 8 hours tending to their family and health every single day. There are going to be times in our legal careers where the ratio looks more like 6 hours sleeping, 14 hours working and 4 hours trying to keep all of our other balls in the air. There will also be other times when the daily ratio looks like 10 hours sleeping, 2 hours working and 12 glorious hours relaxing, recharging and doing things we love (this magical day is called VACATION).
I much prefer the term “well-being” to the unattainable and unrealistic “balance.” What does well-being mean to me? Well, it means doing the best you can to take care of yourself, your loved ones and your clients. It is not perfect harmony, as I believe is implied by the word “balance.” It is accepting that sometimes certain areas of life are going to take more time, energy and attention and that’s OK. It is also being aware that the quantity of time we spend on different areas of our life will inevitable change depending on what day, week or season we find ourselves currently in.
Our focus and priorities will shift many times in any given day, week or month. If you are preparing for trial, certainly your work is going to be your main priority to the temporary detriment of your workout routine and family. On the flip side, if a few weeks later you can take a well-deserved vacation, then rest, rejuvenation and time with family or friends will be the priority for your well-being
Well-being involves constant ebbs and flows. It also involves permitting yourself to accept that it’s okay to focus on whatever you are making a priority at that time and not beat yourself up for the other things you can’t achieve.
Forget balance. Strive for well-being in whatever way well-being means to you.
TURN IT OFF
Now that the legal industry has discovered the joy and benefits of working from home, many lawyers have also found that working from home means they end up working all the time.
Being able to work from anywhere makes it way too easy to work too much. Gone are the commutes to and from the office that allow us to ramp up or wind down from a busy day.
It’s no secret that many attorneys live to work. They love this profession. They also genuinely love the law. They are committed to their clients and strive to be the best.
With an increased focus on well-being, many attorneys are challenging themselves to work to live, rather than live to work. They want more time out of the office than in the office. They strive to find ways to work smarter, not harder, such as embracing legal technology.
If you are finding it hard to turn off work when you are working from home, you are not alone. Some things you can do to try to stop this habit can include setting boundaries. Let your colleagues and clients know what hours you will generally be available for meetings and questions. Then stick to those hours. Don’t respond to emails at all hours of the day and night.
It’s ok to unplug once in a while. Just communicate your availability to your clients and colleagues. If you plan to take a “screen free” day on a weekend, let folks know in advance. You may be surprised how much they will abide by and respect this decision.
Put reminders about your own availability on your calendar. If you live by your calendar, schedule time to eat, exercise, see friends and sleep. Seeing those reminders pop up will help you be accountable for the boundaries you have established.
You can also create new routines when working from home to help transition into and out of your workday. Perhaps in the morning you sit outside with your coffee and read the news. Or you take a morning walk and listen to a work related podcast (perhaps this). At the end of the day, you could schedule a workout class to give you a forced stop to your workday. Alternatively, you could take an evening walk and call a friend to rehash your day.
If you find that you truly are working all the time, it’s a really good sign you probably need to hire and add to your team. It is natural when you start your firm or start your career that you do all the things. But as time goes on, you have to grow your team and start delegating to manage an increased workflow. Pulling too many all nighters will leave you stretched too thin and on the fast track to burnout. This doesn’t serve you – or your clients – well at all.
USE WHAT YOU’VE GOT
It’s not secret that a legal career can be very stressful and demanding. It’s also no secret that this hard work gives many attorneys capital resources they can use to take better care for themselves.
If you are fortunate to find yourself in a financial position to be able to use your resources for your own well-being – use what you’ve got.
Don’t hold back from spending your hard-earned cash flow on self-care such as personal trainers, healthy meal delivery, regular therapy, or pampering such as spa visits.
You deserve it. Read that again: You deserve it. And if you ever doubt that you deserve it, just come re-read this article for another friendly reminder.
GIVE YOURSELF A DAILY .4 (or More!)
One of my favorite Instagram influencers often talks about the fact if you don’t have 30 minutes to give yourself every day to do something you enjoy, that you really don’t have much of a life. Think about that for a minute.
Now you can debate whether 30 minutes is enough, too much or not enough but I think she makes a good point. Let me translate this into lawyer terms. I think you should strive to give yourself at least a .4, yes at least 24 minutes, every day to do something that you enjoy.
This doesn’t have to be something you “should” do like exercise. It definitely doesn’t need to be something that you have to do. It should be something that simply gives you joy.
Perhaps you’ve been wanting to learn how to play the guitar. You could take 20 minutes out of your day to watch a YouTube tutorial and pick up your guitar and strum away.
Maybe you’ve been wanting to start a garden. This time would be prefect to tend the garden, pull weeds and gather your harvest.
It could also be a simple 20 minutes to read a fun book or watch a show. As long as it brings you joy, it is worth at least .4 of your day, every day.
Another common problem that I find with many of my attorney friends and colleagues is that they overlook and don’t take advantage of clear opportunities to outsource.
I mean, c’mon. Did you really think I could write a blog on well-being without reminding you to outsource more?!
What are the things on your “to-do” list at home office that you dread?
Lawn work? Laundry? Grocery shopping? Getting even 1 of these tasks of your own to-do list each week can free up time and mental space for you to do something you enjoy or get a bit more sleep. The good news is that you can outsource all of these tasks and so much more.
What are the things on your “to-do” list at the office that you dread?
Writing blogs for your website? Posting on your firm’s social media? Arranging client gifts?
Again, the great news is all of these tasks can also be outsourced.
Take a hard look at your to-do list and identify at least one item that you really, really don’t want to do anymore. Then find a resource and outsource it! Maybe it won’t work perfect the first time, but with practice you will be relieved to get it off your list and onto someone else’s list. The ROI on this can be huge if it helps you recharge for the work ahead of you that remains.