For many attorneys, finding “work-life balance” seems about as realistic as catching Bigfoot digging through your trail mix during your next camping trip — and who are we kidding, you don’t have time to go camping.
Thanks to long hours and a demanding culture, finding time for hobbies and family can be a struggle for lawyers, particularly those working within large firms.
Of course, time management has become even harder during the pandemic.
On top of Zoom meetings and increased client demands, your kid might need a snack, the dog might have to go out, and uh, did someone just start a kitchen fire during at-home science class?
Dealing with family and work has “lengthened days and screen time for many,” The American Lawyer recently reported, with both partners and associates working longer or odder hours.
But even with today’s challenges, there are still ways to reclaim your time.
At Paragon Legal, we aim to provide both flexibility and high-level legal work, allowing lawyers to finally make work-life balance a reality. And from the client’s perspective, happy lawyers are better positioned to deliver top-quality work than those who are burned out.
In the spirit of helping lawyers of all stripes promote a healthy work-life balance, we bring you some time management tips that busy attorneys can take advantage of.
Do a Time Audit
The first step in understanding where your day is going is to do a time audit.
In her book Time Smart, Harvard Business School professor Ashley Whillans recommends keeping a log of how you use your time during a random Tuesday (if you can’t swing Tuesday, pick any other work weekday).
For each activity, Whillans suggests noting how you feel about it, including whether the activity was productive, fun, or purposeful. If an activity made you stressed or unhappy, consider whether you can spend less time on it, Whillans suggests.
If you can’t ditch a task altogether, Whillans asks if you can make it more fun or less stressful. Popping on some music or a podcast can turn dreaded tasks (like logging your time or washing dishes) into something you actually look forward to, for example.
Schedule Focused Time
When you’re constantly reacting to requests and messages, making headway on important projects or goals can feel impossible. You spend all day responding to emails, taking calls, and sitting through meetings, only to look up at 7 p.m. and realize that you didn’t actually get anything done.
To combat this, try scheduling at least an hour every day where you block out distractions and focus on an important, but not urgent, task.
Whillans calls this “proactive time” or “pro-time,” for short. This time period can be used for work projects, personal goals, or even leisure activities that you always put off.
The key is to be disciplined about guarding this time — Whillans recommends blocking off your calendar and shutting out all distractions during pro-time.
Using this period for longer-term projects can also keep deadlines from creeping up on you, allowing you to feel less stressed and more in control.
Use To-Do Lists
Don’t underestimate the power of a simple to-do list: It will help you set priorities for the day and help you stay on track.
Try keeping the list visible, so your priorities stay top-of-mind, even as fresh requests pop up during the day.
An app or notebook also has the benefit of being portable, so no matter where you are, you can write down tasks for future lists.
Paragon’s mission is to provide legal professionals with meaningful work outside the traditional path, while delivering the highest quality talent and service to our clients. Stay tuned for more ways to make “work-life” balance more of a reality.