For many attorneys, the concept of “work-life balance” can seem like an urban legend, except even more far-fetched.
Indeed, maintaining time for a robust life outside the office can seem like a mythical concept — like a beautiful unicorn or a Harvard alum who never mentions where they went to school.
At Paragon Legal, we aim to provide both flexibility and high-level 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 maintaining a healthy work-life balance, we bring you some time management tips that busy attorneys of all stripes can take advantage of.
In the first installment of this series, we noted how lawyers can audit, guard, and schedule their time. Here, we provide additional tips to manage your day.
Try Time Blocking
Time blocking is when you divvy up your day into blocks of time, during which you focus on specific tasks.
For instance, you may only check email messages for 10-11 a.m. and 4:30-5:30 p.m., allowing you to avoid constant email interruptions while you’re working on projects.
When you decide to do certain tasks is also important.
For some people, it’s easier to tackle important tasks in the morning, while others may find they have better focus in the afternoons. Try scheduling tasks that require more concentration for when you have better focus.
(For even more on when to schedule certain tasks, check out When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink.)
From Slack notifications to news alerts, we live in a distraction-heavy world.
But each of those interruptions can come with a time cost — it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task at hand, according to Gloria Mark, a professor at the University of California, Irvine.
To protect your focus, minimize switching between tasks as much as possible.
Mute that group chat, turn off unnecessary social media notifications, and even consider putting your phone in silent mode or in a drawer while working on a project.
Use a Timer
Using a timer can also be immensely helpful in keeping you focused, while also encouraging short breaks to keep your brain fresh.
The Pomodoro Tracker will help you use the Pomodoro Technique, which is a popular time management system in which you focus on a task for 25 minutes, followed by a five-minute break.
Similar apps exist for your phone, like Focus Keeper or the Bear Focus Timer, which acts as both a timer and a way to stop you from checking your phone screen. There are also a plethora of tools — such as Dewo and Freedom — that will help you reduce pesky app distractions.
Outsource, Delegate, Just Say No
Sometimes, the best way to find more time is to get rid of a task altogether. In Time Smart, Harvard professor Ashley Whillans advocates for outsourcing tasks that you especially dislike, noting that shelling out a bit on “time-saving services — like shopping, cleaning, and laundry — can reduce time stress and increase happiness.”
Similarly, don’t be afraid to delegate tasks, even if it means giving up some element of control. There’s no sense in lengthening your workday by insisting on doing things you could be giving to others (as long as they have room on their plate for it).
And if you’re a perfectionist who struggles with delegation, keep in mind how perfectionism could be stealing your time in other ways — for instance, by spending 20 minutes perfecting an email that really could have been written in 10.
Finally, harness the power of saying no. This can be tricky for people pleasers or folks who are eager to show they’re team players. But attending every meeting or taking on too many projects can make you feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day.
When possible (and we know it isn’t always possible, but go with us here), try gently excusing yourself from unnecessary meetings or extra projects.
And hey, if there’s no way you’re getting out of that hefty request that a partner just emailed you, at least you’ve got these other time management tips to help.
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.