This strange year is coming to a close and with that comes a last push to finish off as much work as possible before the holidays. There are few professions that drive themselves to work so hard and so often as the lawyer. While the occasional lawyer may enjoy making their profession their entire life, it's simply an unavoidable aspect of the job for most. This part of the job gets worse as the looming deadline of Christmas shutdown approaches.
Keeping your nose down and grinding through matter after matter may seem like the only option and you may be able to shrug it off by saying "it's only for a few weeks" but it's likely that this attitude will carry through into the new year. Achieving work-life balance may seem like an impossible task to some, but even a small improvement can greatly improve your wellbeing.
Be More Mindful
As much as lawyers are generally well-compensated for their work, it can be easy to lose focus of what you're working for, even with the break so close. Even if the thought of scaling back your billable hours is completely unpalatable, it can help you to to live a healthier life. But if you optimise your processes in the office and you'll be able to alleviate the frantic end of year rush.
Separating Work and Life
More than anything else, the error that prevents you from successfully separating work and life is poor boundaries. Of course, this goes much further than "don't answer emails on family holiday." Separating work and life can be as simple as mentally "punching out" once you're ready to move from work to personal items.
As many legal practices are yet to return to the office, many lawyers are still primarily working from home. The issue with working from home being that the lines between office hours become blurred, as well as the work and holiday period. Stick to your office shutdown periods and don't open your laptop during it. 2020 has been a difficult year and you need to give yourself time to relax in order to tackle 2021. Let yourself rest and you'll start next year far stronger.
Set a time and date to finish and do not work past it. When you commit to only working during the hours you intend to, you'll find yourself mentally focusing better in both aspects of your life.
Reduce the Load with Software
One thing that can help with the December rush is appropriately preparing for it. The most efficient and easiest way to do this is by allocating time in the lead up. Set out your tasks for the day or week and ensure that you're spending your time where you think you are. A solid practice management software system is the key to time allocation. To ensure you've achieved what you needed to at the end of each day, you can view your billing for the day, which is easily accessible in you PMS. Furthermore, dashboards can provide a good overview of how much you and the staff in your legal practice are working. Effectively managing this can help you determine if you, or a member of your team might be working a little too much. In addition to time management, software like LawMaster can optimise your workflow.
When it's hard to figure out exactly what your next task is or what you should work on next, billable time tends to bleed into non-work hours. Separating work and life is easiest when you closely keep track of what you're working on at any given time and what's coming next.
Getting Out of the Office
It can be difficult to convince yourself to spend time outside of the office especially when you have mandatory time off approaching. However, it's critical to take some time for yourself or risk early burnout. Burnout is becoming more and more of an issue with new generations of lawyers who are pushing themselves toward impossible goals.
Assess the culture of your team
If you notice certain members of your team are staying later and later there are ways you can help them out, one way is by improving communication and trust in your team. If you Improve communication amongst your team, they may start to ask other members for help. For example they may ask for greater paralegal assistance on some of the more menial tasks they're doing on a matter. Some lawyers prefer to do things by themselves, but others just don't know how to ask for assistance. If you improve trust and communication, you can disperse the workload and make sure members of your team aren't struggling in silence. This can be a big undertaking for some teams and may not be done by the end of the year. But if you start now it can go a long way to helping your team out in 2021.
Keeping a close eye on work-life balance is critical not only for your personal life, but to succeed in the office as well. Feeling tired or frustrated toward work is normal, but ensuring you separate your time at home and work can help you control it. Pick a few things you know you can improve on and focus on changing them. They don't have to be drastic changes and mostly it's the little things that count. You want to spend your time off enjoying yourself with the people you love, not recovering from a major burnout incident so remember to take care in the lead up to the end of year break.