By: Ali Golabgir
Avoiding professional burnout and personal resentment is not easy for the legal professional. Days are long, firms are demanding, but balance is attainable if you put in a little effort.
As a busy father, student, and full-time professional, there are many times when I feel there just aren’t enough hours in the day. I skip meals, stay up late and guzzle coffee and energy drinks to keep up with my to-do list.
I have goals for my life and I will work as hard as I need to achieve them, but after six months of non-stop, balls to the wall pressure, reality is setting in. Life is just too short.
In six months time, I will have completed my paralegal training. I will be studying for my licensing exam and planning my paralegal career, while working full-time as a construction project manager and running my own business. I will have celebrated 10 years together with my wife and watched my son turn two.
All these milestones and accomplishments are important. My professional achievements are sweeter because of the people in my life I share them with. I work as hard as I do because I want to give them the best life possible.
Legal careers are notoriously demanding, so I know going in that it is going to be up to me to create a healthy work / life balance. As my wife will certainly agree, I’m no expert when it comes to attaining balance. But I am motivated. Here are some of the steps that I will be taking to help balance professional success with personal enjoyment.
- I need to make time for myself! I know that I can’t accomplish my goals if I am burned-out, exhausted, or running on empty. I will be blocking off some non-negotiable me-time in my schedule to go to the gym, have some R&R, get a massage and hang out with my friends. When I finish school and start my practice, I’m going to keep myself very organized so that I can get into a good routine that includes adequate sleep, healthy meals throughout the day, and regular exercise. I know that taking this time out for myself will help me personally and professionally for the rest of my life. Read more, click here.
- I need to make judicious career choices to support my ‘balance’ goals. Large law firms often expect their staff to put in very long hours, though they may be flexible about when or where those hours are worked. Smaller firms can be less demanding of your time, but they may offer less flexibility. Click here for more info. For me, working as a sole-practitioner is looking like the best option. It will give me the flexibility to make the most of my professional hours. I will be able to structure my practice around my other professional commitments and take downtime with my family when we need it.
- I need to learn how to say ‘No’. There will always be more work to do. There will always be more clients to see or projects to complete. There will always be people in my life who want to take advantage of my time or my generosity. At the end of the day, I only need to make myself happy and it doesn’t make sense to burn myself out. Learning how to say no will be one of my most useful tools, especially as I become more successful. Don’t believe me? Read more about the power of a strong, professional ‘No’ here: Click here.
- I need to strategically manage my stress. Going forward, my goal is to keep myself extremely well organized. If the pressure is mounting, I know that a short break, a walk or some exercise can help me to regain perspective. I intend to work on my stress management skills to make sure that I don’t burden my family with my professional stress and to ensure that I can focus at the office without being distracted by family issues. Click here to read more about stress management techniques here.
As paralegal students, we are at the cusp of an extremely exciting, rewarding and potentially lucrative career. A little time and effort now will reward us long-term with a very satisfying work-life balance.