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Did you know that hunter-gatherers need to work for only around 20 hours per week to feed themselves? That was the norm throughout most of human history, but when human beings first discovered agriculture and began living in settled communities around 12,000 years ago in the Levant, this figure slowly began to creep up (which has long led archaeologists and ancient historians to speculate as to why humans began farming in the first place). Modern lawyers, of course, regularly face working weeks of 40 hours, sometimes rising to 50 and beyond. Now, there are of course a few perks available to the modern lawyer that were not accessible to ancient hunter-gatherers or the first farming communities. But the point is that it’s not natural to be on call for work 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To stay healthy and enjoy our time on Earth, we need to maintain some kind of work-life balance. Here are some tips to help you do exactly that.
Set realistic expectations
It’s easy to dig a hole for ourselves by promising a client that you’ll get the advice they need to them within some period of time which, as this self-created deadline approaches, begins to look increasingly unrealistic. Humans have an innate tendency to underestimate the amount of time a task will take – it’s easy to form a clear picture in our heads of us beginning the job, smoothly working our way through, and completing it. We forget, however, to envision all the unexpected things going wrong along the way, not to mention all those small but necessary administrative tasks.
Give yourself a bit of leeway when you’re telling clients or colleagues how long you’ll take, to make sure you’re not cutting into your evenings every night to get things done.
Leave emails alone in the evening
Perhaps you insist on having your work emails on your phone. Ok – but set a limit as to when you will check them. You could, for example, say that you will not look at your emails after dinner. You could also set your screen time limits per app to limit yourself. Everyone’s different, and if you really thrive off your work you might want to make exceptions to that around the time of an important deal going through – but stick to the limit in general.
Either way, definitely don’t look at your emails right before going to bed. After all, what can it achieve? You’re tired and not at your best – if an issue has come up, you’ll handle it much better in the morning. And knowing about the problem can only lead to you worrying about it, affecting your ability to get a good sleep – which is exactly what you need to do if you’re going to be effective and productive tomorrow.
Use your time off for important things
You’ve finally got a break from work. So what are you going to do with your free time? Well, make sure you don’t spend it doing something like scrolling through social media – the kind of thing that it’s easy to get drawn into (indeed, social media platforms are specifically designed to pull all the levers in your brain that capture your attention), but which won’t give you the rejuvenation you need.
I’m not suggesting you need to use your time for something ‘worthy’, either – you don’t have to spend your time reading the classics of political philosophy unless you enjoy that. Spend the time with those close to you, and find out what’s really going on in your friends and family’s lives. Or do something else that’s going to relax you – play sports, catch up on a thrilling series on Netflix, or get stuck into a book you love. If you can get into nature on the weekend. I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t feel a need for some open spaces and green in their life now and again.
Enjoy your time off properly, and you’ll come back to work much more relaxed. That will help you work more productively, but more importantly, it will be a good feeling in itself!