Having it all seems to be the holy grail of the working individual these days. We try to work hard, advance our careers, but also try to have a spouse and kids, or hobbies and a social life, or any combination of those, or, god forbid, all of them. It is possible. It just takes some managing, maneuvering, some jerry-rigging and an occasional filibuster. There are any number of ways to make this work and everyone is different. Use these 3 essential habits to get a jump start on a good work/life balance.
1) Define your work style. This is important. Some people need to have a strict division between their personal and professional lives. Some people do really well when they’re intertwined. Before you can hope to balance the two, you need to know what works best for you. It may not be easy to define this for yourself, but a good way to start is by looking at your schedule and how you feel about it. If it stresses you out just thinking about it, you may need more separation between work and personal life.
2) Define your personal needs. Just like knowing your work style, you need to be able to define what you need in your personal life so you know where you can give and take. If you are ok answering a work email during your son’s soccer game, then there may be more give in your personal life. If not, then separation is important to you.
3) Learn to say ‘No’ when necessary. Once you have defined your work and personal needs, the next thing is to fulfill those needs. And there is only so much time in a day to fit it all in. As lawyers, it is our instinct to want to fix things and that means we say yes much too often. In order to have a healthy work/life balance, ‘no’ has to be much more common word to us. It helps us focus on the things that are truly important. If we are weighed down by too many clients, we risk missing important deadlines. If we agree to volunteer for the school fundraiser or the dozens of other things that exist in our personal lives, we risk missing the big important things altogether. So we need to say ‘no’. And limit our exposure to a manageable number of things on our plates.
These three habits will get you on the right track to managing your personal and work life. As small firm and solo practitioners, it is harder to delegate, harder to schedule our lives, in many ways. The blessing of being free from the harder restrictions of large firm requirements comes with the (possible) curse of being in charge of everything (or almost everything). These three habits cannot be the end of your path to getting the right balance. In fact, it may never be right. There’s a lot of give and take. You just have to figure out what works for your balance.