Monday, December 27, 2004
The picture of Sssstresss!!
Lawyers...In Need of Some Work Life Balance?
Well you're not alone.
Today an increasing number of lawyers are experiencing burnout, low productivity, insomnia, and stress related illnesses...undoubtedly due to a lack of balance between their work and personal lives.
Although the concepts of achieving balance are simple, actually creating a balanced life isn't easy, but it is definitely worthwhile.
Here are some steps to help you on your journey toward life balance. It's a process so be patient with yourself. It will also require that you closely examine your personal and professional life.
- Figure out what your values and priorities are.
Yeah I know...feels like everything is a priority. Yet too often, our time and energy are spent on things that we don't really care about. Once you're clear about your values and priorities you can begin saying "no" to those things that move you further away from your values and priorities and "yes" to those things that are in alignment with your values. You can begin to structure your life in a way that supports the personal and professional goals you want to accomplish. Determining the goals you want to accomplish and the quality of life you want to live, will help guide you toward figuring out what balance looks life for you.
- Identify your balance "blockers". Balance blockers are those things that we either think or do that stands in the way of achieving balance. It's basically a perspective we hold about why we can't pursue balance-related goals. Some examples of blockers are:
- Living for the expectations of others at work and at home
- Consistently putting the needs of others before your own
- Fear of change
- Hung up on appearances
Once you identify your blockers pay attention to when you use them as excuses to justify why you can't achieve balance in your life. Explore ways to accomplish your balance goals in spite of your particular balance blockers.
- Balance your mind. The key to balance is all in your head. Begin to think differently! So many attorneys feel guilty about focusing on work-life balance or they believe taking time out for themselves...away from work is an unproductive use of time. I'll tell you what I tell my clients GET OVER IT! Most times, we treat our cars better than we treat ourselves. What's the first thing we do when we notice our car is low on gas? We fill our tanks! Well, living a more balanced life is about filling your tank. Those initially cynical lawyers who reluctantly committed to living a more balanced lifestyle now report that they are more relaxed, have more time for themselves and haven't sacrificed their jobs or their level of professionalism in the process!
- Create "non-negotiable" time blocks in your schedule at least 2 times per week. Non-negotiable time is personal time that you set aside for yourself that you absolutely cannot and will not reschedule, cancel or postpone...it's simply non-negotiable. Devote at least 30 minutes to these time blocks. Write the non-negotiable appointment in your palm or day planner as you would for any other appointment. You can use the time for anything NON work related. This time is allocated so you can focus on you. Go workout, get a massage, take yourself to the park...or do nothing! Just pick something that you'll enjoy. It may feel strange at first but commit to do this for at least 6 weeks...and guess what? You'll get the hang of it.
- Consider hiring a Professional Coach. When you're trying to achieve a more balanced life and everyone around you is being rewarded for working round the clock, it's tough to stay focused. The truth is making change that will affect you personally and professionally can be challenging...even when the change will be positive. This is primarily because familiar patterns are hard to break. The bottom line is that lawyers need someone to talk to. Not a partner in the firm, significant other, colleague or friend, but someone whose only job is to help you plan your career, manage your life and set goals to keep you on track. That is the job of a Professional Coach.
- Create a Vision. Having a vision of what you want to accomplish is a powerful tool to help you achieve any goal. Write down your vision of a more balanced and fulfilling life style. In creating your vision consider: If your life was more balanced than it is today...what would you have time to do? What would you no longer do? How would your career improve? What impact would a more balanced life have on your relationships, your quality of life, and your clients?
Share some of your current work-life balance strategies. What's worked? In what ways does your employer support you in creating work-life balance?
Sunday, December 26, 2004
A law firm that supports lawyers with lives?!?!
I was really excited to read "Having a Life Too", an article published in the October 2004 issue of The American Lawyer. The article focuses on what appears to be remarkable firm.
"Arent Fox offers more than lip service toward treating its associates as adults. Arent Fox pointedly recruits associates who have extracurricular interests beyond the law. The firm trusts associates like Besunder, who alternates taking classes in Spanish and Hebrew each semester, to be mature enough to balance both their work and their hobbies. "Law has never been how I define myself," says Joanne Schehl, chair of the professional development committee. She teaches yoga, tastes wine, bicycles, and gardens.
Rather than distracting her from her practice, Schehl insists that these interests make her a better lawyer as well as a better marketer. "I can build clients through personal relationships because I have my own life."
- The firm allowed a new associate to take a 6 month clerkship in Europe less than one year after joining the firm.
- Another associate took 18 months off to travel the world before applying to Arent Fox...AND THEY DIDN'T EVEN HOLD IT AGAINST HER....in fact the associated reported that, "it seemed like a selling point".
- Eric Baxter, a father of three took paternity leave for the birth of his fourth child. Approximately 6-8 weeks after he returned to work he took a 10 day vacation! Did they call call him a slacker?? NOOOO...in fact, Eric reports that not a single colleague suggested he alter his vacation plans.
- Matthew Kanna, a self-proclaimed workaholic, was advised by his supervising attorney, "not to work so hard." WHAT?!?! Most firms REWARD workaholics.
Doesn't this all sound downright REVOLUTIONARY!! I mean.. a firm that "pointedly recruits associates who have extracurricular interests beyond the law," trusts them to balance work and life, and tells them when they're working too hard??!