Career coaches, psychiatrists, part-time status, telecommuting, moving in house, “What Color is Your Parachute?” tests. These are just a fraction of the mechanisms legal professionals turn to to achieve the elusive goal of “work-life balance”. But with all the money spent, plans made and actions taken, lawyers aren’t much, if any closer to feeling the balance they all so desperately seek. For years women cornered the market on the issue. But in today’s world, an increasing number of men struggle with it too. So then, what’s the secret to achieving work-life balance?
There is no secret. Balance is an illusion.
…because regardless of how much money or time we may have – our minds, bodies and souls are virtually never in perfect harmony. This is particularly true for lawyers. So striving for this goal is an exercise in futility. But despite this reality, achieving greater happiness, satisfaction and peace in one’s life is within reach. The following recommendations can help:
Do Not Compartmentalize.
One of the biggest mistakes professionals make is compartmentalizing work and life separately – viewing the two as distinct (and at times, conflicting) entities on parallel paths. By doing this, work takes on the role of saboteur in one’s goal for happiness. But the two are far from separate. Our professional endeavors are a vital and integrated component of our lives that should have integrated values. By choosing a work experience that more accurately embraces our true selves and desires, we can become better…and happier people.
Give Yourself A Break.
The sooner you accept that balance is an illusion, the sooner you’ll stop beating yourself up for not achieving it. Life ebbs and flows. Sometimes you work more, sometimes you play more, and sometimes other obligations take priority. So at any given time, the call for your attention will be unequally divided–with required sacrifices until the next shift occurs.
It’s a critical skill for any busy professional to master. So much stress is created and valuable time wasted by poor time management. Are you always late? Get sidetracked? Lose track of time? Feel overwhelmed by too many tasks? If you answer yes to any of these questions, your time management skills need honing. So take a class, read a book–do whatever you need to do to learn. And then practice. As you improve, so will your mood. Guaranteed.
Many professionals make amorphous statements about how they’d like to spend their time. “I’d like to spend more time with my family” or “I want a job I love”. That’s great. But it doesn’t mean anything unless you can get more granular on what-exactly-this means and then put a plan in place to make it happen.
The power of a positive attitude is underappreciated. Think positively, say positive things, smile, surround yourself with positive people–these are all actions within your control that can influence your well being for the better. If you don’t feel it…fake it until you do.
Ask For Help.
Lawyers can handle a lot. And usually do. But everyone has his/her breaking point. Before you hit yours, ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.
It’s Ok to Choose Work.
Time does not have to be proportionately assigned in order for a professional to feel self worth and contentment. If you love your job and like working the hours, don’t feel obligated to take time away to pursue other things. If you’re making a conscience choice to spend your time the way you want-and you feel good about yourself, then you’re on the right track.
Millions of professionals spend their lives…and money in search of a perfectly “balanced” life. But it’s a pursuit that often results in disappointment, frustration, guilt and/or feelings of failure. So a shift in beliefs, understanding and action is warranted in order to achieve…not the perfect life, but certainly a happier one.