A good work/life balance is hard to achieve for any professional, but is especially difficult for lawyers. In fact, an article in the Huffington Post a few years back claimed lawyers had the second-worst work/life balance of all professionals (the worst was surgeons).
With long hours, constant connection, confrontations, and unrelenting stress, the pressure of any legal job can make work/life balance feel like a fairy tale. But it doesn’t have to be.
Even if you work at a high-pressure firm, there are still steps you can take to improve your work/life balance.
Working Smarter, Not Harder
Let’s face it, a big part of the destruction of the work/life balance in the legal profession is because of smartphones and constant connectivity. At this point, you might be rolling your eyes thinking that if it were up to you, you would gladly get rid of the stupid machine. But it’s not up to you.
If you want clients, you need to respond immediately. If you want to keep your managing partner happy, you need to respond immediately.
Right? Maybe and maybe not.
Americans’ unhealthy habits with their phones are no secret. As one survey found, almost two-thirds of the population checks their phone at least 160 times a day. While the initial reaction is that in order to keep up professionally you need to do the same, the opposite is actually true.
All those pings are actually a huge distraction and destroy productivity. There are several digital habits that can increase your productivity at work meaning you can work smarter, faster, and take less of it home with you. Several ideas include:
- Batch your emails. Instead of checking your email constantly throughout the day, choose 2-4 times throughout the day to see what is in your inbox. Make sure to respond right away too.
- Turn off alerts and push notifications. If you have a set time of day you are going to check your phone and email, you don’t need to be notified about every tweet and text.
- Give your phone a home. Rather than keeping your phone on you when you are at home, keep it in its place—literally. Find or make a place for it to live and only check it there. You can even make a bed for your phone and tuck it in at night.
Getting your phone and digital habits under control is the first and possibly most important step to restoring a work/life balance in any profession and especially in the legal field.
If you have to devote most of your time to your law practice, you need to be wise about how you spend the rest of it. Also, there is a point at which your time becomes more valuable than your money.
When that happens, it means you might need to consider hiring help to do things around the house. Everything from mowing the lawn to cleaning to cooking can be done by others if you are willing to pay for it. And in order to be able to spend time with your kids or your spouse, or even in order to be able to pursue a life-giving hobby, you might need to break down and pay for someone else to take care of your household tasks.
Ditch the Car, Get a Bike
This tip might seem counterintuitive. If you are already pressed for time, how will a longer commute help? While the commute might be longer, biking to work can actually save you time overall—and help you get in shape too.
When you consider how long your commute is you also have to add how long it takes you to exercise (if you even do, which, unfortunately, many lawyers don’t have time to do). Most likely commute plus exercise takes longer than commute via bike.
When you bike to work you kill two birds with one stone. You also get time to get your adrenaline pumping on the way to work and decompress on your way home.