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Achieving a reasonable work-life balance in today’s fast paced business environment remains an elusive goal for many legal professionals. Back-to-back client meetings, billable hours requirements, court deadlines — all provide a constant stream of pressing work matters to be dealt with. And for legal professionals with a significant other, young children or older parents to care for, the pressure of balancing work and family commitments compounds the predicament of “not enough time.”
Mastering the art of compartmentalizing, so you can enjoy both your professional and personal life, can seem like an insurmountable task at times. We’re here with three suggestions to relieve some of the stress when balancing work and family:
1. Stick to your calendar.
Keep every appointment possible. Reliability, punctuality and attentiveness are important in most every endeavor, and are crucial to legal professionals. If you’re equally present in meetings with managers or clients and at family gatherings, you can cultivate a rational buffer between work and family. Put another way: You wouldn’t think of cancelling a court date or client meeting capriciously, so be sure you’re giving family commitments the same consideration. Your child's piano recital or spouse’s important doctor’s appointment should command a focus not dissimilar from the one you offer the court case that is pivotal to your firm’s peer recognition this year.
2. Divide and conquer.
While you’re at the office, pay attention to firm-related tasks—and don’t second-guess your resolve. Your managers, colleagues and clients are relying on you to be on your A-game, so give them your best. When the workday is over, create a separation. There are always exceptions. Say a crisis occurs at the firm and you’re needed. You go. But in all other cases be “off the clock.” And don’t forget the secret ingredient to a life well lived. As any seasoned mentor will tell you: Make time for yourself. Rediscover an old hobby, take time for a walk, jog or hike, or grab coffee with a dear friend. Focusing on yourself might seem counterintuitive when you already feel short of time for balancing work and family, but if you devote a couple hours of your busy day to recharging your batteries, you’ll be well on your way to a happier legal career and a more satisfying home life.
3. Work from home.
Remote work options enable us to be at home while producing for the firm. Online collaboration and cloud computing systems decentralize data storage and the accessibility might mean you can work from home one or two days a week, with less time spent commuting and more energy to focus on family. Clearly, when balancing work and family, you’ll need to differentiate between hours devoted to work and home duties. While you’re toiling away in your home office, family members might not understand that you are “at work,” so be sure to explain the necessary boundaries and their benefits—as in, “As soon as I am finished with work, we can go out for pizza. Until 5:30, please respect my space for work.”
A legal career presents unending and unique demands. Add a loving companion, children or elderly parents to that mix and you could have the makings of a serious challenge. By developing your time management skills, however, you can enjoy the best of both worlds.