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Work Life Balance for Lawyers: On Reworking the Seesaw

Unfortunately, the work-life balance of lawyers can be likened to a seesaw, where all too often the work side of things gets stuck hard and fast in the ground, while the life side is stuck. in the air, helpless and at the mercy of its heavier counterpart. So how can you change the metaphor and make your professional and personal life more balanced?

A few simple time management exercises can go a long way. Time, after all, is often presented as the antagonist of doing everything we want, whether we want to ideally spend it preparing for a trial, learning how to use a practice management program more efficiently, or watching a game of a child’s volleyball

To start balancing your work life, first stop and listen to yourself. How many times a day do you find yourself saying that you don’t have enough time to do something? Don’t have time, for example, to organize your office for an ideal workflow or to get home early enough for family dinners?

However, the notion of not having time is fundamentally inaccurate. We all have a level playing field for our day: 24 hours or 1440 minutes to use as we see fit. It’s not that there isn’t enough time for a chosen task then, it’s that we’ve chosen to spend that time elsewhere. Ask yourself, how have you chosen to spend the day? Have you chosen to spend three hours on email “emergencies” that aren’t really important or redoing an associate’s work when that person has been performing below average for months?

While asking questions, it helps to see the big picture. Quite simply, what do you want the reward for working as hard as you do? One tool to help answer this question is the wheel of life diagram. On a piece of paper, divide a circle into eight equal sections. Label them Career, Money, Health, Friends, Family, Spirituality, Recreation, Environment. Ask yourself, how satisfied are you in each of these categories on a scale of 1-10? Where and how specifically would you like to see improvements?

Writing down these responses can be a powerful motivational tool for change. If a goal, for example, is to make more money, you might start by spending two hours a week on marketing and development. If it involves taking regular vacations, you can start by blocking out a week on your calendar six months in advance.

Write below what you would like your practice to look like a year from now. What kind of affairs and clients would you ideally like to have? Raise the standards you have for those customers; It’s not just that you want them to pay on time. You may want them to better respect your boundaries or become more actively involved in your cases. In the same way, what do you want your typical work schedule to look like? Your staff setup? Your take-home income?

Keep the answers to these exercises in the top drawer of your desk and refer to them regularly. Over time you will find that they will motivate you to manage your time better. This may mean isolating the time you check your email. It may mean limiting your time at the water cooler if you know a quick drink will turn into a twenty-minute digression. Remember, the first step to achieving lawyer work-life balance is to take an honest look at how you are spending your time now, how you want your practice and life to be different, and how you will need to use your time differently to realize. that vision


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