There is no such thing as Work/Life Balance. People tell us it is possible, but all too often it seems to be a mythical creature: the work-life balance. We work hard at the office and we stay late. We meet the billable hours and we take home the paycheck. We progress up the corporate ladder and our career is headed in the right direction. But in order to do so, our focus was on the office, not on our home.
In some perceptions, we fail in our personal lives when we focus more on our work life than our personal life. Laundry doesn’t get done and we reschedule date nights. As a young lawyer, I cannot count the number of times I fibbed, “I’m leaving the office in five minutes”. It took me a long time and a fantastic support system to realize – it is ok to not achieve a harmonious work life balance. I also realized that balance does not mean 50%/50% all the time. Sometimes, my personal life gets 10%; other days it gets 80%. It happens. Live with it. Move on.
It is important us to find ways to be successful in both our work life and our personal life, but it that does not come with balance, it comes with hard work. It is for us to realize that we can be great lawyers (making our way to the corner office or owning our own office) and great people in our personal lives. We just have to do it differently. The following three tips will help on how to be a great lawyer and a great person without the work/life balance.
Our lives do not always provide for perfect schedules. There may be times when you forget a birthday, miss an appointment, and while it is not ok, we need to find ways to not beat ourselves up for it. These things happen – we need to make amends and move on.
First, understand your priorities and make time for those items. If your work, family, and your volunteer efforts as a Guardian Ad Litem are your priorities, carve out time to enjoy those priorities. If you must work sixty hours to achieve your billable hours and stay on track, find a weekend day where you can take your family on a picnic. Making time should be about quality of the time you spend, not about the quantity of the time you spend doing each activity. If your Guardian Ad Litem time requires you to meet with clients on Saturday morning, perhaps a Sunday at the park would be great for family time. Keeping your family and support systems informed will help them understand how you prioritize your time. If your family knows you are preparing for a trial, they may be more understanding of why you are not cooking dinner or doing the laundry. Keeping them informed shows that you care enough to tell them what is going on BEFORE balls get dropped – missed appointments, birthdays, etc.
Second, find a way to get your stress out of your system. Whatever activity you choose, do it regularly. Removing stress will allow you to focus more on your priorities and will make your time with your loved ones happier. Activities like running, kickboxing, and yoga are excellent choices for the endorphins and health benefits they provide. However, even a happy hour can provide an outlet for stress relief among lawyers. It is also beneficial to ask your support system to join in these activities, allowing you to accomplish multiple goals in one activity. Ask a colleague to join you for a run. Have your sister go with you to kickboxing. Meet your family for breakfast after yoga. By working to reduce stress in your life, you are actually creating more enjoyable time to spend with your friends and family.
Third, keep in mind that it is your responsibility to enjoy your life. Although the term “YOLO” is a youthful, eye-roll-inducing concept, “you only live once” is true. It is not intended as the risk-taking acceptance that some Generation Y utilize it as, but it should be a reminder that you must understand there is more to your life that the four walls of your office. Paying your mortgage is an admirable concept, but if it is all you work for, you may be missing the point. If you spend so much time working that your other relationships are failing, you must realize that change is needed. Later in life, after you filled your pockets and created your nest egg, you will realize that enjoying your twenties and thirties is not something you can ever get back.
In earlier times, you worked hard to gain your priorities. A company elected you to their board. An organization appointed you an officer. Your partner supported you through law school. All of the people and roles in your life earned their spot. Respect their place in your life by making important, quality time for each of those things. Spend time with your loved ones and take them to watch a sunset. Call up a friend and catch up with them over drinks. Even if you can only take a short three day weekend, surprise your partner and take them somewhere (even if it is a staycation on St. Pete Beach). Enjoy your hard work by making time to enjoy the fruits of your labor.