So what is my problem? It’s the lack of work-life balance in the profession. It seems that there are a ton of attorneys who have not figured out how to balance the needs of making partner with those of having any other identity than “attorney”. This is a sure fire way to begin to hate not only your profession, but your life as a whole.
I’m by no means saying that I’m a guru when it comes to balance. I just came off of four days straight of depositions, and took work home all last week in order to stay ahead of the game. That said, I do try generally to maintain things in my life that bring a little non-law to my world. I have a few recommendations:
Get a hobby!
Seriously! Not joking here. Mine? Cooking, raising chickens, blogging, music, gardening. Well, the gardening is not really a hobby as it is a constant struggle to fight back the evil forces of morning glory trying to strangle my roses and privet hedge. Do I have enough time to do each of these things as effectively as I’d like? Heck no! But it does keep my brain off of law and gives me something interesting to talk about at parties. While you may think the law is a fun and interesting topic, unless you’re talking with other lawyers, you’ll soon see eyes gloss over and you’ll stop getting invited to all the fun parties.
Take time for yourself!
This is another huge problem for me. Between work, hobbies, honey-do lists, and outside obligations, it seems I’m often running from the moment I get up to the time I go to bed. However, I try to make a little time each night to just do something for me. Sometimes it’s as simple as taking a nap. Other times its taking a couple hours out of my day to go get and play with the new iPhone rather than wait for the order to come in. Those little things you do for yourself have a big payoff on your sanity. I have many friends that make it their ritual to go for a run every day to clear their head. Others do yoga or a weekly happy hour with friends. The main point is to do what works for you.
Take time for others!
This may seem like a no-brainer, but make your significant other a priority in your life. Make your family a priority in life. Make giving back a priority in your life. Years ago, during law school, I went through a heart-wrenching break up. The root cause was my spending all of my time working on a journal, both editing as well as working on my own article, which I hoped to get published. This lead to fatigue, and ultimately fights. I hadn’t been taking the time to make sure I was nurturing the relationship. Like anything that doesn’t get nourishment, it died. It was probably the hardest life lesson I’ve learned. When I talked with my dada about the situation, he told me “It’s just a job.” He was right. Ours may be a stressful time-suck of a profession, but at the end of the day, it’s just a means to pay the bills and help people along the way. Now, no matter how busy I get, I make the time to go to family gatherings. I take the time to go on “dates”, making sure I commit by buying the tickets well ahead of time and putting a big block on my calendar to make sure nothing gets scheduled over it. You don’t want to wake up one day and find that it’s just you, your desk, and a bluebook, everyone else having vacated your life due to lack of mutual interest.
Finally, take a danged vacation. Every year I go someplace different. Last year, it was Mexico. This year, Italy. If you’re saying: “Yeah right! With what time?,” go to your calendar right now…I’ll wait. Open it up. Click to the first month where you have a week or two that isn’t yet gobbled up by depositions or trial (be sure to check either side of that block, as you really can’t have a trial the day after this block). Look good? Okay, block it off NOW. Now go purchase your tickets to [insert place with really good drinks with nice umbrella’s]. So help me, if you take your laptop with you I will hunt you down!
Your practice will survive without you (and will do a lot better in the long run).