“Work-Life Balance” - the term that often gets thrown around in 2019 as extinct or impossible due to the technology we have available making us all too reachable 24/7. This is something I have heard time and time again, not only in law school, but now during my practice as an attorney. Many people in the legal field assert that “work-life balance” is something unachievable or a concept that lawyers should just give up on – I disagree. While the legal field is a demanding practice and requires much time and attention, lawyers are still regular people who need a life outside of work. In fact, studies have shown that taking a break from work or spending time with family or friends can improve our skills, can prevent depression and substance abuse, and further can decrease the chance of becoming burnt out. Studies have also shown that the traditional notion that the person who is first in the office in the morning and last out the door at night is the most productive, is far from true. This is based on the fact that our attention spans and ability to focus and productively work decrease the longer we spend in the office or at the computer. Moreover, physical movement is what keeps us from being mentally stagnant. It is important that we keep our blood flowing.
While all of the above has been scientifically proven, people still come to the conclusion that with a heavy workload, the work-life balance will never be achieved. I suggest doing the following to ensure that you maximize your productivity in the office and can focus on your family friends, physical and mental health, and other activities that you enjoy when you leave for the night or the weekend:
1. Set goals for the day: prioritize what you need to get done and focus on those goals when you come in the workplace. If additional tasks pop up during the day, reprioritize and plan when you will accomplish these tasks so as to not become overly stressed about a growing to-do list;
2. Ask for help if you need it: if you know you have an upcoming deadline or trial for example and you know you need to put off the “smaller tasks” for awhile – ask someone else to help you out with such tasks, even if they can only work on a portion of what needs done. At least you will have a start to something that otherwise would remain untouched;
3. Don’t overcommit: if you know you are taking on more than you can handle, make sure to make someone aware of this or learn to say no. We as lawyers, and even those in the non-legal field, want to do the best we can for our clients and for our employers. However, if we are overwhelmed by the number of tasks that we need to accomplish, the ability to give our all may fall to the wayside. It’s important to keep others informed about your workload and to speak up if it’s becoming unmanageable.
4. Minimize interruptions: many employees across the United States find that they are much more efficient when they work remotely than when they are in the office. The main reason for this being that they are not as easily interrupted by coworkers. While it is important to maintain relationships with coworkers, many people find it hard to exit a conversation or to tell others when they do not have time to talk. If you need to put off a conversation until you get X,Y,or Z done – tell your coworkers (nicely of course!).
In sum, there are ways to achieve a “work-life balance” and many of those start with the way you handle your workday. Sometimes it’s necessary to take a step back, look at your life and priorities, and ensure that you aren’t missing out on the things that matter most - such as your family, friends and health.