By John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC
I am often asked to help law firms design and implement strategic business plans. I also coach many solo and small firm attorneys in career as well as personal and professional life balance issues. In both situations the starting point is the same. Begin by taking inventory of your personal life goals. Only then can you effectively begin planning an effective career strategy or law practice. Unfortunately, may attorneys start with the law practice and take care of business first and fail to take care of their personal lives until it is too late. It is much easier to begin your life and career with balance that it is to try to bring your life back into balance later in life.
Ask yourself the following questions:
1. Do you find yourself spending more and more time on client and firm work-related projects?
2. Do you often feel that you don't have any time for yourself or your family and friends?
3. Does it seem that every minute of every day is always scheduled for something?
4. Do you sometimes feel as though you've lost sight of who you are and why you chose law as a career?
5. Can you remember the last time you were able to find the time to take a day off to do something fun -- something just for yourself?
6. Do you feel stressed out most of the time?
7. Can you remember the last time you used all your allotted vacation and personal days?
8. Does it sometimes feel as though you have never even have a chance to catch your breath before you have to move on to the next client project/crisis?
9. Can you remember the last time you read -- and finished -- a book that you were reading purely for pleasure?
10. Do you wish you had more time for some outside interests and hobbies, but simply don't
11. Do you often feel exhausted -- even early in the week?
12. Can you remember the last time you went to the movies or visited a museum or attended some other cultural event?
13. Do you do what you do because so many people (children, partners, parents) depend on you for support?
14. Have you missed many of your family's important events because of work-related time pressures and responsibilities?
15. Do you almost always bring work home with you?
If you answered with non-positive responses to more than five questions your life is out of balance and you need to take steps to correct the situation.
Here are some ideas:
Keys To Happiness
- You must take responsibility for your personal happiness, set clear goals, develop skills, become sensitive to feedback, know how to concentrate, and get involved.
- You must have an overall context within which to live.
Tips For Staying Energized And Productive
TIP #1: Develop a Personal Life Plan and a Career/Practice Business Plan.
TIP #2: Use and work your plan.
TIP #3: Work smarter not harder. Improve your time management skills.
TIP #4: Create your life balance expectations for you clients and your superiors in the firm. When interviewing for a new job or position let your future employer know your expectations upfront.
TIP #5: Tend to your physical health. Insure that you address prevention and treatment of diseases, weight control, physical fitness and stress management. Schedule and keep annual physicals. Exercise daily.
TIP #6: Begin looking for ways to implement alternative billing. Look for alternatives to billable hours.
TIP #7: Take time for yourself and family. Take vacations.
TIP #8: Define what is important to you and define your personal-professional life balance boundaries.
TIP #9: Enjoy life and get involved in activities other than the practice of law. Pursue hobbies and other interests.
TIP #10: Know your personal and professional goals.
TIP #11: Learn to relax. Take time everyday for meditation, prayer, yoga or some other activity that is focused solely on relaxation.
TIP #12: Schedule time for relationship building and maintenance.
TIP #13: Never eat alone. Use mealtime to network with referral sources, potential clients, and other professionals.
TIP #14: Turn off e-mail notifications, pagers, and cell phones.
TIP #15: Develop a personal and business budget and follow it.
TIP #16: Network, Network, Network both inside and outside of the firm.
TIP #17: Develop your conversational skills.
TIP #18: Eliminate clutter at home and at work. Develop a filing system for your personal papers and business files and documents. Open and review your mail immediately and discard anything that you do not intend to keep.
TIP #19: Use technology to streamline your work.
TIP #20: Delegate work.
It takes 30 days or longer to form new habits. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Celebrate your successes, reward yourself, and continually strive for improvement.