If you're like most lawyers, what you probably remember most is how little free time you had, and how you looked forward to that happy day when you'd have your degree, a great job and a life you could manage. Now, you have that degree, and that job—but you still have practically no free time. It seems like all you do is work. And you wonder, "isn't there a better way?"
A Better Way: Improving Your Work-Life Balance
If your work schedule is so demanding that you're getting frequently stressed out, tired or bored with your job, it's time to reassess how you're balancing the demands of your law job and the need to slow down and enjoy your life. After all, you didn't go through all that hard work to obtain your degree only to be unhappy.
Said differently, improving your work-life balance is critical to improving the quality of your life. As Forbes notes, for example:
"Work-life balance is an important aspect of a healthy work environment. Maintaining work-life balance helps reduce stress and helps prevent burnout in the workplace. Chronic stress is one of the most common health issues in the workplace. It can lead to physical consequences such as hypertension, digestive troubles, chronic aches and pains and heart problems. Chronic stress can also negatively impact mental health because it's linked to a higher risk of depression, anxiety and insomnia."
Time to Take a Detour
Whether or not you've experienced any of those symptoms, if you're not happy with the amount of time you spend in your law practice, it's probably time to make some changes. Fortunately, there some proactive steps you can take to improve your work-life balance, and to better enjoy both your work and your life, including the following:
- Keep it real: spoiler alert, chances are you're not going to achieve a perfect work-life balance. You have commitments at both work and home, and the idea is to create a realistic balance between the two. Shoot for small improvements at first, and continually reassess your situation, are the changes you've made giving you more time to do the things you love, and reducing your level of stress at work?
- Consider changing jobs: sure, that sounds a bit drastic, but if you go to work every day dreading what you have to do and if you're serious about improving the quality of your life, talk to colleagues who work for different firms and have different responsibilities. Odds are, one or more of them will describe a job that sounds more appealing than the one you have now.
- Get away from it all: find ways to change your work routine. For example, if you're travelling to work while frantically parsing a deposition, you're probably headed for burnout. A simple change, like putting away work while commuting and taking in some music you love will make you feel more relaxed, and probably give you the energy to do a better job when you get to work.
- Shut down the shop and hit the road: taking an occasional holiday even if it's just one or two days away is one of the best ways to improve your work-life balance. Maybe it's time to stop worrying that taking time off from your job will make it harder when you get back and start enjoying your life more.
- Establish some rules of the road: to get the work-life balance you want, you need to have some clear goals and a strategy to achieve them, like not taking your work computer home, and not using your home computer to constantly check work emails. Talk to your colleagues and boss about your situation and explain the changes you're making and why you're making them. Explain that making these changes to improve your work performance as well as the overall quality of your life.
Every law job is different, which means that no 2 plans to improve work-life balance will be identical. Try to construct a plan that's customized to your needs, have clear goals and return to that plan occasionally to see how much progress you've made.
The last thing you want is to wake up 10 or 15 years from now thinking you've squandered opportunities to spend more time with your children—or with chronic stress. Create a work-life balance plan that will improve your performance on the job and give you the free time you need to enjoy your life.