It doesn't matter what resolutions you made this year - chances are, working to maintain work-life balance will make it easier to stick to them. Whether you're keeping up a gym routine, making dinner with loved ones, or being more engaged with your family, all fo tehse become more feasible if you're not glued to your work and answering emails on the weekends. Even people who avoid new years resolutions agree that keeping balance is important - especially for attorneys. The legal profession is highly susceptible to alcoholism and depression, so these tactics are important. Checkout these four strategies to help you create better work-life habits this year.
1. Keep an open dialogue with your manager and colleagues
New year - new boundaries. This is the motto we encourage, but this reset can be new (and scarry) for those in your professional circles. The best way to handle this is to let them know that you're looking to focus more on "life" instead of "work" and have the open conversation around making adjustments. Be sure to let them know you'll still be just as productive, but that you'll have stronger boundaries.
Importantly, tell them why this change is important to you. When people understand the why behind your choices, they're more likely to be supportive. This will help them to see the bigger picture - that you'll be more rested, happier, responsive in your legal work.
This is also a chance to step up as a leader within your legal department. Burnout is a huge issue in the legal profession, and proactively having this dialogue with your legal team can help improve work-life balance for everyone. Sparking this conversation may, in fact, help them consider whether they're giving enough attention to their lives outside of work.
Once you have the initial conversation, be sure to keep the conversation going. Check-in routinely about what's working and what's not. The last thing you, or you team, want to have happen is productivity to drop. The legal team is, after all, crucial to the success of any business.
2. Set your boundaries
It's funny how lawyers are so easily able to set boundaries in commerical contracts- but not in their own lives.
The best way to ensure success of your newfound love for work-life balance is to set clearly communicated boundaires. If you want to start a new exercise routine during your lunch hour - be sure to tell your team and put it on your calendar! That helps the legal team and other stakeholders to know your boundaries and work around them. If you're hoping to be more engaged in the evening with your family - be sure to communicate that to your team and let them know when they can expect to get a response.
Finally - remember that flexibilty is your friend. Emergencies pop up - any in-house counsel knows that someone has to put out a fire. If one of your new boundaries is getting in the way of bottom-line productivity, it is your responsibility to recognize this and adjust accordingly.
3. Avoid the sad desk lunch
We've all been there - emails are pilling up, you have a call with outside counsel in 20 minutes, and you still have 5 contracts to review. Regardless, try to avoid eating at your desk for lunch. The 20 or 30 minute mental break you can get by standing up, walking, socializing with coworkers, etc, is crucial to maintaining productivity during the day. In fact, researchers claim that the “productivity refresh” provided by a lunch break actually boosts your brain power.
Leaving your desk for lunch has health benefits too. Even a small trip down to the cafeteria or to the local sandwich shop boosts the number of steps you're taking each day. Over time, this meaningfully impacts your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
Finally - taking some time for lunch is a great way to socialize with colleagues. A well run legal department relies on everyone working together as a team, and taking 20 minutes to ask about their day or their plans for the weekend is often very beneficial to your career.
4. Try a new hobby
Hobbies! We've all been there - you're at a weekend get together with friends and someone asks what your hobbies are. You panic - the only hobby that pops into your head is your love of commerical contracts and making well-constructed arguements to pposing counsel.
It can be easy for attorneys (read: overachievers) to tout the ideas of work-life balance but fail to followthrough. Dedicating yourself to a hobby is one way of gettting around that. For type-A personalities, this establishes a structure that makes "balance" easier.
Options include joining a new sports league, enrolling in a language class, or joining a book club. The actual hobby doesn't matter nearly as much as whether or not you keep up with it!